Seven-Pointed Mind Training
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Through this practice, we learn how our mind, defiled by ignorance, attachment, jealousy and anger, can become pure and full of Boddhicitta: Compassion and loving-kindness for every single living being. More than a training of the mind it is thus essentially a practice of purifying our mind and our perceptions. Lama Atisha C. Lojong teachings are quintessential Mahayana teachings in that their aim is to eliminate both the self-cherishing attitude and self-grasping. Like the stages of the path teachings, the mind training tradition is one that is embraced by all Tibetan lineages.
This teaching will be accompanied by Shamatha meditations, also called single-pointed meditation: Throughout these meditations we learn how to calm our mind and to develop a deep sense of concentration, which will serve as a basis for the following teachings. He has also performed numerous extensive retreats, including a two-and-a-half-year seclusion focused on developing mental stability. More information about Ven. Feusi here. However if you cannot participate on both days, you are still welcome to join only on one of them.
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Eight Verses of Training the Mind | Lotsawa House
Whenever I see beings that are wicked in nature 4 and overwhelmed by violent negative actions and suffering, I shall hold such rare ones dear, as if I had found a precious treasure. If we run into somebody who is by nature very cruel, rough, nasty and unpleasant, our usual reaction is to avoid him.
In such situations our loving concern for others is liable to decrease. Instead of allowing our love for others to weaken by thinking what an evil person he is, we should see him as a special object of love and compassion and cherish that person as though we had come across a precious treasure, difficult to find.
When, out of envy, others mistreat me with abuse, insults or the like, I shall accept defeat and offer the victory to others. We should not react in this way; instead, with humility and tolerance, we should accept what has been said. Where it says that we should accept defeat and offer the victory to others, we have to differentiate two kinds of situation. If, on the one hand, we are obsessed with our own welfare and very selfishly motivated, we should accept defeat and offer victory to the other, even if our life is at stake. But if, on the other hand, the situation is such that the welfare of others is at stake, we have to work very hard and fight for the rights of others, and not accept the loss at all.
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Nowadays, in very competitive societies, strong defensive or similar actions are often required. The motivation for these should not be selfish concern but extensive feelings of kindness and compassion towards others.
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If we act out of such feelings to save others from creating negative karma this is entirely correct. It may sometimes be necessary to take strong action when we see something wrong, but whose judgment do we trust for such decisions? Can we rely on our own perception of the world?
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When you consider taking the loss upon yourself you have to see whether giving the victory to the others is going to benefit them ultimately or only temporarily. You also have to consider the effect that taking the loss upon yourself will have on your power or ability to help others in the future. It is also possible that by doing something that is harmful to others now you create a great deal of merit that will enable you to do things vastly beneficial for others in the long run; this is another factor you have to take into account.
As it says in the Bodhicaryavatara , you have to examine, both superficially and deeply, whether the benefits of doing a prohibited action outweigh the shortcomings. At times when it is difficult to tell, you should check your motivation. In the Shiksa-Samuccaya , Shantideva says that the benefits of an action done with bodhicitta outweigh the negativities of doing it without such motivation. Although it is extremely important, it can sometimes be very difficult to see the dividing line between what to do and what not to do, therefore you should study the texts that explain about such things.
In lower texts it will say that certain actions are prohibited while higher ones tell you that those same actions are allowed. The more you know about all of this the easier it will be to decide what to do in any situation. When somebody whom I have benefited and in whom I have great hopes gives me terrible harm, I shall regard that person as my holy guru.
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Usually we expect people whom we have helped a great deal to be very grateful and if they react to us with ingratitude we are likely to get angry. In such situations we should not get upset but practice patience instead. Moreover, we should see such people as teachers testing our patience and therefore treat them with respect.
This verse contains all the Bodhicaryavatara teachings on patience. In short, both directly and indirectly, I offer every happiness and benefit to all my mothers. This refers to the practice of taking upon ourselves all the sufferings of others and giving away to them all our happiness, motivated by strong compassion and love. We ourselves want happiness and do not want suffering and can see that all other beings feel the same.
We can see, too, that other beings are overwhelmed by suffering but do not know how to get rid of it. Thus, we should generate the intention of taking on all their suffering and negative karma and pray for it to ripen upon ourselves immediately. Likewise it is obvious that other beings are devoid of the happiness they seek and do not know how to find it. Thus, without a trace of miserliness, we should offer them all our happiness—our body, wealth and merits—and pray for it to ripen on them immediately.
Of course, it is most unlikely that we shall actually be able to take on the sufferings of others and give them our happiness. When such transference between beings does occur, it is the result of some very strong unbroken karmic connection from the past. However, this meditation is a very powerful means of building up courage in our minds and is, therefore, a highly beneficial practice. In the Seven Point Thought Transformation it says that we should alternate the practices of taking and giving and mount them on the breath.
As it is explained in the Bodhicaryavatara , this practice does not suit the minds of beginner bodhisattvas—it is something for a select few practitioners.
Therefore, it is called secret. So, in what way does Shantideva mean one should harm oneself? This does not mean that you have to hit yourself on the head or something like that. Shantideva is saying that at times when strong, self-cherishing thoughts arise you have to argue very strongly with yourself and use forceful means to subdue them; in other words, you have to harm your self-cherishing mind. You have to distinguish clearly between the I that is completely obsessed with its own welfare and the I that is going to become enlightened: there is a big difference.
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And you have to see this verse of the Bodhicaryavatara in the context of the verses that precede and follow it. There are many different ways the I is discussed: the grasping at a true identity for the I, the self-cherishing I, the I that we join with in looking at things from the viewpoint of others and so forth. You have to see the discussion of the self in these different contexts. If it really benefits others, if it benefits even one sentient being, it is appropriate for us to take upon ourselves the suffering of the three realms of existence or to go to one of the hells, and we should have the courage to do this.
In order to reach enlightenment for the sake of sentient beings we should be happy and willing to spend countless eons in the lowest hell, Avici. This is what is meant by taking the harms that afflict others upon ourselves. What would we have to do to get to the lowest hell? When the Kadampa geshe Chekawa was dying, he suddenly called in his disciples and asked them to make special offerings, ceremonies and prayers for him because his practice had been unsuccessful.
The disciples were very upset because they thought something terrible was about to happen.
The Seven-Point Mind Training
In the same way, if we develop a strong, sincere wish to be reborn in the lower realms for the benefit of others, we accumulate a vast amount of merit that brings about the opposite result. Real, or narrow, selfishness causes us to go down; wise selfishness brings us buddhahood. Unfortunately, what we usually do first is get attached to buddhahood.
This is absolutely wrong.