Points to Train the Mind In

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Next is the seventh point, the list of the twenty-two trainings, or points to train in for cleansing our attitudes.

The first of these is:

Do all yogas with one.

This refers to, no matter what we do, try to make it for the purpose of helping others. So when we eat and sleep we do it so that we’ll be nourished and refreshed in order to help these others. There’s the dedication verse when we eat, “I take this food not out of greed or a desire, but as a medicine to be able to help others.” There’s also a practice when we eat that we’re going to feed the eighty-four thousand germs and microorganisms in my body, or the worms in my body, this type of thing. If we can’t sustain the motivation throughout the meal, at least we try to start off that way.

The second one is:

Do all the quashing of what’s distorted with one.

“Quashing” means to put down something, to step on it. What this means is that in order to get rid of our disturbing emotions – that is what’s distorted – we do all of that with one type of practice, which would be the tonglen practice, to take on more suffering of others, to experience it, this type of thing, and deal with it with the proper means.

If we’re practicing like that and our suffering and these sort of things seem to arise and get even stronger to a certain extent before we get rid of them, this is a good sign. In order to get rid of things that are unmanifest or hidden within ourselves, they have to rise to the surface first before you can burn it off. It’s like the saying – if you build a fire, if there’s a lot of smoke to start with, it’s going to be a good fire; if there’s only a little smoke, then it won’t be a good fire. It’s like when we’re trying to gain shamatha, the stilled and settled state of mind with concentration. In the beginning, the mental wandering and things seem to be more, [but] it’s just that we’re noticing them; [before] we never really paid attention. The same thing when we’re working to get rid of the disturbing emotions by doing tonglen, taking on more suffering, it seems as though we’re having disturbing emotions all the time that we weren’t even aware of. This is good. These hidden ones are coming up. They have to come up before we can really work on them and get rid of them.

That is very helpful. Sometimes we’ve been working with Dharma for many, many years and we thought we had taken care of a problem, “I don’t get so attached, and fall crazy in love, and out of control, and so on, anymore. I’m able to deal with very strong disturbing emotions.” And then it goes like that, it goes like that, and ten, fifteen, twenty years later, then all of a sudden you get a whole episode of this strong disturbing emotion coming up again. It’s good not to get disturbed by that, but to accept it and, “Give me more! Bring it on, because obviously there’s still some unmanifest, some trace of it that I haven’t dealt with, so great! Bring it on, so that I can work with it even further, without getting discouraged.” That’s helpful. Undoubtedly that happens with long-term practitioners. I’ve certainly experienced it myself. You think you’re not going to get angry, you feel that you’ve dealt with your anger, you don’t really get upset by something, and then something happens and you get really upset, twenty years later. We’re not going to be free of all these disturbing emotions till we’re an arhat, so what do we expect?

The third one is:

At the beginning and the end, have the two actions.

That’s the intention to help others beforehand, and the dedication of the positive force, or merit at the end. To help us with that, we can do like this Geshe Benkungyal that I mentioned with the white and black stones. Some people do that and find that helpful.

Number four:

Whichever of the two occurs, act patiently.

Whichever of the two” is referring to whether we’re happy, or we’re suffering, act patiently, and give the happiness to others and take on their suffering. Whether we are wealthy or poor – these two poles – that we don’t change, we keep the same attitude. All of a sudden we get a lot of money, all of a sudden we lose our money, or any of these type of things. Don’t become proud and arrogant on the one hand, or depressed on the other. If we’re wealthy we can use our money to help others, and if we’re poor we can at least use our imagination – use either circumstance to help others and develop bodhichitta.

When we’re happy, then, we give it to others. We use it to share it with others. “May others have this happiness” – without making a show of it, “Aren’t we having fun?”

Number five is:

Safeguard the two at the cost of my life.

The two” here are our general commitments and vows, and the other one is specifically these different types of close bonding practices and trainings from the attitude-training. It’s very important to check out whether we can keep vows before we take them, and to see if we can keep them for our entire lives. It’s important when taking a tantric initiation, not just the vows, but the commitments to do a daily practice, “Am I really willing and able to do that everyday for the rest of my lives?” If we don’t keep our vows and we want to go on to an advanced practice it’s very dangerous. “Some day this foundationless house will collapse,” as Geshe Dhargyey explained, so before we ask masters for advanced practices we need to ask ourselves about our own ethical morality.

The sixth one is:

Train in the three difficult things.

The three difficult things” is – when our disturbing emotions arise, the first one is to be mindful of the opponents, the second one is to reverse them by applying the opponents, and the third one is to cut the continuity of these disturbing emotions. Don’t just let them arise over and over and over again. These are the three things that are difficult. We do all of this by trying to remain mindful of the disadvantages of the disturbing emotions like self-cherishing.

The seventh one is:

Take the three major causes.

The three major causes” for the success in our development is meeting with the spiritual teacher, relying on a spiritual teacher; the second is practicing the teachings that we receive from the spiritual teacher, actually putting them into practice in our daily lives; and the third is gaining the favorable circumstances for the practice. The favorable circumstance is contentment – being satisfied and content with modest food, modest housing, modest amount of money, and so on. Obviously we need enough to be able to live, but then be satisfied and content and don’t constantly try to improve it and get it better and better, but use what we have, if it’s quite sufficient and adequate as a circumstance for practicing.

Number eight is:

Meditate on the three undeclining things.

Meditate” also means to habituate ourselves, make it into a habit. The first thing that we need to have undeclining is undeclining confidence and admiration for our spiritual teachers – obviously this is referring to properly qualified spiritual teachers – and also it can mean to have respect and admiration for all others. It’s extremely important to practice with humility. One reason that we can’t develop bodhichitta and think in terms of helping others is because we look down on some, we feel we’re better or we’re the best. A scholar who has great learning and is very arrogant, that scholar’s knowledge is not going to be of benefit to anyone, not even to himself. Everybody is turned off by just the vibrations of somebody who is very proud, and they won’t even listen to such a person.

With pride we reject others’ thoughts, we can’t learn from them, we try to impose our own ideas on others, even if they’re wrong, and we push away others’ advice. But if we’re humble and listen to others, we can learn from even people with very little education and learning. We can learn even from children, we can learn not to act like somebody else is acting. With pride we ignore others’ words, and we become very defensive, and we just want to defend our own thoughts. So it’s important to have this undeclining respect in regard not just for the teachers, but for everybody.

The second undeclining thing is our willingness to practice. Also it means that we shouldn’t take this attitude-training as something that’s being forced on us, doing it out of duty to please my teacher, or something like that. But if we have enthusiasm and joy for it, it can be of great benefit. When we feel that we’re forced to do something or obliged to do it, we usually find ourselves doing the opposite. We have to watch out for that.

The third undeclining thing is our commitments from this attitude-training, etc., to have that be undeclining.

The ninth point is:

Possess the three inseparables.

The three here are body, speech, and mind. We should try to have all of these be always connected with the practice. Try to be conscientious and practice so we don’t sit fidgeting moving all around – try not to do that – or just babble away, or just talk absolute nonsense, talk too much, or have our minds filled with all sorts of strange thoughts and so on, but try to keep always a connection with something which is constructive and positive. As Geshe Dhargyey used to say, “Don’t go to sleep like an ox that just drops down and collapses,” but it’s always best to do three prostrations before we go to sleep and when we wake up in the morning.

Then the next one, number ten is:

Act purely without partiality to objects.

This refers to train with all beings – everybody – to have these constructive attitudes, not just with our friends.

The eleventh one is:

Cherish (applying) wide and deep training toward everything.

This means to train to have these positive attitudes very extensively with both animate and inanimate objects, toward everything. It means not to get angry at the car and these type of things; or angry at the computer when it won’t do what we want it to and crashes. Obviously the point here is in connection with doing tonglen in these circumstances, “May the suffering of everybody’s crashing computer come to me, I’ll deal with it.” “May the spam of the universe come to my computer. I’ll take on all the spam of the universe,” that type of thing. “Send me more!”

The twelfth one is:

Always meditate toward those set aside (as close).

Set aside” means those that we’re closely related to – people that we live with, our parents, our spiritual teachers – and not only close in the sense that we like them, or that we have a positive relationship with, but also with our actual enemies, and so with people that don’t like us. Or there’s certain people that we seem to instantly like or instantly dislike at first sight, due to karmic relation. All of these are very difficult to train with, to have equanimity towards and so on. So we need to practice especially well with these that are “set aside as close.”

So this relates to both. Both of them are close in terms of a karmic connection. People who hurt us obviously have a very close karmic connection with us. You put them in a special place that they stand out from others as being especially close. They’re not just the crowd.

Number thirteen:

Don’t be dependent on other conditions.

In other words, if you wait in order to practice and do this training until you get perfect conditions, you’re never going to find them. As one Tibetan saying goes: “People show the whole religious side of themselves when everything is going well, but they show their true forms in difficult, bad situations, when things are not going well.” We shouldn’t be like that. We have to attain enlightenment ourselves. We can’t depend on the external circumstances.

As Nagarjuna said, we can’t be taken out of samsara like a fisherman taking a fish out of water. Spiritual teachers can only help. Don’t expect that we’re going to find a great guru and gain immediate liberation like a magic flash from the guru. The responsibility lies on us. We have to stand on our own feet. If we can do nothing, just leave everything up to our gurus – Geshe Dhargyey made this comment – all he can do is just pat us on the head and say nice words. It goes nowhere. What are we going to do, just wag our tails.

Number fourteen is:

Practice primarily now.

This means not to tour around and taste everything, to become a tourist of samsara, experience everything of samsara, or tour around to every single practice and every single teacher, but decide and put all our effort into this training of our attitudes, of developing the two bodhichittas and attaining enlightenment. Don’t procrastinate in this. Have the interest be in the Dharma and not in worldly things; in future lives, not in this life; and on liberation, not in just samsaric things; and on others, not in self – like the parting from the four clingings.

Number fifteen is:

Don’t have reversed understandings.

This refers to a list of six types of things that could be reversed, and we want to not have that.

First is reversed, or opposite compassion. We have compassion and feel sorry for poorly dressed practitioners of Dharma, rather than compassion for well-dressed destructively acting people, rich worldly people. There were these three wealthy sisters who saw Milarepa and they said, “Oh, we feel so sorry for you, such compassion for you, you’re so poor,” and so on. He said, “No, actually I’m the one to have great compassion for you.”

The second one is opposite patience or tolerance, reversed patience and tolerance. Instead of having patience and tolerance for others who get angry with us, we are tolerant of our own disturbing emotions and don’t do anything about them. We have no patience to sit in a Dharma lecture for several hours, but we have perfect patience to stand in a river for hours fishing – this type of thing – or to stand for hours in line to go to a rock concert.

The third one is the reversed intention. This is for worldly things rather than for Dharma. Instead of inner happiness we have the intention to try to get worldly gain.

The fourth one is an opposite or reversed taste. Instead of wanting to have a taste of a spiritual experience of listening, thinking and meditating on the Dharma, we want to have a taste of exotic sex, exotic drugs, and this sort of thing.

The fifth one is a reversed interest. Interest here means to encourage others to take interest. Instead of encouraging others to spiritual practice, we encourage them into business to make more money, or to keep up with the modern fashions and so on.

Then six, the reversed rejoicing. This would be to rejoice in the suffering of people we don’t like, rather than rejoicing in happiness. So “Don’t have reversed understandings.

Number sixteen is:

Don’t be intermittent.

Intermittent” means to practice one day and not the next, and then practice again, to just do it sometimes. Rather we need to be consistent. Also what we need to try to avoid is that if we aren’t strong in one practice, then we go on to a new one. Don’t be a fanatic, but stay steady, like a large river.

Number seventeen is:

“Train resolutely.”

That means decisively or straightforwardly. What this means is practice with resolute determination, don’t be half and half. As my mother used to say with great mothers’ wisdom, “If you’re going to do something, do it straight up and down. Don’t do it sideways.” Don’t be half into practice and half not into practice, like this. If you’re going to do it, do it correctly, and do it as fully as is possible.

These mother wisdom sayings sometimes can be very, very helpful. My mother had another one which applies to these teachings about arrogance and being proud of your high position or these sort of things. She would say that, “Your high title and five cents will get you a ride on the bus.” Our equivalent now here would be, “Your big title and two Euros will get you a ride on the subway, on the U-Bahn.” In other words, it doesn’t make any difference. Life is life, and you deal with life, so don’t make a big deal out of it. Don’t be impressed with yourself: it still costs [you] two Euros to take the subway.

The eighteenth one:

“Free myself through both investigation and scrutiny.”

We need to use investigation, in other words, to check up on a gross level; and scrutiny is to check up really, really closely, to see if we actually have trained our attitudes, if we’ve cleansed out negative ones, if we’ve dealt with disturbing emotions and self-cherishing thoroughly and effectively, not just suppressing them. Because this is the way that we’re going to get rid of it, liberate ourselves from these. So always check up basically is the message here. Run your diagnostic program, levels one and three.

Number nineteen:

“Don’t meditate with a sense of a loss.”

This can refer to several things. When we’ve given everything to everyone – in our minds we make these offerings, “May all sentient beings enjoy this,” and so on, “I give this to everyone,” – but then, when somebody comes to receive or take something from us, we begrudge that. I remember, in meditation, making flower offerings, and then when the local children in India came to my garden and picked all the flowers I was really angry with that. But I made the offering to others, so if they come and take it, it’s theirs, it’s not mine.

Also it refers to not reminding others of the favors we’ve done to them. Don’t say, “I’ve been working for your sake.” Don’t boast and broadcast about our own practice, “I did so many prostrations,” or feel that it was a loss, in the sense of how hard it was, “What a high price I had to pay to try to become enlightened.” This is not proper at all. If we do, for instance, a hundred thousand prostrations and we do it with the proper motivation, then of course we’re going to gain some positive force from that. But we don’t gain any more positive force or potential from bragging to people about what we’ve done. Especially if we go into a long retreat, and then we come out of it and we look down on our old friends and relatives as, “You poor pitiable creatures of samsara,” then this is no good. We need to do all our practice quickly, quietly, not in a flashy way, without boasting.

Also we need to not rely or not count on help from others. Rely on the Dharma – the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Don’t think, “Poor me, nobody is helping me. I’m suffering so much from being a Dharma practitioner.” If we’re sincere and practice, then things will go well – although I’m always reminded of the Persian saying here, “Trust in God, but tie your camel.” Don’t be naive and think that God will provide, without doing anything. Although it says in the texts that there is no sincere meditator who’s ever starved to death, but nevertheless don’t be too rosy-eyed either, and certainly don’t complain about how difficult your Dharma practice is. That’s meditating with a sense of a loss, “It’s so difficult to understand these teachings on voidness,” this type of thing, and complain that it’s difficult to understand, difficult to practice, “It’s so complicated!”

Practice not in a flashy way. It means, there’s a whole crowd of people, and you come a little bit late to a teaching, and you go and prostrate so that everybody can see you to show how devoted you are or something like that, rather than prostrating at the door in the back, where nobody sees you.

Number twenty:

“Don’t restrict myself with hypersensitivity.”

Getting angry at the slightest provocation. For oversensitivity, that really cripples us. We should try not to just be limited, “I can take some sort of criticism when I’m alone, just one to one, but I can’t take it when I’m in a crowd.” Shantideva said, in these situations to remain like a log, like a block of wood. If somebody is insulting us, just remain like a block of wood. Eventually the person who is insulting and yelling at us will run out of things to say, and get bored and stop. It’s like the dog will eventually stop barking, rather than making a big thing to try to get the dog to shut up; but all of this needs to be with a good motivation. If it’s negative or a neurotic motivation, then we’re just holding the negative thoughts inside and suppressing them and they’re going to come out later. Or we’ll get an ulcer, or later we’ll think to take revenge.


“Don’t act for merely a short while.”

In other words, don’t be fickle, always changing. The slightest praise makes us happy, and somebody frowns at us, or doesn’t say hello to us, or say good-bye, or kiss us good-bye, and we get all depressed. If we’re like that, others will regard us as unstable and imbalanced. If we get overexcited and then – on the other hand – jump on anybody who says the slightest thing wrong, we’re really a strain to be with. We need to, in a sense, be easygoing, take it easy with others. Conform with the general mood with which others are. Don’t waste all our time in gossip, but greet our friends, ask after them, smile, be friendly. Don’t disturb others by reading out loud – I mean, all the Tibetans of course do that, but they’re totally used to that, but – disturb others that we’re living with, making a lot of noise, playing music really loud, or that sort of thing, or always staying silent and not communicating.

Be flexible. Then we can practice for our whole lives, not just a short time. When we’re inflexible and stiff and so on, usually we give up after a while. We’re too fanatic. If you’re flexible and easygoing and relaxed with your Dharma practice, you can sustain it for your whole life. You’re not strained in your Dharma practice. You know what people are like when they’re very uptight about their Dharma practice, and very strained and stressed with it. They’re not relaxed with it at all, because they’re not flexible, and then they give up, they burn out.

The last one, twenty-two is:

“Don’t wish for (any) thanks.”

We’ve had this similarly before. Don’t wish for any fame or gratitude or anything like that, or any thank you’s from this training of our attitudes.

In connection with this, we need to try to practice without going up and down over these eight transitory things in life. Sometimes I refer to these as the eight childish feelings. When receiving gifts and so on, or getting things, that we’re all happy, and we’re unhappy when we don’t; or getting all excited when things are going well, or getting depressed when they’re not; hearing nice things communicated we get all happy, or if it’s quiet, but if it’s noisy we get all upset; or getting all excited when we’re praised, and really upset when we’re degraded. It’s only when we expect and are hoping that we’re going to receive things, and things are going to go well, and people are going to speak nicely to us, and praise us and so on, that we get into trouble in our practice, and we get these childish feelings, going up and down about these eight transitory things. What we want to avoid is the overreaction, the childish reactions to these. “Don’t wish for any thanks.”

If you ask why do I call them the eight “transitory” things, well, that’s how Serkong Rinpoche would explain it. It’s usually translated as “worldly,” but “jigten” (‘jig-rten) means “the basis of it” (rten) “falls apart” (‘jig). That’s what worldly means, it’s something that doesn’t have a basis that can really support you, as opposed to the state of an arya, when we’ve had non-conceptual cognition of voidness. That’s beyond that, “extraworldly” is how it’s usually translated, but it means that it’s stable, it’s not something that’s transitory, “that its basis will crumble.” That makes a lot of sense.

That completes the list of the twenty-two points for training our attitudes, and that’s the seven points of this attitude-training. Geshe Chekawa finishes the text with the following verses, two verses. He says:

(Like this,) transform into a path to enlightenmen this (time when) the five deteriorations are rampant.

In others words with these practices we’ll be able to transform these difficult situations in the time of the five deteriorations. The first one is the lifespan has deteriorated. So many people are dying younger than before, although people live longer as well, but this is referring to how, with wars, and accidents, and heroin overdoses, and AIDS, and these type of things, many people are dying younger and younger. Or, if we look in a more modern sense, people are going through their lifespan much more quickly. Childhood doesn’t last terribly long. By the time you’re thirteen, people have already experienced drugs and sex and all this sort of stuff. You’re not allowed to have a long childhood.

The second degeneration is disturbing attitudes. This is referring to those who leave their households, and take robes to become a monk or a nun. Even they have the three poisonous attitudes, or poisonous emotions strongly of clinging desire, and anger, and naivety. (3) Deteriorated outlook or view is referring to householders. They have no respect for anything or for anyone. That’s a sign of the degenerate times. (4) The degenerate beings – that the people and animals are becoming extinct and less able to take care of themselves, and so on, [like] the ones that have to live only in the zoo and not in the wild anymore. (5) Degenerate times in general is when there are a lot of natural disasters. We can see this from the global warming, that sort of thing.

So “transform into a path to enlightenment this time when the five deteriorations are rampant.” Obviously everybody always consider themselves to live in such times, as I mentioned.

The next line:

This essence of nectar of guideline instruction is in lineage from Serlingpa.

We’ve already discussed the lineage of this teaching, so there’s no need to repeat that. It is called an “essence of nectar.” The word “nectar” – in Sanskrit, it’s something that prevents death, the nectar of immortality. And Tibetan has the connotation of “it suppresses or presses down Mara,” meaning the mara, or demon of death. And this practice of bodhichitta and cherishing othersbrings us Buddhahood, which is overcoming the ordinary type of samsaric death.

Geshe Chekawa finishes the text with a verse basically summing up how he received these teachings, and now that he’s practiced and has trained with them, how it has helped. He says:

From the awakening of karmic remainders from having previously trained my admiration (for this practice) abounded. And due to that cause, ignoring suffering and insult I requested the guideline teachings to tame my self-grasping. Now even if I die, I have no regrets.

From strong karmic instincts from previous lives, as soon as he heard about some practice like this, his admiration and interest in it really became very, very strong, and really he wanted to study that, really wanted to find out. He didn’t mind the suffering and the insults that he got for asking for these type of teachings, and the six years that he spent studying this, but he requested these teachings, and they’ve been very beneficial. And so he says, “Now even if I die, I have no regrets” about what I’ve done.

If we train, there are three ways in which we can die. The best way of dying is with a happy state of mind – that we are happy, because we’ve trained ourself, we will continue to make progress and so on, so happy to be able to continue in a future life. The intermediate way would be to die with a relaxed state of mind; and the least way, minimum way is to be able to die with no regrets.

The advice that Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey gave at the end of this was that we need to try to train very strongly in Dharma and particularly in this mind training, and then our instincts for it will arise strongly in future lives as happened with Geshe Chekawa. That’s important in terms of how to be able to die in a happy state of mind. If we’ve put so much effort, and trained ourselves very well, we can feel confident that those instincts are there and will ripen further in future lives.

So whatever situation we’re in, we need to try to develop bodhichitta. But if we’re going to be in difficult situations, we need to practice beforehand, train, so that we’ll be careful and protected with these things. It’s like when we drive a car, if we see that there is a curve ahead or something like that, we prepare, we slow down and we’re careful. If we’re like that and take care, and are careful about training properly to deal with the difficult situations in life, then we’ll be able to make steady progress – although of course, from day to day it goes up and down.

These are the teachings and, as you can see, they’re incredibly helpful, profound, very deep, quite advanced, many of them. and what I’ve explained, as I said, is based putting together primarily an explanation from Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey that he gave on several different occasions and combining that with explanations by Serkong Rinpoche and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Read and listen to the original text "Seven Point Mind Training" by Geshe Chekawa.