The Mind-Training Slogans, Slogan #34
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.
34. Don’t transfer the ox’s load to the cow.
This slogan is about weaseling out of our own duties and responsibilities. It is about passing the buck. In the first place, we avoid committing ourselves, and when we do make a commitment, instead of following through, we prefer to hand it off. We are so concerned with our rights and what we feel we are owed, and we think very little about what we owe to others and to the society at large. When we are asked to do something we may feign modesty, but not because we are really modest. We just want a way out of taking on a load we know we could carry if we wanted to.
The imagery of this slogan has further implications in that an ox is stronger than a cow, so the idea is not to put the heaviest burden on the one who has the least strength to deal with it. It may feel unfair or that you are carrying more than your weight, but realistically, not everyone has the same capabilities.
Sometimes we are in situations when there is a need for someone to take on a leadership position. After the question, “Is anybody willing to step up?” everyone plays the disappearing act and there is nothing but silence. In those occasions, if what is being asked for is worthwhile and you have the background or ability to take it on, you should just do so.
This slogan is also about developing skill in working with others. It is an art to know how much responsibility to take on yourself and how much to direct to each of the people you are working with so that each person feels challenged but not overwhelmed.
Pay attention to the temptation to shift your burdens to those who are weaker than you. When you find yourself hiding your own strengths and abilities, look into what is behind that. In what ways do you avoid taking on your fair share of responsibilities?
Start your day with a fresh perspective
Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, we depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.