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Lions Roar : July 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2012 52 kinds: with the earth, with our fellow humans, with our colleagues, with our closest friends, with our enemies. At first glance some of them may seem like practical advice from your grandmother. Slogans such as Don’t wallow in self-pity may seem moralistic or even simpleminded. At the other end of the spectrum, slogans such as Examine the nature of unborn awareness seem to be point- ing beyond the ordinary to something more ultimate and perhaps even a bit obscure. Yet they are combined into one coherent system. Altogether, the structure of the slogans is based on the two underlying themes of Mahayana Buddhism: skillful means and wisdom. If you are to travel on the path you need both. You need to see where you are going, and you also need a way to get there. The way to get there is what is referred to as skillful means. The cultivation of wisdom is essential, but as the old Zen saying goes, “Words don’t cook rice.” With slogan practice, every situa- tion is seen as complete, as an expres- sion of both skillful means and wis- dom. That means you do not need to look elsewhere to find the dharma, since it is present in every situation. On the other hand, it also means there is nowhere to hide. Once you have a glimpse of the extent of the teachings, they haunt you wherever you go. Generally, no matter what you do, you need to learn how to go about it. Depending on what you want to achieve, you train in different ways. If you want to practice law, you go to law school; if you want to practice a trade, you go to trade school. And if you want to become a bodhisattva, you train in the six transcendent per- fections (paramitas) through mind training and slogan practice. In the Mahayana, the goal is to become a bodhisattva warrior who embodies wisdom, compassion, and openness, and the way to do that is by training in generosity, discipline, patience, exertion, and meditation. These five are the methods that will get you there, the skillful means. But those skillful means need to be joined with wisdom, or the vision to lead the way, which is prajna, or transcendent knowledge. Together, these six perfections are the Mahayana recipe for success on the path. Working with the slogans begins to chip away at attitudes that hinder our relationships, our inner understanding, and our happiness. This chipping-away process begins with meditation practice, with the pacifying of our restless mind. With that foun- dation, we can begin the practice of tonglen. In tonglen, we prac- tice reversing the habit of viewing everything purely through the lens of our own self-interest. Instead we begin to appreciate how we are continually in interchange with other beings. So tonglen opens up the possibility of relating in a more flowing and genu- ine way, one less caught up in fear and self-protection. We see that we do not have to just passively accept the relationship pat- terns we have fallen into. We can make changes. In tonglen, we breathe out what we normally cling to and breathe in what we usually avoid. In doing so, we work with qualities within ourselves and with issues that arise in relating to others. The Atisha slogan related to this is number seven: Sending and taking should be practiced alternately. These two should ride the breath. It may seem crazy to practice breathing in what you do not want and breathing out what you desire, but rather than being J UDY LIEF has been teaching on the subject of lojong, or mind training, for more than thirty years. Author of Making Friends With Death, she teaches on applying a contemplative approach to facing death and working with the dying, and leads an annual retreat for women touched by cancer titled Courageous Women, Fearless Living. PHOTO©IGORTEREKHOV/DREAMSTIME.COM