When death arrives, we will be powerless. Also, our habitual tendencies will dominate.
Therefore, since we create our own karma, we need to abandon vice, and to devote our time to virtuous acts.
As we contemplate this, a good practice is to examine one’s mind each day.
“Karma is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘action,’ understood as the law of causality. According to the Buddha’s teaching, all actions, whether of thought, word or deed, are like seeds which will eventually bear fruit in terms of experience, whether in this or future lives. A positive or virtuous act will result in happiness, while the definition of sin or negative action is that which is the cause of suffering for the agent later on.” (Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche)
Mind Training: Background
Bodhisattvas are those who seek enlightenment for the sake of all other beings. Their path is the way of selflessness whereby the mind is trained to go beyond its ordinary self-centred preoccupations and anxieties and learns, by gradual degrees, to place others at the focus of its interest and concern.
This altruistic attitude forms the basis and heart of all the Buddha’s teaching of the Mahayana or Great Vehicle, a system of philosophical insight and meditative practice which has been described in an immense body of scriptures and commentaries.
These days it is difficult to find the time to study all these detailed texts, let alone to comprehend them, and it is sometimes hard to see the wood for the trees.
The Seven Point Mind Training, on the other hand, explains the Bodhisattva practice in a nutshell. It contains instructions ranging from the meditation of tonglen (the imaginative exchange of happiness for suffering), to practical advice on how to transform the inescapable hardships of life into aids for progress on the path.
These teachings were first brought to Tibet in the 11th century by the great Indian master Atisha, who had himself received instruction from the most accomplished teachers of his day. Atisha’s principal disciple Dromtonpa tonpa passed them on to Chekawa Yeshe Dorje, who then for the first time compiled them in written form.
The transmission of the Seven Point Mind Training has continued in an unbroken lineage until the present time.
The Root Text
The Basis for the Practice of Bodhicitta
First study the preliminaries.
Consider all phenomena as a dream.
Analyse the unborn nature of awareness.
The antidote will vanish of itself.
The nature of the path rests in the alaya.
In post-meditation, consider phenomena as illusory.
Train to give and take alternately;
Mount them both upon your breath.
Three objects, three poisons and three roots of virtue. (1)
In all your actions, train yourself with maxims.
Begin the training sequence with yourself.
Carrying Difficult Situations onto the Path of Enlightenment
When all the world is filled with evils,
Place all setbacks on the path of liberation.
Bodhicitta in Intention Related to Relative Truth
Lay the blame for everything on one. (2)
Reflect upon the kindness of all beings.
Bodhicitta in Intention Related to the Absolute Truth
Voidness is the unsurpassed protection;
Thereby illusory appearance is seen as the four kayas.
Bodhicitta in Action
The best of methods is to have four practices.
To bring the unexpected to the path,
Begin to train immediately.
An Explanation of the Practice as a Way of Life
The pith instructions briefly summarized:
Put the five strengths into practice. (3)
On how to die, the Mahayana teaches
These five strengths. It matters how you act.
Standards of Proficiency in Mind Training
All Dharma has a single goal.
Rely upon the better of two witnesses.
Always be sustained by cheerfulness.
With experience you can practise even when distracted.
The Commitments of Mind Training
Always train in three common points.
Change your attitude and maintain it firmly.
Do not discuss infirmities.
Do not have opinions on other people’s actions.
Work on the strongest of your defilements first.
Give up hoping for results.
Give up poisoned food.
Do not be hidebound by a sense of duty.
Do not meet abuse with abuse.
Do not wait in ambush.
Do not strike at weaknesses.
Do not lay the dzo’s burden on an ox’s back.
Do not praise with hidden motives.
Do not misuse the remedy.
Do not bring a god down to the level of a demon.
Do not take advantage of suffering.
Guidelines for Mind Training
Do everything with one intention.
Apply one remedy in all adversity.
Two things to be done, at the start and at the finish.
Bear whichever of the two occurs.
Even if it costs you your life, defend the two.
Train yourself in three hard disciplines.
Have recourse to three essential factors.
Meditate on three things that must not deteriorate.
Three things maintain inseparably.
Train impartially in every field;
Your training must be deep and all-pervading.
Always meditate on what is unavoidable.
Do not be dependent on external factors.
This time, do what is important.
Do not make mistakes.
Be consistent in your practice.
Be zealous in your training.
Free yourself by analysis and testing. Don’t take what you do too seriously.
Do not be bad tempered.
Do not be temperamental.
Do not expect to be rewarded.
This distilled essence of instruction,
Which transmutes the upsurge of the five degenerations
Into the path of enlightenment,
Was handed down by Serlingpa.
Having roused the karma of past training,
And feeling powerfully inspired,
I disregarded suffering and censure
And sought out the instructions to subdue my ego-clinging;
Though I may die, I shall have no regret.
(1) For objects that please us and for people that we love (for example our parents and relatives), we experience attachment.
But when confronted by uncomfortable situations (when for example we see enemies or people we dislike), we experience aversion.
When we see people who are neither close friends nor enemies, we feel indifferent.
In pleasant situations, we feel attachment; in unpleasant situations, anger; in indifferent situations, ignorance. Many people, like myself, are infected by the three poisons!
Therefore we should pray, ‘May the obscurations of all beings, arising through these three poisons, come upon me as a load to bear. May all beings live virtuously, performing positive actions, and be free from the three poisons of attachment, anger and ignorance.’ We will be greatly benefited if we constantly train ourselves selves in thinking like this.
(2) All suffering, all sickness, possession by spirits, loss of wealth, involvements with the law and so on, are without exception the result of clinging to the ‘I.’
That is indeed where we should lay the blame for all our mishaps. All the suffering that comes to us arises simply through our holding on to our ego.
We should not blame anything on others.
Even if some enemy were to come and cut our heads off or beat us with a stick, all he does is to provide the momentary circumstance of injury. The real cause of our being harmed is our self-clinging and is not the work of our enemy. As it is said:
All the harm with which this world is rife,
All the fear and suffering that there is:
Clinging to the “I” has caused it!
What am I to do with this great demon?
(3) If we possess these five strengths, Bodhichitta will arise in us. They are as follows: the power of resolution, the power of familiarization, the power of the positive seed, the power of revulsion and the power of aspiration.
The power of resolution. This is, for example, the taking of a firm decision that, for this month, this year, until we die or until we attain enlightenment, we will not abandon Bodhichitta; even though hurt or injured by others, we will not give way to anger. And this strong resolution should be reinforced again and again.
The power of familiarization. In the beginning, meditation is difficult but it becomes easier if we persevere in it. For as the saying goes, ‘There is nothing that one cannot get used to.’
The power of the positive seed. This is, in fact, the accumulation of merit. Going to temples and monasteries, performing prostrations and devotions before sacred objects, we should pray, ‘May I be able to cultivate the two types of Bodhichitta. May I be peaceful and without anger towards those who do me harm. May I be free from one-sided attachment for friends and relatives.’ By repeatedly praying in this way, and through the power of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, we will be able to accomplish these qualities.
The power of revulsion. Through careful thought it is possible to see that all the suffering and afflictive emotional states experienced in life are the results of the devastating flood of ego-clinging.
Ego-clinging is the cause of every ill. Therefore, when it arises, even if only for an instant, we should apply the antidote, like the doctor who gives us healing medicine when we are sick.
As the saying goes, ‘Hit the pig on the nose; clean the lamp while it is still warm.’ When an angry pig rears up at us, if we hit it on the nose with a stick, it will immediately turn round and run away, unable to bear the pain. If we clean the butter-lamp while it is still warm, the job is very easily done.
In the same way, if we apply the antidote before our ego-clinging has gathered strength, we shall not fall under its influence.
The power of aspiration. Whenever we have completed some positive action we should pray, ‘From now on until I attain enlightenment, may I never abandon the two Bodhichittas. Whatever conflicts I may encounter, may I be able to use them as steps along the path.’
Praying in this way, we should make offerings to the Teacher, the Three Jewels and the Dharma Protectors, asking for their assistance.
It is said of these five powers that they are the whole of the teachings condensed into a single syllable HUNG. The meaning of this is that all the profound and elaborate instructions of the Mind Training are contained within the five powers. Therefore, we should practice them fervently.
Source: Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche; Padmakara Translation Group. Enlightened Courage (Kindle Locations 39-47). Kindle Edition.