Stanzas of Mind Training (podcast series)

This is a series of talks on “The Eight Stanzas of Mind Training”

I hope these talks are helpful.

Beings Are Precious

Others Are Paramount

All The Time

Beings of Bad Character

Attacks From Others

Great Hopes and Harm

Offering to Mothers

Worldly Concerns

Lojong : Mind Training (podcast series)

I did this series of talks on the subject of Training the mind. I hope listening to these will be helpful.

Introduction to the Heart

Preliminaries

See Everything as a Dream

Examine the Nature of Awareness

Don’t Get Stuck on Peace

Rest in Openness

Be a Child of Illusion

Sending and Receiving

Seeds of Virtue

It’s All Sacred

Transform Disasters

Drive All Blames Into One

Be Grateful to Everyone

See Confusion As Enlightenment

4 Practices That Help

Whatever You Meet is the Path

Five Strengths

Practice For Death and Life

Only One Point

The Principal Witness

Joyful Mind

Practice While Distracted

Three Principles

Change Your Attitude

What if Human Life is Good?

We are lucky to be here.

I just want to say that. It can be so hard to have a positive view of human life, the world, our place in it, etc etc. When things are hard, we struggle. And things are always hard. The older we get, the more we see that. Things get worse and worse sometimes.

You fall in love and have your heart broken. You finally buy a house and realize the associated expenses will keep you poor forever. You find some courage and believe in yourself and then get kicked in the face. And often it can seem like the very worst people in the world are the ones getting all the success in life. The Buddha said that life is full of suffering and it can seem sometimes like that’s all there is.

But it’s not.

Life is a struggle. There is no doubt about that. It’s a struggle for everyone; even the most successful person in the world has to deal with struggling and pain. But we’re still lucky to be here. And lucky to be born at this time in human history.

Longchenpa said we have a, “Human form endowed with precious freedoms and advantages.”

We were not born in a time and place where we could not receive this message. There is no reason why you exist here and now, but you do. This is where you are. That alone is enormously meaningful.

We live in a time and place with soap, running water, modern medicine, accessible clean food and the internet. For so much of human history these things were simply not available, but to us they are almost an afterthought. Wondrous things that lift our lives up are just normal to us because for most of us they’ve been around a long time.

That’s a part of this. That’s something to be thankful for.

The advantages of our life circumstance are giving us unprecedented access to spiritual teachings and other forms of knowledge. There is almost nothing you can’t learn about if you put forth a small amount of effort to track down the information. That is amazing.

In ancient times Buddhist teachers saw how lucky they were to have the kinds of advantages of circumstance that they had.

I don’t think they could have really anticipated the world we live in. But they saw their life circumstances as amazing because Buddhism was available to them. They had the perspective to realize that in another time and place this path wouldn’t have been available and they wouldn’t have been able to reach their full potential.

So, we could get excited about things. We could reflect on our opportunities for spiritual practice and for a relatively comfortable life and we can take joy in that. We can be grateful instead of spending all our time and energy on the things that don’t make us happy.

We can rejoice and be glad.

And, also, we can recognize we have this big opportunity. We can strive to live in a more awakened way and reach our full potential and we should recognize this as a wonderful chance to transform our lives and the lives of people around us. Strive on because you have attained this fortunate existence.

 “Just like a beggar who has chanced upon a treasure of great price,

Reflect with joy upon your freedom and advantages.
In doubt and apprehension that you might be dreaming,

Implement the sacred Dharma –

Source of happiness and benefit in this and future lives!”

-Longchenpa, Finding Rest in the Nature of the Mind

Zen Failure?

I ran a Zen sitting group at the Rime Buddhist Center for two years. At least I think it lasted two years…

Anyway, it started right after my divorce. I was a wreck and I asked for the opportunity.

The main reason I did this was so I’d have something to do Monday nights.

I love this old Zen story:

STUDENT: Master, I am feeling discouraged, what should I do?
MASTER: Encourage others.

I was feeling very discouraged.

But also I wanted to see if people in this Tibetan Buddhist community would be interested in something different. As it turned out, not very many of them were interested, but that’s okay.

I want to write now about my mistakes, about how I’d do things differently if I ran a sitting group now.

I’m not going to go into detail about what our practice was, except to say that there was some sitting, some walking, and just a little bit of chanting. And also, bells and banging the wooden fish. You know, regular Zen stuff.

But, what’s significant to me now is what I didn’t do. I led this practice for two years and I didn’t give any talks. I didn’t give any talks and I didn’t open up for questions. I just handed out instructions and introduced myself and we just did the practice and went home. Now it feels like I didn’t even really try.

And that is my regret. I could have been giving talks, sharpening my teaching skills and engaging people.

So why didn’t I?
It starts with confidence. Back then I didn’t have it. I didn’t know, in spite of all my training, if I was good enough. I didn’t know if I was capable. I didn’t have nearly the level of experience that I have now.  Now I’ve given over 100 talks. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true.

But there’s more, of course.

Two of the people that came to my sitting group are students of a Zen Priest that they travel to go retreat with. And I was glad to have them. They helped me design aspects of the practice and lead chants. They were so very helpful. And at some level I thought it wouldn’t be okay for me to be giving talks because they already had a teacher and it wasn’t me.

Sometimes our minds really lead us down weird paths and when try to follow what we were thinking it’s hard to understand.

Looking back it’s so weird to me that I felt that way because I think they would have liked seeing me give talks. I was just…well, timid, I guess.

And, of course, once I spent a few weeks not giving talks…well, inertia took over. It was too late to change what I was doing. Or at least it felt that way.

Anyway, people would come and not come back. Some of that is, of course, curiosity. But I often wonder if some of those one-time visitors might have come back if they had been able to hear a talk or I had been better in some other way.

Ultimately the group didn’t really grow. There were even some nights where I sat alone. Attendance was not good and it kept getting worse.

And really it’s because I was afraid to teach. I didn’t have the confidence that I have now.

 

So it feels like those two years were wasted. But maybe they helped me prepare in some way.


 

I’m not leading a sitting group anywhere now.

But if you want to see me, please look at my Events Page

 


and if you want me to come give a talk at your event or your temple…please, let me know.