than ourselves but from realizing our kinship with all beings."
Last week, the folks in the Wednesday Mindfulness Circle, soundly outvoted me and we decided to focus on the Lojong Teachings of Tibetan Buddhism for the foreseeable future. Two of the MMM regulars, Michelle and Stephanie, who've been quite patient with my meanderings for just over a year now, led the charge and I committed to assembling an annotated bibliography and posting the text of one slogan the week before each twice monthly meeting. At that rate it will take a little over two years to cover the 59 slogans used in Lojong Training. After working with them for awhile now myself, it seems like a worthwhile thing to do.
In my own inimitable style this propelled me to support the new effort with a new blog, A Layman Looks at Lojong. http://alaymanlooksatlojong.blogspot.com/ If you're interested in the bibliography or the Full Disclaimer there you can surf there now if you'd like. The post below is just a copy of that one!
A Disclaimer: The Lojong Teachings emerge out of Tibetan Buddhism and have been passed down from guru to student for about a thousand years. Except for a couple of weekend gatherings at Deer Park with Geshe Sopa and an evening's talk by the Dalai Lama in a huge auditorium in Madison, Wisconsin years ago, I have never been in the Presence of a Teacher in the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition let alone formally studied with one. Furthermore, I am not now, nor have ever been, an authorized teacher -- except by the State of Illinois as a high school social studies teacher back in the 1970's. That certification expired long ago. (Read the Full Disclaimer at A Layman Looks at Lojong )
Starting Where You Are: First, Train in the Preliminaries
"THIS BOOK IS ABOUT AWAKENING THE HEART."
Although I had certainly experienced a number of "heart openings" over the years, both on and off the zafu, I poured through Start Where You Are to discover a new approach to the Practice, a new way to examine the nature of heart and mind, and --more importantly -- a systematic method to approach the deep conditioning that separates us from one another and our own True Nature.
As well as offering forth guidance on two forms of sitting meditation, Shamatha-Vipashyana and Tonglen, the 59 slogans of the Lojong Teachings offer a means to approach our lives in a way that cultivates kindness, clarity and compassion. Organized as 7 main points, I think that anyone who explores them and takes them to heart is in for a very interesting, perhaps sometimes heartrending, but profoundly heartwarming, adventure toward the One Love we share.
Slogan 1: First, Train in the Preliminaries.
Slogan 1: First, Train in the Preliminaries.
Interestingly, in Start Where You Are, Pema doesn't refer to the traditional "Four Reminders" that are considered to be the "preliminaries" in the Tibetan tradition. Instead she refers to the basic Shamatha-Vipashyana meditation practice as the fundamental foundation of the Lojong, pointing out that the quality of consciousness involved as both the means and ends of Practice. (Fair enough, although I have a dear friend who doesn't Sit that has still found great value in Pema's Lojong teachings.)
In other works* though, Pema does offer forth her understanding of the Four Reminders.
Here's Pema Chodron's version of the Four Reminders:
"In your daily life, try to:
1) Maintain an awareness of the preciousness of human life.
2) Be aware of the reality that life ends; death comes for everyone.
3) Recall that whatever you do, whether virtuous or not, has a result; what goes around comes around.
4) Contemplate that as long as you are too focused on self-importance and too caught up in thinking about how you are good or bad, you will suffer. Obsessing about getting what you want and avoiding what you don't want does not result in happiness. "
In Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings of the Practice of Lojong, Zen Teacher Norman Fischer entitles his chapter on the first slogan, "Resolve to Begin". If we actually do take these four reminders to heart, a commitment to the work to be done becomes pretty obvious.
Along with the Bodhisattva Vow, I think this is Mahayana Buddhism in a nutshell. With these Reminders, we are called to step up to the plate and squarely face the reality that the absolute Preciousness of this Human Life Dances across the Abyss of our Inevitable Demise. We are also called to consider that Karma is actually the way it works, and to see for ourselves that undo self-importance, and continually obsessing on trying to control things to our advantage hasn't really made us happy.
If more of us would try this out, I think we might even survive as a species.
I can't think of anything better to do. How about you?
*As promised I've begun an annotated bibliography at A Layman Looks at Lojong