The Mind-Training Slogans, #36
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.
36. Don’t Act with a Twist
This slogan has to do with being honest about our ulterior motives. It is based on an appreciation for how tricky our mind can be. We say one thing and mean another, or we act out of seeming benevolence, while in our heart we are only really care about ourselves.
Acting with a twist is a way of using others to advance our own interests. Everything revolves around me, myself, and I, and that attitude colors everything we do. It literally distorts everything we say and all our actions into servants of our ego and our self-important schemes.
With this tricky approach, when we hear about mind training and the need to develop bodhichitta or loving kindness, although we may work with that, we are only doing so as a tool for our own development. We keep track of our acts of kindness and our moments of awareness as demonstrations of how we ourselves are progressing. Instead of genuinely opening our heart, we go through the motions. Then we look around to make sure that our benevolence is properly noticed and admired. In reality, under the guise of helping, we are just using people. They are props for our self-development project.
When we do not act with a twist, our words and actions are not sticky. They are straightforward, with no hidden schemes attached. When we practice meditation or work with the slogans in daily life, we do not keep obsessing about what we are going to get out of it. Instead, moment by moment, as each new situation arises, we work with it as best we can and then we let it go.
A good practice today, and any other day, is to notice how often what you do is based on “What’s in it for me?” Rather than try to hide that, you can bring it into the open. Ironically, to move from selfishness to concern for others, you could start by being honestly selfish. When such selfishness is hidden, that underground force colors everything you do, and you can’t help but act with a twist. But each time you expose it, you are diminishing its power.
Home image: Stephen & Claire Farnsworth
Sign up for Tricycle’s newsletters
Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, we depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.