The Seven Points of Mind Training of Atisha (Part 2), by Shamar Rinpoche
III. To transform all unfavourable circumstances into path of the Buddha
To transform the unfavorable conditions, we must first be aware of karma, the law of cause and effect. We make use of the unfavorable conditions or obstacles as the object of meditation (bodičita relative) in the same way that we did it with the thoughts of the mind (bodičita ultimate). We can thus transform all the negative circumstances into something positive.
Generate the relative bodičita when you encounter difficulties. First of all, recognize that the difficulties are not caused by the fault of others, that they are created by your own ego. If you have no ego clinging, then no difficulty will have any negative effect on you. When you face physical problems such as diseases, or when somebody tries to harm you, recognize that they are created by your own karma. By letting them ripen in this life, you will not have to experience them hereafter where they would pose greater karmic effects. This transformation relies on a solid foundation of bodičita and will facilitate the exhaustion of all negative karma through the forbearance of small nuisances in this life. For example, just prior to enlightenment, an Arhat often suffers from headaches or stomachaches. Indeed, the power of his meditation has completely transformed the negative effects of his former karma into smaller troubles thereby putting an end to them all. If you practise the sending and taking each time you encounter difficulties, by thinking that you are taking the sufferings of others and letting them dissolve into your own experience, then they will really be purified when supported by pure motivation. It is this pure motivation that can create an energy ever more grand than that of an Arhat.
The transformation based on ultimate bodičita means to make use of the realization that you have obtained from the practice and apply it to your difficulties. Face each difficulty by trying to recognize that its essence is not related to the thoughts that it generates. Try to realize that the essence of the suffering is completely independent from the feeling of suffering.
There is another method specific to transforming all unfavorable conditions into the path of the Buda. It comprises of four stages:
Each time you are confronted with difficulties, realize that they are produced by the negative karma that you have created before, and this will cause you to accumulate more positive karma.
Feeling the suffering makes you recognize the need for purifying your negative karma, otherwise, there will be more bad effects in the future.
The human life is more precious than any other forms of life. Therefore if you still have difficulties even in this good life, it means that you will have even more troubles in the future if your negative actions are not purified now. You must do practices of purification like Dorjé Sempa.
Pray fervently to all the Budas to receive their blessing so you can ripen all the negative karma of all living beings, all the difficulties that will face them. Each day, in your practice, pray like this, “May all the suffering of the living beings come into me.” Do not hesitate to take onto yourself the suffering of others. Accustom yourselves to this wish.
IV. Condensed practice of mind training in five points
- Very firmly promise to commit you to bodičita until enlightenment is attained.
- Engage yourself in bodičita on all occasions.
- Since the greatest obstacle to bodičita is ego clinging, as soon as you see it, recognize it, and fight it until it is destroyed.
- Pray that you will succeed in developing bodičita. Think and rethink, again and again, the suffering of others to develop the compassion so that it appears automatically.
- Neutralize the influence of the ego and develop the bodičita.
V. Measurement of mind training
In your daily activities, be aware of the disadvantages of ego clinging and the need for practising compassion towards all living beings. When you meditate, examine the way in which emotional thought patterns arise in your mind. Look at their essence and let them dissolve into the emptiness of their essential reality. Use these two methods alternately; they are like skilful means and wisdom. You will know by yourself the extent of your own training. In examining it, you will say, “yes, a little pride”. One indication of how you are doing is when someone says something unpleasant to you, you don’t get angry. If you are praised, you don’t feel proud. These are signs of a good training. Continue until it is like that.
What are the advantages of a good training? Each time the emotions arise, you will overcome them and therefore you will not fall deeper into the cyclic existence. You will be free. You will no longer fall victim to the imperfections of samsara or of the negative emotions. The obstacles cannot block your progress towards enlightenment. When a snake is coiled up, it can uncoil itself. In the same way, as soon as an emotion arises, you will be able to spontaneously release yourself of it. Then the mind is really happy, because neither the impairment of the disturbing emotions, nor the suffering they cause would ever be harmful again. When the mind is naturally untouched and happy, it is a sign of success of the mind training. The mind is continuously peaceful, calm and happy. It is not a state produced by something, but a natural and spontaneous happiness which does not know any suffering. Such is the true measure of successful mind training.
VI. Engagement of mind training
Engagement means to exert yourself in everyday life until your character is completely imbued with the right attitudes. In general, it means to convert your aspirations. In the moment when you wish to do something basically negative, you exhort yourself, “I must improve.” When this transformation takes place, you can treat the suffering of others. Once the mind is firmly transformed, there is no longer a need to prove it. The actions of your body, and your speech must necessarily be beneficial for others, little by little. You do not emphasize your contribution, you do not care to show it, nor do you wish to be recognized by others. Here are some examples of the engagements of mind training.
“Do not criticize the faults of others while being unaware of your own.”
“Examine your own mind and make use of the strongest emotion as material for mind training.”
“Do not practise the mind training to become a famous Bodhisattva, or a famous siddha, or a Buda…this motivation is impure; you will not become a pure Bodhisattva.”
“When you are wounded, bear no resentment.”
“Do not employ malicious means to take advantage of others. For example, if a group has some goods, do not use various means and ways to divert them into your own possession.”
To observe these engagements is not the same thing as in observing a law. It could be said that to do the opposite of the stated engagements is to go against the practice of mind training – the practice is then spoiled. The essence of each engagement is to help develop the mind training so that one does not transgress from the training itself. It is easy for you to realize by yourself. For example, it is said, do not practise mind training for your own growth or to gain the respect of others. If you follow the guideline of the engagements, wouldn’t you find real meaning of the practice of mind training? Yes, of course. It follows from the engagement of avoidance.
VII. Precepts of mind training
You must think of the importance of benefiting others and develop a motivation that will sprout forth spontaneously. All living beings in all the universes created all the problems that they now have by themselves. They are the results of their egoistic fixations and of their negative emotions. Develop compassion for all these beings. Be ever aware that all the sensory pleasures and material comforts are illusory and are the same in nature as dreams. They are completely without meaning and impermanent. Realize that to attach even to a tiny part of it is insane. Start by being aware of the ideas or negative emotions which appear in your mind as soon as they arise. Eventually, you will be able to give them up; then finally, you will be able to neutralize them if they appear again.
Enjoy the necessary training to become virtuous. Be happy to practice virtuous actions. Be happy about the need to create conditions that favors the accomplishment of virtuous actions. You now know how to use this precious human existence, so don’t think that life has no meaning.
In brief, the substance of the practice of mind training is to rejoice each time that something beneficial for another being is accomplished or fulfilled, and to feel sadness when someone abandons that which is beneficial to him.
These explanations are a condensed version on the practice of mind training. More elaborate commentaries exist, but this is the essence. Whether or not you obtain the fruit does not depend on a more detailed explanation but on the practice that you do.