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Lions Roar : July 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2012 50 I WANT TO BE...Skillful What happens on the meditation cushion is one thing, but how do we bring our spiritual practice into the rough and tumble of daily life, where it can really benefit ourselves and others? JUDY LIEF says the fifty-nine mind training slogans will help us to be more skillful and loving in all our relationships. The teachings on mind training, or lojong, are an invaluable aid to practitioners because they show us how the wisdom and skillful means of the Mahayana can actually be put into action. They show us how to make it real. The lojong teachings include instruction in formless medita- tion, in the practice of “sending and taking” (tonglen), and in postmeditation practice—putting our meditation into action in our daily lives. These teachings are attributed to the great tenth- century Buddhist master Atisha Dipankara and became widely known after the Tibetan teacher Geshe Chekawa arranged and summarized them in a collection of fifty-nine mind-training sayings or reminders. Often referred to simply as the Atisha slo- gans, these encapsulate the essence of what it means to practice the Mahayana. The Atisha slogans are a blueprint for practicing the bodhisattva path in fifty-nine easy steps. The power of the slogans is that they break down the Mahayana ideal of loving-kindness for us. Rather than sim- ply giving general guidelines on how to be a true practitioner, they actually spell it out in detail. They give specific guidelines both for how to approach meditation and how to awaken in daily life. It is easy to be vaguely compassionate and generally aware-ish, but when we actually look at what we are doing and how we interact with others, it is a different matter altogether. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. When I first encountered the practice of tonglen and the fifty- nine mind-training slogans attributed to Atisha, I was struck by their combination of down-to-earthness and profundity. I had already been taught about the importance of joining formal sit- ting meditation with postmeditation practice, but apart from a vague notion of trying to be more kind and aware, I was not at all sure how to go about it. These teachings gave me a way to unpack general notions such as compassion or wisdom into specific guidelines that I could apply to my life. They placed the practice of meditation, which was what had inspired me about the tradition to begin with, within a greater and more complete understanding of practice and what it means to be a practitioner. Studying the mind-training slogans inspired me to look into my habit of dividing meditation from everyday life, regarding it as something special and apart. When I began to really take a look at that pattern I saw that it fostered a kind of leaky approach to practice. If meditation became too intense I could escape into everyday concerns; when daily life became too overwhelming I could escape into practice. There was lots of wiggle room for neurosis. Somehow it all seemed to come back to ego and its genius for co-opting everything to further its grip on power. The scope of the Atisha fifty-nine slogans is extensive, and they can be applied to many levels of our activity. They provide guide- lines for meditation, but their real focus is on relationships of all PHOTOBYWILLMORGAN/MILLENNIUMIMAGES,UK