This text was written by Kadampa Geshe Langri Tangpa.
The first verse states:
(1) May I always cherish all limited beings by considering how far superior they are to wish-granting gems for actualizing the supreme aim.
As a little bit of an explanation, sentient beings are as precious as wish-granting gems because all our purposes are fulfilled by the kindness of others. Everything that we eat and drink, the clothing that we wear, all come from the kindness of others. We didn’t have to plant and grow everything that we eat, and we didn’t have to make all the clothing that we wear. When we are born, we are naked without any clothing to wear or food to eat or any money in our hands. We have to receive these from other people. It is from the kindness of others that we receive everything that we need.
Sentient beings are kind to us not only for this lifetime: they provide us with clothing and food; but also, our happiness in future lives depends on others. By practicing generosity toward others, it will result in having wealth in our future lives and everything will be comfortable. Likewise, by practicing ethical discipline with others, in the future things will go well for us. This is true all the way up to the attainment of enlightenment. It is dependent on others and also because of our development of bodhichitta, aimed at our wish to help others, that we’re able to attain enlightenment.
For instance, it is like a field. If we want to have fruit from a tree, we need to be able to plant the tree in a field. If there isn’t a field, we wouldn’t be able to get any fruit. Likewise, without the field of others, sentient beings, we wouldn’t be able to practice generosity, patience, ethical discipline and perseverance and we wouldn’t be able to get the fruit of enlightenment. If we have an abundant amount of earth, we will have an abundant amount of fruit. In this way, with all sentient beings as our field, we will be able to practice and achieve enlightenment. For example, the fact that we are able to get milk from cows is all due to the kindness of others. Therefore, we need to practice with others.
The next verse says:
(2) Whenever I come into anyone’s company, may I regard myself less than everyone else and, from the depths of my heart, value others more highly than I do myself.
No matter whom we are with or where we are, we should always act very humbly, always give more consideration to others, and always cherish others greatly. It’s as if we have a cow that gives very good milk, we would be very kind to the cow. We would pet it and give it very good food, and things like this. Likewise, we should cherish others and give them good food.
The next verse says:
(3) Whatever I am doing, may I check the flow of my mind, and the moment that conceptions or disturbing emotions arise, since they debilitate myself and others, may I confront and avert them with forceful means.
This is saying that we should carefully keep check over our minds, watch our thoughts and look to see what is happening in our minds. We need to check to see if any of the strong disturbing emotions or disturbing attitudes arise. If we have anger, desire, or naive closed-mindedness, as soon as we notice these, we should try to stop them. If we were in a school trying to teach children and the children were being very naughty and running around, we would tell them to sit quietly and work hard, study and things like this. If they were very naughty, we might punish them; however, if they were nice, we would be very kind to them. Likewise, we should have this type of attitude toward our own minds and watch and see what happens. If disturbing emotions arise, we should try to stop them as soon as possible.
We should think of the disadvantages, for instance, if we become angry; it will destroy all our merit and we would be reborn in lower realms. If we have strong desire, this is what will keep us circling continuously in samsara. Seeing these disadvantages, we should stop these disturbing emotions just as if we saw a flood stream of water coming toward us, we would try to put something in front of it to block it from washing us away. Likewise, we should stop the stream of these disturbing emotions so that they don’t wash us away.
The next verse states:
(4) Whenever I see beings instinctively cruel, overpowered by negativities and serious problems, may I cherish them as difficult to find as discovering a treasure of gems.
This means that when we meet with someone who is very cruel, with a great deal of suffering, someone who is very negative, we should feel extremely happy and cherish the opportunity that we have, because now we have found someone with whom we can really practice the Dharma. We can really practice patience and perseverance with this person and truly work to help them.
For instance, it would be like somebody who has gone to school, gained a lot of degrees, but doesn’t have any work. After all their learning, they go out to try to find some work, and if they finally find work, they would be very happy. Similarly, if someone trained to be a nurse, if there never is anyone sick, they can never use their training. If there are sick people, they are happy to be able to use their training. Likewise, with the Dharma, if we meet a cruel, negative person with a great many difficulties, we feel extremely happy, as if we have found a treasure, because now we can work to help this person.
The next verse states:
(5) When others, out of envy, treat me wrongly with scolding, insults, and more, may I accept the loss upon myself and offer the victory to others.
This verse explains that whenever we meet someone who, out of envy, criticizes us or behaves badly toward us, hurts or cheats us, we should accept this. We should simply say that we are sorry and the fault is our own. In this way, we can practice patience and never get angry back. We should see that whatever harm others do to us, it is the ripening from our own negative actions that we’ve done in the past. All of this is just coming back to us. This other person is not at fault but is just an instrument for our own negative karma to ripen. For instance, if someone gets angry with us, we should feel that it’s our fault that we provoked them to become angry. If we had just stayed at home and not said anything to this person, their anger wouldn’t have come down on us.
For example, if there is a field filled with sharp thorns and we go for a walk in that field and get thorns stuck in our feet, it’s our own fault. If we didn’t walk on them, we wouldn’t have gotten hurt. Likewise, if we go into business and get cheated, the fault is our own. If we didn’t go into business in the first place, we wouldn’t have gotten cheated. It’s because of our greed, wanting to make money doing business that we get cheated or robbed. No matter what happened, we should always see the fault as being our own and never blame others.
The next verse explains:
(6) Even if someone whom I have helped and from whom I harbor great expectations were to harm me completely wrongly, may I view him or her as a hallowed teacher.
This is explaining that if we have a relative, a child or a parent, or someone that we have always helped a great deal, and this person is completely ungrateful and does harmful things to us, we might get very angry. If we have been very kind to a child, and later in life, we have great expectations, but the child doesn’t help us at all, this can cause us to feel anger. However, we should never become angry; rather, we should practice and meditate on patience with this person. Also, we should realize that in order to develop patience, we need an object. If people were always nice to us or never acted in a manner that might cause us to be annoyed, we would never have an object with whom to practice patience.
We should think of the example of Atisha. When he traveled to Tibet, he was accompanied by an attendant from India who was always arguing with him, never listened, always spoke back and was very annoying. People asked why he brought this nuisance with him and said he should send him back. Atisha replied that the attendant was his teacher of patience and was very important. “Whenever he disobeys me, it gives me an opportunity to practice patience.” Likewise, if we have friends and relatives that we have been very nice to and they are ungrateful and nasty to us, we should be very grateful for the opportunity to practice patience.
The next verse says:
(7) In short, may I offer to all my mothers, both actually and indirectly, whatever will benefit and bring them joy; and may I hiddenly accept on myself all my mothers’ troubles and woes.
This verse refers to the practice of giving and taking, tonglen. It means that we wish that all the suffering and unhappiness of others ripen on ourselves. In this way, we take suffering away from them and bear it ourselves. We also give all our happiness and benefits to others. This is a crucial teaching and, in the future, try to study this from Shantideva’s text, Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior, Bodhicharyavatara. There are many things to learn and think about in this practice of giving and taking.
The last verse tells us:
(8) Through a mind untarnished by stains of conceptions concerning eight passing things, throughout all of this, and that knows all phenomena as an illusion, may I break free from my bondage, without any clinging.
This verse is saying that when we practice we should never have the aim to gain wealth, fame, praise, or our own happiness. These are part of the eight worldly feelings. However, instead, we should dedicate all our constructive practices for the benefit of others. For instance, when we do our meditation and recitations, we should never think, “By this, may I never have any sickness; may I have a long life and be wealthy and comfortable.” These are very small and trivial thoughts. We should practice only with the thought that our practice will be able to benefit all beings. Even when we light one small butter lamp, for example, if it is for our own benefit, it is a very small action. However, if we think, “May this benefit all beings,” then it becomes very great.
Rinpoche says that he has only been able to explain a little bit about this text now because of time constraints, but that you should study this more extensively with Geshe Rabten and Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey. This is something that would be very beneficial. Many of you have traveled here from Dharma centers on pilgrimage to visit holy places and this is excellent. This is the ripening of past positive actions from other lifetimes. You should think, “May all the benefits from this ripen on others and bring happiness to others.”
Remember, the Dharma is something that is to benefit the mind; therefore, we should practice it to improve our minds and get rid of all disturbing emotions and difficult states that we have had in the past. Whatever we do, we should try to improve our minds and become better persons. This is what Dharma is all about.
Read and listen to the original text “Eight Verses of Mind Training” by Langri Tangpa.