The Mind-Training Slogans, Slogan #49
Each Friday, Acharya Judy Lief, teacher in the Shambhala tradition of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, comments on one of Atisha’s 59 mind-training (Tib. lojong) slogans, which serve as the basis for a complete practice.
Atisha (980-1052 CE) was an Indian adept who brought to Tibet a systematized approach to bodhicitta (the desire to awaken for the sake of all sentient beings) and loving-kindness, through working with these slogans. Judy edited Chogyam Trungpa’s Training the Mind (Shambhala, 1993), which contains Trungpa Rinpoche’s commentaries on the lojong (“mind-training”) teachings.
Each entry includes a practice.
49. Always meditate on whatever provokes resentment.
Cultivating loving-kindness sounds so sweet and wholesome. When you look at the ads in spiritual publications, you see smiling faces and promises about how to achieve happiness and be more loving and kind. But how many times do you see the word resentment?
A great trap of spiritual practice is the avoidance of negativity and the temptation to pretend to be good. But the most fertile ground for lojong is the boundary where our veneer of virtue breaks down. Rather than always trying to be good, it is better to go directly to what sets us off. According to this slogan, we can apply lojong the moment resentment, annoyance, and other negativies arise.
According to the buddhadharma, goodness is natural; it does not need to be cultivated. What we should focus on instead is removing obstacles, so that natural virtue shines through. But how can we remove resentment if we are unaware of the extent to which it controls us? We need to look into what makes us provokable.
Each time we are offended, misunderstood, ignored, put upon, we have the opportunity to see how solidly we hold to our views, opinions, our whole sense of who we are. We can see how when that solidity is threatened, we shut down or lash out, get defensive or find some target to blame. By simply seeing all this more clearly, we are already less trapped.
The point of this slogan is to stop avoiding the issue of resentment, and instead really try to understand how it arises. By doing so, we could actually experience the constructing of a solid reactive self on the spot, while it is happening. The moment we notice that painful tightening and constriction, that closing down, is the time to interrupt and undermine that whole destructive process. We can catch ourselves in the act, so to speak. What seems so solid is exposed as a sham, and our small-mindedness and defensiveness is seen through, so the resentment has nothing to push up against and it dissolves into thin air.
As an object of contemplation, choose one thing that provokes your resentment and notice the cascade of sensations it triggers. Let your reaction relax and then bring up the same thing once again. What are you clinging to? What are you afraid of losing? What insights arise when the haze of resentment is less thick?