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Atishas Seven Points

of Mind Training
(Lo Jong)
July 16-18, 2010
Pema Karpo Meditation Center
Memphis, Tennessee

This is a rough outline of the talks given by Khenpo Gawang
Rinpoche with translation by Christoph Klonk as understood
by the imperfect ears of one listener done without referring
back to any sound recordings
These are not literal transcripts
These are one students notes -- use them to compare to your
own notes or memories of the teaching, but do not assume
they are a perfect reproduction of what was said

Outline of the Training

Atisha's Seven Points of Mind Training (Lojong)
1. The Preliminaries to Mind Training
2. The Main Practice of Training the Mind in Bodhichitta
3. Transforming Adversity into the Path of Awakening
4. Applying the Practice Throughout One's Whole Life
5. The Measure or Signs of Proficiency in Mind Training
6. The Commitments of Mind Training
7. The Precepts of Mind Training

3 activities related to mind

Begin with Bodhichitta of intention (for the
benefit of all beings)
1. Listen to topics with the intention above
2. Reflect on the topics
3. Abide with intention on the topics (put
them into practice)

What is the main content of the

Bodhichitta the awakened heart
This attitude in relation to the whole
phenomenal world and to ultimate reality
is explained in detail in this teaching

Also called mind training in 7

So what is mind?
Listening/understanding/knowing/clear lucid
Training the mind is obviously NOT training the
mind to be bad
Further, it is also NOT training to get rid of the
bad mind
RATHER, it is understanding that mind is
inherently good and trying to stay with those
positive qualities

Directed toward Supreme

The training toward Supreme Awakening comes from great
protector Atisha who had three major gurus
Third one was Serlingpa, notes unclear on other 2 - Mostly from Serlingpa that lo jong is derived (lo = conceptual
mind; jong = training or discipline)
Aside not in the teaching, from ref book: (Serling is Tibetan for
Gold Island now called Sumatra so Serlingpa meant man or guru
from Gold Island or Sumatra)

There are many presentations of Serlingpas teachings, but lo

jong slogans which are the basis of this teaching were
coined/summarized by Chekawa Yeshe Dorje later
Aside from ref books: Atishas life dates approx, 982-1054;
Chekawa approx. 1101-1175

What is it all about?

Looking for a better state of happiness
Many ways people look health, wealth,
Dharma helps us understand these
approaches will fade
Dharma helps explain how we can go
beyond those to something lasting

What is the major condition for

ultimate wellness?
The major condition is Supreme Enlightenment
The major condition that will produce Supreme Enlightenment
CANNOT attain Supreme Enlightenment without this attitude
Trainings on the Awakened Heart (Bodhichitta) focus on both
The awakened heart in the conventional world (how things
AND in relation to absolute reality (how things really are)

Atisha and the 3 gurus of Atisha did not just teach but really
focused on realizing the awakened heart in relation to the
world and in relation to resting in shunyata (emptiness)

The how/what/why of mind

This training runs contrary to usual concerns
Usual concerns are about nourishing ourselves
Usually cherish ourselves as more valuable
than others
BUT happiness is NOT from ourselves
Happiness comes from taking care of others.
Clinging to self/ego actually is the cause of

Why are there 7 points

1. Whose mind is to be trained ? the conventional
individuals mind is the basis for training
2. How can one achieve bodhichitta?
3. How can seeming obstacles to bodhichitta actually be used
to nourish it?
4. How can we use the practice for the rest of our whole life?
5. How far can these trainings take us?
6. How can we make an inner promise to stay with the
7. Last some concluding practical advices

I. Preparatory Conditions
Overview of preparatory conditions to start
training at all:
1. Recognize/become aware of the rare
opportunity of this human life
2. Become aware of the impermanence of
this life
3. See the problems resulting from our
habitual pattern of self-grasping

1) Appreciate this life

The sutras say this occasion (our life) is endowed with so
much fortune and leisure (opportunity) but is so difficult to
This life did not come out of no where but from causes and
Traditional explanation is that it required a lot of positive
mind habits just to attain a human birth as there are limitless
other types of existences/sentient beings including as
Bugs, microbes, invisible beings in this and other worlds

THEREFORE, since human existence is a very precious

Do not take it for granted
Do not let it pass meaninglessly
Make this life useful !

2) Fact of impermanence
This human body is not durable
And the expiration date is unknown
This fact is in contrast to our usual attitude of thinking
that life and objects are permanent
Even our self changes from second to second
Mind training gets our mind more used to the reality
that all is change/change/change
Cannot even promise we will not die today

THEREFORE, we must not put off training the mind,

Must do it today!

3) Facts of samsara

Must learn to accept the fact of repetitive trouble

Troubles keep going round and round, over and over
We are all trapped in trouble
Classical teachings would explain six types of trouble
We will focus on just troubles of humans
4 troubles common to all humans

Aging which is unavoidable
Various kinds of sickness physical, mental etc

Details of the above vary for each of us, but basic four points
are a given for every human.

What causes troubles?

If we are to eradicate the troubles, must first see
what causes them
Our problem seems to be we hold on to trouble
causing habits that we thought would bring us
happiness, but really dont
This error of mind causes us to be TROUBLE
Once we see what our habits are doing to us, we
can look for a solution or medicine

Analogy of medicine
When a person has a sickness, must first
diagnose what kind
Once it is known what the sickness is, the proper
medicine can be found
Need to rely on someone with experience for the
Buddha gave 84,000 advices on what brings
trouble vs. happiness and how to be free from
our misconceptions
Boils down to appropriate vs. inappropriate

10 inappropriate behaviors
1) Killing, 2) Stealing 3) Sexual Misconduct
1) Lying
2) Words that cause disharmony
3) Harsh words
4) Meaningless chatter
1) Greed, 2) Ill-wishing, 3) Ignorance
WHY DISCUSS THESE must go beyond NOT doing the above,
but also replace with opposite Dont kill, promote life;
dont steal, give etc etc

Summary about appropriate

vs. inappropriate behavior
More examples of replacements for inappropriate

Setting free those to be killed vs. killing,

Giving to charity vs. stealing,
Setting a positive example in terms of sexual behavior,
Truth vs. lying ,
Creating harmony/reconciling instead of ill wishing,
Friendliness instead of greed

In summary: Be aware of CAUSE AND EFFECT at all times -Doing as we please causes more confusion and difficulties
to follow

Summary of preliminary
How does the explanation of preliminaries above fit
into overall training?
We must reverse our habitual misunderstandings/not
wanting to face facts of life
We must stop deceiving ourselves
We must stop wasting time on blame or regrets of the
past and get to work


II. Actual Training of the

Awakened Heart
As we have heard before, there are two types of Awakened
Heart or Bodhichitta

Bodhichitta in relation to seeming truth/phenomenal

world/habitual tendencies
Finding absolute truth

Most teachings start with Bodhichitta in conventional world

and work up to Bodhichitta in ultimate truth
This teaching begins with ultimate truth
Why is the order reversed? Because it makes sense in practice.

In meditation practice we try to understand how things really

are with no substantiality or empty
Then we get up and go about our activities in the conventional
world between meditation practices

2 facets of the Awakened Heart

1. One facet which is in contact with the actual
2. One facet which is in contact with the
phenomenal world

2 sets of three
Three fold structure of the practice:
1. A way into the practice
2. The practice
3. Fade out/conclusion
Three reliable sources of support:
1. Buddha someone free of samsara to relate to
2. Dharma the genuine path
3. Sangha good companions who do not lead us
These three sources of support are needed until we reach

Intentions (way into the

Remember the trainings are important not just
for our self, but for ALL beings
The teachings/process is important for all
sentient beings
Direct the heart with appreciation to all great
teachers and try to tune into their positive mind
Put oneself in the right state of mind

A word to beginners
The teaching may seem horribly complex at first
But when the day comes that we want to undertake
the JOURNEY or PATH to tame our problem mind, we
will need some basic provisions
These detailed teachings are the provisions or
practical advice for the path or journey
Taking a detailed approach makes us aware of the full
1. We are fully informed of the foundation
2. We know what to do in the middle
3. And, we know what we can expect as a result of the
training know where we are trying to go

Continued word to beginners

Ultimately, not just some exotic ideas, but
practical steps aimed at taming our unskillful
If we can tame unhelpful emotions, then we
will be happier thus these trainings are
intended to be very helpful to us
This is not just some random elaborate
practice aimed at increasing arrogance or
adding to our habitual self clinging.

Summary of getting into the

Get into the right state of mind by
Recalling the support or resources of the Buddha,
Dharma and Sangha
AND the motivation to practice for the benefit of
all beings

This motivation then leads to 7 detailed

preparatory steps

7 step prayer/approach (1)

1. Greeting or Appreciation (Homage)
Start with greeting or appreciation of all those past enlightened or
awakened hearts such as the Buddhas & bodhisattvas. Literal
and/or figurative prostrations to recognize the good qualities of
these beings.

2. Contributions (Offerings)
Make literal and/or imagined offerings of good things in
appreciation of the beings honored in step one. This will increase
our feelings of well being, decrease our poverty mentality.

3. Confession
Admit our past shortcomings and make resolution to do better in
presence of the imagined superior beings. Inner resolution helps as
antidote to faults best antidote is wish to do something good for
all beings (bodhichitta).

7 step prayer/approach (2)

4. Rejoicing
Rejoice in the good qualities of the visualized beings. If we can
simply train ourselves to AVOID jealousy toward others, BUT
RATHER to rejoice in their good qualities in some way we actually
share in the benefits of their positive qualities.

5. Request teachings
Actually request not because teachers are stingy or lazy, but to
develop a form of appreciation. Also assures teachers are not
imposing rules on the students teachings actually wanted.

7 step prayer/approach (3)

6. Urge the Buddhas and other beings to stay longer
This makes us appreciate the immeasurable benefits of their
activities. If someone appreciates these beings it will help
clear obstacles. If there is some appreciated it helps extends
their life. Develops a skillful interconnection of beings.
Similar to longevity prayers for the Dalai Lama.
7. Dedication
Dedicate whatever merit or good we get from the teachings to
others, toward enlightenment of all beings. Clears the way for the
benefits, prevents losing the benefits, prevents self clinging to the

Summary of points above

Summarizing the teachings thus far:
All has been related to preparing the mind
for the actual practice
Now we actually turned to the central

Sit straight but relaxed
Count breaths without distraction to 21
Then stay in the natural, undistracted,
unmanipulated state of mind

Explaining Bodhichitta in
relation to ultimate truth
In root verse
Think of all the phenomenal world as occurrences in a dream

Absolute bodhichitta has to do with how the world really is,

rather than how it ordinarily appears
Habitually we think outer appearances and our inner mind are
In dream all looks real which is an analogy to our everyday
life seems more real than it is
If the way things appears is not how they really are, we may
ask why do they appear that way?
Because of stored habits of perception from our base memory

Habitual seeing
We think outer appearances are real
BUT point is that what appears is just our perception
all happens in our mind.
So, what is mind?
Cannot pinpoint where it started,
Or, where it is now
Or, where it will go
Beyond description in its arising, ceasing and abiding
These indescribable characteristics are called emptiness
which is the true nature of our mind

In looking for mind we have to admit
No color or particular shape and dont know exactly where it
resides - inside, outside, or in between?

Having gained clarity that mind is not solid and identifiable

Only meaningful conclusion is to just RELAX and let it be without

Usual error is to perceive outside world as separate from inner

mind -- so we get stuck in samsara
Extremely important to let go of trying to put characteristics
on the mind
Even giving it the nice label of emptiness can be an error

Usual error is to grasp and take things too seriously


Levels of consciousness
First five levels of consciousness are the 5 senses eye, ear,
smell, taste, touch or body consciousness
6th puts a label on prior 5 I see red, taste sweet etc ..
1st five levels of mind should be left as they are
7th consciousness is where the problems begin nyon yi
emotional, judgmental, adding a concept to basic perceptions
I love red, I dont like sweet
Try to stay with first six levels
Rest in the fresh awareness of what you see or hear this resting
or letting be is called vipasshana or clear seeing

Seeing these perceptions of color etc is not a problem as long

as left dreamlike
Dont try to impose some extra attachment, aversion etc on them
through judgmental labels

Summary on ultimate reality

Discussion above on consciousness is layout of how we can
work toward seeing ultimate reality
This is a process of training
Cant expect it all to come in short time (though it has been
known to happen in rare cases it normally takes training)

Above discussion is about how Bodhichitta or Awakened Heart

works in relation to absolute truth.
Portion below this is how Bodhichitta or the Awakened Heart
works in relation to the phenomenal world.

Bodhichitta in phenomenal
world vs. absolute level
Generally speaking an Awakened Mind
does not see the appearances of this life
as true
BUT we have to prepare ourselves to get
to that kind of perception
Because normally as humans, we do still
have a habit of taking phenomenal
objects, events and emotions seriously

Training the mind in the

Awakened Heart
We let friendliness and compassion grow
BUT do not have to create them newly from
We all inherently have the capacity for an
Awakened Heart
But when we grasp at an I and have negative
emotions our positive natural qualities are
If we will nurture our inherent positive qualities
they will have a chance to manifest

Training in Bodhichitta relative

to the phenomenal world
Idea of for the sake of all beings, I want to reach
the state of Buddhahood
Two approaches
This main training is in 7 steps
Also, an alternative training is Shantidevas
approach of two steps
1. Training in equality of self and others
2. Exchanging self and others

7 step approach per Atisha (1)

Gradual development in 7 steps:
1. Think all beings in the past have been our Mother
Mother stands for unspeakable kindness. Would not be here if her
body had not nurtured us for duration of pregnancy. Classical
explanation is that our Mother is kindest person. Every Mother also
had a Mother so it extends back in an infinite stream, so since there is
no clear starting point it is possible that all current beings could have
been our Mother at some point in the past.

2. Remember the kindness of our past Mothers who got us to

this point
3. Feel an urge to repay that kindness
Helps put the focus on others, not ourselves. How can we enjoy a meal
in front of any starving person if all might have been our Mother in the

7 step approach per Atisha (2)

4. Develop increasingly close feelings for all beings
Develop thoughts of great friendliness like Why cant every one be
happy and stay that way? I wish everyone could be happy at all

5. Remember the kindness of our past Mothers who got us to

this point
Develop thoughts of great compassion like why cant every one be
free of suffering with the emphasis on EVERY SINGLE ONE rather than
just friends and others who are close to us.

6. Develop an extraordinary motivation for good

Develop a deep resolution that something great must be done to help
beings, AND I MUST DO IT.

7. Bodhichitta in relation to the phenomenal world arises

Giving that our current mind capacities can not provide adequate help
to beings, we resolve to get a mind upgrade by doing whatever is
necessary to reach the state of an enlightened Buddha.

Reaching Bodhichitta in
relation to phenomenal world
To reach stage seven it takes 6 gradual causal steps or stages.
Text goes on to explain how to get to this mind set
Meditating on ALL beings is too wishy washy therefore consider
particular people
Start with Mother, replace with some other kind person if your
relationship with your current Mother was problematic
Remember feelings of kindness, go on to friendliness, see their
suffering, develop urge to benefit
Extend this training to others beyond persons of known great

Shantidevas approach
Step one: Consider how much we are all in the same boat
same troubles, mental makeup, equal in wanting happiness
If we did not first accept the equality of others it would be
difficult to try to wear the other persons shoes

Step two: Exchange oneself for others also called tong len
or giving and taking
Sit and watch breath going in and out and join to it a heartfelt
Using the out breath as a focus, think May all my good qualities
go out to make others happy
Using the in breath as a focus, think May all their pain come to
me to relieve the burden from their shoulders

Shantideva vs. habitual

Usually we are more interested in our self than
in others
Grasping at our self though is really the source of
our troubles
If there is any blame it is the error of grasping
at self
If there is any benefit it is from caring for
From beginningless time our problems arise
from grasping at self protection

Giving and taking

All that is good in ourselves, things, feelings, anything
going well, even further good we might have coming in
the future
All negatives, problems/pain, wicked states of mind,
obstacles, future problems of the other person as well
Join these to the Out and In breaths.
Dont really get the problems and sickness of others
just training the mind
However if you should be such a rare practitioner as to
really take them on rejoice rather than regret

Variation on giving and taking

Use imagination to see ourselves in a pure state, an
embodiment of pure compassion and train to have the same
attitude as some pure being such as Avalokiteshvara
Think may all the Karma that made me Avalokiteshvara go out to
other beings
Blackness taken from other beings, white light sent to them
Can be joined to mantra of Om Mani Padme Hung

Bottom line on Bodhichitta or

Wakened Mind of Compassion
If we cannot manage to exchange ourselves in this way:
Better forget about enlightenment
Enlightenment arises from the benefits of positive acts
Cannot come from grasping to protect ones self
Grasping at the self does not given enlightenment but
a harvest of pain and frustration for ourselves and
Exchanging self and others is only cause for

Q: How is this training related to ground, path, and fruition? Is
7th step the fruition?
A: No, developing awakened heart is where path starts. But
still great benefit in achieving even that level of maturity.
Getting to this level, one is not an ordinary mortal anymore
but a bodhisattva enlightenment hero. No longer trapped
by past negative actions and will bring good after this point.
Will not be stopped by obstacles but appreciate the obstacles
so this attitude has immeasurable value. Friendly hearted
person is loved by all, not so uptight so others are also more
at ease. If our only concern were personal benefit, still train in
bodhicitta because this is the only way to lasting happiness.
More than this was said this is only a part

Other issues in question period

Seed of enlightenment is awakened heart of bodhichitta
Need challenges to awaken the enlightened heart
Past is gone no need to have anger or hold on to it
If something can be changed , do it; If cant be changed, why
Easy to say, hard in practice

What does it mean to rest in the alaya per some translations?

Alaya can mean 8th consciousness or the all ground. Used in 2
different contexts
1) storage conscious memory imprints in context of Mind Only
description of mind
2) Or way of all reality leave perceptions/mental occurrences like
they arise without grasping
More like the second way, dont make the mistake of just trying to
dull-ly not think.

More question issues

Q: How is 7 point mind training related to guru yoga?
A: Not directly involved though could be linked as an
appreciation of teachers qualities. Teacher can be used as an
embodiment of love and compassion.
Difficult to hear all questions .. apologies if your question &
answer is not outlined here

END OF PART II Main Practice of

Training the Mind in Bodhichitta
This was the end of the Evening Teaching on Friday July 16th
recap will appear at beginning of Part III notes

III. Transforming Adversity into the

Path of Awakening
Recap from prior day:
Whether learning Dharma newly, reflecting on the meaning,
or putting it into practice --- it should be embedded in an
attitude of bodhichitta/awakened heart
Beings and their sufferings are unlimited
Think Why couldnt I free them all?
This is the reason we undertake teachings

Considering the above, this training is one of 7 points of mind

training the Awakened Heart in relation to absolute truth
and in relation to the phenomenal world
Must consider the teachings in meditation and apply to the
phenomenal world between meditation apply to every day

Starting point awareness of

how we usually act
1. If it looks nice -- we want it
2. If it is not nice -- we avoid it
3. Otherwise dully indifferent
These 3 items above are called the 3 mental poisons
attachment, aversion, ignorance
This is the basic problem of all beings that needs changed to
achieve real happiness -- need change for our self and to
share it with all sentient beings

Working with speech

It may be helpful to work not just mentally but also
through our speech
Saying things like
May all sentient beings be freed of their various
May I take those troubles on me
May their negative consequences arise on me and
all my positive qualities on them
Saying such words out loud helps the mind begin to take
this in and slowly become accustomed to this new way of

Working with problems

On the other hand when we have troubles or problems then
we could
Think things like
Other people have similar problems
How can I make these problems useful
Maybe there is some way I could take other peoples similar
problems on through this problem I am already experiencing

There is a story about one of the Buddhas former lives in

which he and a companion were being forced to drag a heavy
object in a hell realm
As the thought arose since the heavy load must be carried
anyway, wouldnt it be wonderful if I alone could bear this burden
and my companion could be free
This event was said to be the origin of the idea of bodhichitta or
the Awakened Heart

III. Taking Obstacles on the

We now turn from part II on Bodhichitta/The Awakened Heart
to part III of the seven points
We must face the fact that all the discomfort we face is in
itself a ripening of something unskillful in the past this is
true for everyone
This section will teach us to take disadvantages and obstacles
onto the path
This section will tell us
Why we must change our attitude
And how to apply this in our life

2 ways to understand the

Awakened Heart
1. In relation to conventional truth
2. In relation to ultimate truth
Why do we suffer?
Boils down to our idea that there is a personal I to defend
which is the real source of our problems
Real problem is our idea of a self
Dont blame others -- blame this mistaken idea of real
Our real obstacle or enemy is not other people but our
When other people seem like a pain or obstacle -- they
are really helping us stop ego clinging

Mechanism of our suffering

The self is not really findable yet we are trapped in confusion

Those with more than us we are jealous of them

Those with less than us we look down on them
Those at the same level we look on them as competitors

We are always trapped as long as we think there is a self to

Defending this false self always leads to unskillful behavior
Rather than thinking badly of or fighting with others
Should be trying to fight off the real enemy which is SELF

If we can recognize our grasping, we can free ourselves of it

The degree to which we can rid our selves of Self Clinging is
the degree to which we will have real happiness

Our relationship with others

To reach the state of supreme enlightenment one
MUST have good relationships with sentient
Generosity is not possible without others to
give to
Patience is not possible without people who
challenge and train us
What really has to take place is the shift of mind
that lets friendliness and compassion grow

From Obstacle to Benefit

May all their burden come on me may all my positives be
shared with everyone
MOREOVER, when someone seems to be against us or to be
creating an obstacle
We should not be angry with them but analyze why they are
attacking us
Maybe they are basically angry or troubled
By attacking us, they are really causing themselves more problems
We should then feel compassion for these extra problems they are
causing themselves
We should then think May they be free of suffering and reach
enlightenment through contact with us

This scenario above illustrates taking an obstacle and turning it

into a positive

Letting go of the body

We can connect the quality of generosity with the idea of
letting go of the body
We spend much worry on this body
We kill other beings for food, clothes, or beauty

We can dedicate this body to be well-eaten by many (such as

demons or bad forces?)
We are training our attitude
Being willing to give our body as something useful
May the body be most delicious and give lasting pleasure

With this attitude we developing an awakened heart

Summary of bodhichitta and

phenomenal world
It is all about letting go of mental notion that there is some I
to defend
All suffering comes from trying to defend a personal I
All happiness from helping others

This concludes the explanation of working with obstacles in

the phenomenal world
Now we turn to the absolute truth approach

Absolute truth approach

Here we try to understand all unfavorable events and
emotional reactions as just happening under mental
Only the delusion/misperception is the problem
Things appear to be disturbed but they are not really
Analogy of a dream
Huge fire, flood, other catastrophes in the dream seem
quite real but we awaken to find they were not
This is how confusion works we take for true what
never was

Absolute truth approach cont.

In this approach we analyze how this confusion works
We have an impression of suffering, but it never really arose
Never truly came into existence
Truly unborn is characteristic of the dharmakaya no real
No real existing connected with idea of nirmanakaya
No real ceasing connected with Sambhogakaya
Union of these three above are called Svabhavikakaya
Four essence bodies are present in all apparent problems

The understanding of these four essence bodies is related to

more advanced study than the basic instruction today

The Awakened Heart in

Essentially we need to increase goodness (accumulations) and
get rid of obscurations
Four practical applications

Accumulations increase goodness

Purification ridding oneself of negativity
Offerings to evil forces
Offerings to Dharma protectors to bring favorable conditions

Accumulations increasing
To increase goodness
Appreciate those with superior qualities
Making offerings or giving appreciation creates a good mental
Also support those with lesser qualities
Train the mind for positivity

All dislike suffering and want happiness, therefore

Look for causes of happiness to bring more positivity into your life
Get rid of the opposite
Watch out for the causes of suffering which are unskillful actions
toward others

Purification or ridding
ourselves of negativity
To rid ourselves of negativity we must be very skillful and rely
on four strengths or powers

Admitting our mistake

Recognize that what we initially thought was the way to do things,
was a mistake
Feel sorry for or regret the action


Resolution not to do it again

Power of support confess and make resolution in front of
visualized Buddha/great beings
Power of the antidote

Two more practical applications are
1. Making offerings to evil forces
2. Making offerings to Dharma protectors
to bring favorable conditions

Summation of Awakened Heart

in Practice
We have an IDEA of unfavorable
In practice we deal with these conditions
by turning the seemingly negative
situation into fuel for a more Awakened


Transforming Adversity into the Path of