Path of Transformation

The Seven Verses of Mind Training, Part Three


Khenpo Gyaltsen wraps up his teaching on the Seven Verses of Mind Training by summarising how to take adversity into the path of enlightenment. When we practice the Dharma, we will naturally encounter obstacles. It is often said that the more profound the practice, the more the maras arise. But many people make the mistake of thinking that they are doing something wrong, or that the Dharma is not working. When this happens, some people may abandon their Dharma practice. But the reason we experience more adversity and suffering is that we are experiencing the ripening of past life karma. As we progress in our practice, we should rejoice and be grateful that we are purifying our past obscurations and karma so that we will not have to experience them in future lives.

If we think about adversity in this way, it transforms it into the path of awakening. We see this as a wonderful opportunity to purify our karma, now that we possess this precious human body. Any karma that we have accumulated will have to ripen eventually. It does not have to just be a painful experience. That depends upon our perspective. If we switch our thinking from being self-absorbed and averse to suffering, we can see that as just a natural result. If we are a practitioner of the Mahayana, we can see our pain as a substitute; we are taking on the suffering of all other beings. And this accumulates a vast amount of merit.

Similarly, if we are harmed by someone else, we can examine it with the attitude of a bodhisattva. We know that this harm is a result of karma when we harmed that other person in the past. Due to our self-clinging, we caused harm to another being, and now we are experiencing that karmic ripening. This helps us to endure any harm that comes our way. If we react angrily to someone who is harming us, we need to pause and reflect on why it is happening. This is why say that enemies or harm-doers are so precious and so kind to us. They allow us to practice patience or forbearance. That is a way to gather the accumulation of merit. If we can think this way, that is the mark of being an authentic dharma practitioner.

The fourth point of mind training is applying the practice to daily life. All stages of practice can be included within the five strengths. What are the five strengths?

  1. Impelling the Mind
  2. Familiarity
  3. White Seed
  4. Abandonment
  5. Aspiration

In the Mahayana context, the first strength is the strong commitment. We impel the mind or move it toward the goal of benefiting all beings and bringing them to complete enlightenment. It is not sufficient just to have that intention. We need to apply ourselves to reach that goal. That is the second strength, that of familiarization. We practice the six perfections and so forth. And we also need something to support us on the pathway. And that is the third strength, the white seed. We accumulate merit through practicing the seven branches, for example. Without merit, there is no way that we can progress on the path. We will not be able to give rise to genuine bodhicitta. Obstacles and adversity will arise, and we need to be able to dispel those. This strength of abandonment is how we overcome obstacles. And finally, we need to make aspirations, such as the wish that the precious mind of awakening arises where it has not arisen. All five of these together are crucial for our practice and we need to rely on them in all stages of our pathway. These strengths are the five steps of Dharma practice and we can see them in our own lives and our efforts in study, practice, and meditation. If we practice with these five strengths, we are certain to progress well and experience results.

The fifth point of mind training is the measure. This means knowing how to check our progress. As the text says, all teachings share a single purpose or intent. The teachings need to act as an antidote to self-clinging. We check to see if our self-clinging is reducing. All our emotions: aversion, attraction, ignorance, pride, envy, and jealousy., stem from self-clinging. Have we tamed our negative emotions? Is our ego and self-cherishing reducing? If so, then our practice is going well. When attachment or any of the emotions arise, how much control do you have? This tells you if your practice is improving. And this a check that we do only on ourselves, and we keep quiet about it.

The sixth point of mind training is described in the English translation as commitment. This involves training constantly in three basic principles. First, we should not break our commitments or vows. Secondly, if we do break a vow or commitment, we should take it seriously and not make light of a mistake. Third, we should not take some commitments more seriously and not pay attention to others. If we make commitments, we should maintain them all well.

Point seven are the precepts which start by saying we should do everything with a single intention. Khenpo suggests that a better translation for precept would be “advice” applicable to mind training. That single intention is bodhicitta. The second point is to counter all adversity with a single remedy. This means that we apply the antidote to the negative emotions as they arise. Third, we have two tasks—the beginning of the day, and the end of the day. When we first awaken, we should form the intent, “May I not harm a single sentient being”. At the end of the day, we review our actions. If we have harmed any being, we should confess immediately, and recite the Vajrasattva mantra. And if we benefitted any being, we can rejoice and dedicate the merit of that action. And if we experience pain or suffering, we should patiently accept it, remembering that we are purifying bad karma. And if we experience happiness, we should wish that same happiness or joy for all sentient beings. We can also think that whatever goodness or happiness we experience is due to the kindness of our gurus.

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