Lojong Slogan 1

January 10, 2020   |   Leave a reply

In 2020, the Open Heart Project Sangha will examine each of the 59 slogans of Atisha, aka Lojong aka mind training practice. Each Monday, I send out a short video with some thoughts about that week’s slogan, followed by a guided meditation. The first one went out a few days ago and discusses slogan #1, first, train in the preliminaries. Please join the Open Heart Project sangha to receive this series right to your inbox (including a guided 10-minute meditation).
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The slogans date back to around 900 CE. They are oddly powerful. I say “oddly” because while they range from the seemingly straightforward (“If you can practice even when distracted, you are well trained) to the inscrutable (“self-liberate even the antidote”) the impact of slogan contemplation takes you into a realm of magic.
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Take slogan #1, mentioned above. Seems pretty clear. Of course you want to begin anything by training in the preliminaries. But wait, what are “preliminaries?”
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In classical Buddhist thought, the preliminaries refer to the Four Reminders. The Four Reminders are extremely direct and quite terrifying:
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1. Your life is a straight-up miracle, period. Don’t waste it.
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2. Karma is real. Every action sets something in motion so be awake.
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3. Death is real and it comes without warning.
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4. Life includes intense suffering, no one is immune.
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Er, okay, thanks. What the hell kind of preliminaries are these?! Where are you supposed to go from here?
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Well, I am not quite sure because I can only stand to contemplate these preliminaries for a short time–which is not great, but I hope you can understand. However, when I am able to sit with them, this is what I find:
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Everything in my life that is stupid and wasteful fades from center stage. Love, wisdom, and caring are revealed as the only things worth spending any time on. In this way, the Four Preliminaries provide an impossible-to-miss gate for the spiritual journey. On this side of the gate is illusion. On that side is truth. Who is brave enough to enter? On some days I am, but, honestly, on most days I am not. I keep practicing.
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The great Tibetan teacher Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche has said that if we could fully bring the Four Reminders into awareness, fifty percent of the path to enlightenment would be complete. That is how potent this first slogan is.

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Next week: slogan #2, the somewhat less terrifying “regard all dharmas as dreams.”
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Even the one just mentioned.
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(To receive a weekly extended talk on the slogans and a guided meditation from me, please join the Open Heart Project Sangha. It is a wonderful online dharma community that offers members free online retreats, weekly talks from guest teachers, creativity raves, and more. Hope to see you there.)
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https://openheartproject.com/open-heart-project/

 

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