I am using Weeping Buddha and the lojong sayings and commentary from Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness by Chogyam Trungpa as a study, together.
I’ve been practicing tonglen for almost three decades, and it is my main practice.
This is the tenth weekly installment. To start at the beginning go here.
Tibetans love to make lists: 10,000 of this, 7 of that, and I get a bit lost in all that.
Three objects are friends, enemies, and neutrals. We have those we love or like a whole lot, those who we see as enemies or at least we think they want to hurt us or have hurt us so we may want to hurt them or at least avoid them at all costs like the plague, and then there are those that we really don’t think much about one way or the other. You’d be surprised who you may have in each category.
Three poisons are passion, aggression and ignorance.
Passion in this sense is the grasping quality. We want it/them, and we really don’t want to share unless it is in order to show the world what we have.
Aggression is wanting to reject, harm, attack, or push away from. It is more than mere avoidance; think revulsion.
Ignorance in this case is akin to indifference and I also see a tendency toward slothfulness when it comes to this klesha, or poison.
The three seeds of virtue are the antidotes to the above kleshas. I found my way through them without outlining and dissecting — I practiced! Tonglen is the antidote.
How this relates to tonglen is in both meditation and the post meditation. When you begin to practice sending and taking of breath and mental activities, they advise you usually start with your friends or neutrals, so that you are not distracted in early stages by hatred of enemies and reluctance to get behind sending them good vibes. You work up to sending and taking with your “enemies.” I didn’t wait, and it paid off. (Warning: I had done a LOT of meditation.) I used this technique every time I had a fight or argument with family members (not enemies per se, but I was angry with them) and after a long time of doing this, I was forced to understand who they were and what they were going through in order to take on their burdens, and send them what they needed or even a good thought — hell, even a sunflower is hard when you are angry! It is an amazing way to learn compassion, and it assisted me in my difficult relationship with my mother.
The Buddhists speak of honoring your parents, but how do you honor them if they are actually wrong-doers. I could acknowledge that my mother kept me safe and gave me a good start in life, I could feel the love I had for her, especially as we had a good relationship when I was a kid. But when I became an adult everything changed and I became her enemy, for whatever reasons she has — and I am not saying I didn’t give her crapola to deal with. I’m no saint. On the other hand, there is a statute of limitations on stupidity and when it is up, loving people forgive and move on. Not my mom. No forgiving or forgetting. Other family members see this clearly also, so it is not just my delusional “stuff.”
Taking her to the zafu to practice tonglen consistently softened my edges of aggression to her for hurting me. It did not ever drop my need for strong boundaries — boundaries are necessary with those that might like to hurt you — but my aggressive nature inside was softened, and my holding on to the anger moved from long periods of anger to letting go very quickly to eventually not even feeling the anger but seeing her very clearly for who she was and not taking it so personally. I’m not saying that it didn’t hurt at all; I’m just saying that I saw her do it to so many people that it wasn’t about me, it was her own sad makyo, or monkey mind. Knowing that the snake in the grass might harm you allows you to be watchful and sidestep, but you don’t blame the snake for having snake nature. Holding onto fear and anger eats up your insides, and then you are never comfortable outdoors.
The meditation moved into my post-meditative states, so that I could take-and-send in the midst of her craziness. This is when the practice began to become a lifetime practice for me, as its benefits went beyond my most difficult relationship. I could do it anywhere, for anyone or anything.
In this weekly commentary on the lojong, I am not open to the feed becoming
a debate for people to nitpick Buddhism or my interpretations of Buddhist concepts.
(There are lots of places for debates.) I am more interested in hearing about
YOUR life or how the lojong affected you or your practice awakening in some manner.
For more info about why, go here.