Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong

Although we don’t like to think about it, it seems that sorrow and suffering are inevitable in any human life, even a happy one. There’s the suffering of loss, of disappointment, of disrespect; the suffering of physical pain, illness, old age; the suffering of broken relationships, of wanting something badly and not being able to have it, or not wanting something and being stuck with it. There’s the inevitable suffering of painful, afflictive emotions, like jealousy, grief, anger, hatred, confusion, anguish—all kinds of emotions that cause suffering. These things are part of life. No one can avoid suffering. Given that this is so, how can we not take our lives in hand and make a serious effort to develop wisdom, compassion, and resilience? How can we not prepare our minds and hearts for the inevitable suffering that we are going to be facing someday? We have insurance for our car or home because we know we need to protect ourselves from the possibility of accident and loss. We go to the doctor because we know our health requires protection. Why then would we not think to guard and strengthen our mind and heart to cope with the suffering that certainly will be coming in some measure at some time?

A person doesn’t die from this or that disease. He dies from his whole life.

A person like this is a blessing for the world. And there is no reason why you couldn’t be that person. Why aren’t you that person now? Because of these walls of self-protection you’ve built, these attitudes of limit and lack.

Appendix 1 Seven Points and Fifty-Nine Slogans for Generating Compassion and Resilience POINT ONE Resolve to Begin 1. Train in the preliminaries. POINT TWO Train in Empathy and Compassion: Absolute Compassion 2. See everything as a dream. 3. Examine the nature of awareness. 4. Don’t get stuck on peace. 5. Rest in the openness of mind. 6. In Postmeditation be a child of illusion. POINT TWO Train in Empathy and Compassion: Relative Compassion 7. Practice sending and receiving alternately on the breath. 8. Begin sending and receiving practice with yourself. 9. Turn things around (Three objects, three poisons, three virtues). 10. Always train with the slogans. POINT THREE Transform Bad Circumstances into the Path 11. Turn all mishaps into the path. 12. Drive all blames into one. 13. Be grateful to everyone. 14. See confusion as Buddha and practice emptiness. 15. Do good, avoid evil, appreciate your lunacy, pray for help. 16. Whatever you meet is the path. POINT FOUR Make Practice Your Whole Life 17. Cultivate a serious attitude (Practice the five strengths). 18. Practice for death as well as for life. POINT FIVE Assess and Extend 19. There’s only one point. 20. Trust your own eyes. 21. Maintain joy (and don’t lose your sense of humor). 22. Practice when you’re distracted. POINT SIX The Discipline of Relationship 23. Come back to basics. 24. Don’t be a phony. 25. Don’t talk about faults. 26. Don’t figure others out. 27. Work with your biggest problems first. 28. Abandon hope. 29. Don’t poison yourself. 30. Don’t be so predictable. 31. Don’t malign others. 32. Don’t wait in ambush. 33. Don’t make everything so painful. 34. Don’t unload on everyone. 35. Don’t go so fast. 36. Don’t be tricky. 37. Don’t make gods into demons. 38. Don’t rejoice at others’ pain. POINT SEVEN Living with Ease in a Crazy World 39. Keep a single intention. 40. Correct all wrongs with one intention. 41. Begin at the beginning, end at the end. 42. Be patient either way. 43. Observe, even if it costs you everything. 44. Train in three difficulties. 45. Take on the three causes. 46. Don’t lose track. 47. Keep the three inseparable. 48. Train wholeheartedly, openly, and constantly. 49. Stay close to your resentment. 50. Don’t be swayed by circumstances. 51. This time get it right! 52. Don’t misinterpret. 53. Don’t vacillate. 54. Be wholehearted. 55. Examine and analyze. 56. Don’t wallow. 57. Don’t be jealous. 58. Don’t be frivolous. 59. Don’t expect applause.

But the whole point of mind training is to promote, to the bottom of our hearts, down to our bones, even to the marrow, the understanding and the feeling that we are not alone in this sadly poignant situation. We are together in it with everyone else. And that makes it beautiful, and even joyful, no matter how hard it may get.

Come back to basics comprises three points. The first point is more

Compassion is sympathy for others specifically in the case of their suffering. Although it is uncomfortable, we are willing to feel the suffering of others and to do something about it when we can,

In other words, to Train in the preliminaries is to stop moaning and feeling sorry for yourself and to recognize instead that regardless of what has happened or why, this is your life and you are the only one equipped to deal with it.

Meditation is doing what you are doing - whether you are doing formal meditation or child care.

Obviously it won’t do to love somebody and enjoy that person’s company but then, when things between you get difficult, to abandon the person. No, it is clear that as pleasant as love is, it must also be unpleasant, because people are sometimes unpleasant or go through unpleasant things, and if we abandon them at those times and run away from them because they or their situation has become unpleasant, we would have to conclude that there wasn’t much to our loving in the first place.

So it does turn out that we do need to begin by contemplating the profound nature of self and other. Because if you change the leaves and branches but leave the roots intact, you run the risk of reverting to type.

Spiritual awakening is exactly dropping the sense of one’s narrow separateness; it is essentially and profoundly altruistic.

The actions, thoughts, and words of each of us are important. All of us together are making the world. So we have to ask ourselves: “How am I living? What kind of actions am I taking? Am I a force for good in the world or am I just another person doing nothing to help and therefore making things worse?

Trust your own eyes. Only you can determine what is happening in your life and what to do about it. The

We now see that the only way that we could love ourselves is by loving others, and the only way that we could truly love others is to love ourselves. The difference between self-love and love of others is very small, once we really understand.

We realize how dangerous and painful life is if we don’t open up. We know we have to do it. And as soon as we start to try, we realize immediately that there is no way that we could ever do this alone, because opening up means opening to what’s around us, to others, to the world, and to our radical connectedness.

When we train our mind to embrace what’s hard instead of trying to get rid of it, we have begun to walk a path of growth, happiness, and true resilience. Our

Why would we have to know everything all the time? Why do we have to be so knowledgeable, so smart, so in control? We don’t! There’s no need to figure everything out. We can just be alive. We can breathe in and breathe out and let go and just trust our life, trust our body. Our body and our life know what to do. The problem is to let them do it, to relax and let them guide us.