What is Mind Training?

Recently Lama Jampa gave a teaching in which he presented such a lucid and direct explanation of the Mahayana Mind Training (Tibetan: Lojong) that those of us who profess to be students of Dharma could hardly avoid asking ourselves: “To what extent have I really started taking the Buddha’s teachings into my heart? Am I really trying to change in my heart?”

 Lama Jampa showing that a sense of humour does help when it comes to practising the mind training. It can help us to lose our sense of self-importance. 

Lama Jampa showing that a sense of humour does help when it comes to practising the mind training. It can help us to lose our sense of self-importance.

Its essential method is a very straightforward one for overturning our self-centredness, but our strong egos quickly find ways to duck and dive away from its unambiguous instructions.

The training has several easy to recall instructions such as

‘Drive all blame into one’.

This helps me to train myself to cease looking to others or to external factors as causes of whatever seems to be going wrong in my life; I alone must take responsibility for that.

Lama Jampa explained that it is only those of us who have chosen to engage in the mind training who need to apply teachings on karma in this way. Anyone else’s karma is not an appropriate subject for our concern. The mind training is for our minds only!

In answer to a student’s question on karma, Lama Jampa noted that ‘when the Buddha attained enlightenment, unhappily for us, we did not! Enlightenment arose just in his mind stream’. In other words, mind streams are individual and this explains why the practice is sometimes called a ‘secret’ practice, in the sense that one’s practice is private to one’s own mind stream. Hence, it is an attitude we adopt towards the world that places no demands on anything or anyone external to do the changing. It is our own business and there is no need to try to re-adjust the world around us. In fact, the converse is the case. We need to try and readjust ourselves to the world. We can do things like looking for positive qualities in others and cease to elevate ourselves as we normally do. .

This is where other sentient beings come in – just as they are. Without needing them to change, we can take them into our practice. In this way, our mind training helps us actualise genuine love and compassion.

Practising the mind training involves not just changing our mental attitude but also our behaviour; for example to soften our behaviour towards others.  The practice is further deepened through specific meditation practices which we learn as we progress. A prerequisite for this is recognition in ourselves of disturbing emotions as they arise through the practice of mindfulness.

If one were to ask what qualifications does one need to start with the Lojong? Lama Jampa put it very simply and not without a dash of wry humour.

Just one’s normal neurotic mind is all we need to bring to the practice. We don’t need any great learning or even any great meditation power. In short, all we need to bring are our habits of self-clinging and self-cherishing; in short our neurotic  way of relating to the world. We then find a way of transforming that through the practice.

This training certainly is a radical alternative to the worldly approach we may have led ourselves to believe would lead to happiness. However, if we look carefully at our lives we may see that, as Lama Jampa said in his introduction to the teaching,

‘The only thing that will cause us to break out of what traps us in suffering is by coming to develop love and compassion for others. So, in fact, happiness, even in this life, only comes whenever I forget myself and care for another person. They evoke in me the response of love and compassion and that brings about real happiness.‘

You can listen to this teaching via this link.

Lama Jampa will continue his teaching on the text, The Eight Verses of Mind Training, in London later in the year. See the What’s On page on this website for details.

This blog is the work of students in Dechen. Posts are typically a result of contemplation by its authors on those teachings . Whilst  every effort is made to accurately reflect teachings given, any misrepresentation is entirely the responsibility of the authors. Please address any communication to blog@dechen.org.