The Mind-Training Slogans, Slogan #50
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.
50. Don’t be swayed by external circumstances.
The good thing about mind training is that it can be practiced in all kinds of situations. You do not have to wait for the right conditions to arrive or make special arrangements in order to work with mind training. The only rearrangement that needs to be made is to your own attitude.
According to this slogan, you should take the view that whatever takes place in your life will have something to teach you. It does not matter if your external conditions are favorable or unfavorable, good or bad, for no matter what the circumstances, you can always practice mind training. So you should make use of everything you do and every situation you encounter, no matter how small and insignificant, large and overwhelming, as an opportunity to let go of aggression and cultivate loving-kindness.
The idea is not always to wait for your circumstances to line up just so, before you launch into mind training. In fact, the best time to work with your mind may be when conditions are not so good. Furthermore, if you are waiting for just the right moment, you may end up waiting for a very long time. There are so many reasons why it is impossible to relate to mind training right now, and so many fantasies that as soon as the external situation changes you will be able to resume your practice, no problem—and conveniently, that never seems to happen, so you can avoid the whole thing.
It may seem that the slightest little glitch is all it takes to throw you off course. However, lojong practice is completely impartial: if your external situation is not so good, you can breathe that in; and if it is excellent, you can breathe that out. In that way, instead of being a victim of circumstances, blown here and there by whatever arises, you can cultivate mind training no matter what is going on.
Pay attention to what causes you to turn on and turn off your mind training practice. When does it arise more naturally and when does it completely disappear? What external circumstances are most apt to throw you off course, and how can you utilize those same circumstances to return you to the practice?
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