Personal Mind Training

Bamboo and Approaching StormTraining the mind is our most important task. From the mind, arise thoughts, words, and actions – and it is then how we shape our own world.

In Mahayana Buddhism, there is the Lojong (mind training) tradition. This tradition offers essential practices for cultivating the awakening mind of compassion, wisdom, and love.

The fundamental theme of mind training practice is the profound reorientation of our basic attitude – toward our own self, toward our fellow human beings, and toward the events around us.

The goal of mind training practice is the radical transformation of our thoughts, attitudes, and habits. Presently, we tend to cherish the welfare of our own self at the expense of all others. However, the mind training teaching challenges us to reverse this process. This involves a deep understanding of others as true friends, and the recognition that our true enemy lies inside of ourselves, not outside.

As we practice mind training teachings in daily life, we train the mind to embrace reality in a completely wholesome, wise, and compassionate way. These practices help us purify our negativity and awaken the heart by giving us a way to transform adversity, conflict, and hardship into a direct opportunity for spiritual growth. In this way, rather than perceiving difficult people or adverse circumstances in our lives as an obstacle, tragedy, or punishment, we now meet these experiences with deep compassion, wisdom, and skill – using them as our actual practice on the path to enlightenment.

By way of these treasured practices, we eliminate our competitive, selfish, and emotionally reactive nature, as well as our false and exaggerated concepts of self (also called self-grasping and self-cherishing). It is important to understand that the greed, jealousy, anger, pride, selfishness, and attachment, which cause us so much suffering, are actually misperceptions of reality, not inherent conditions of our mind. Therefore, these mind training practices can purify our misperceptions and delusions completely, revealing our potential for radiance, clarity, wisdom, and compassion.

Source: Adapted from SourcePoint Global Outreach, The Heart of Dharma Collection (Mount Shasta, CA: Naljor Prison Dharma Service, n.d.)

In the spirit of training the mind, the purpose of the table offered below is to first encourage mindfulness of one’s mind states, and to thus abandon unskillful states and to develop skillful states – which are part of right effort on the Path. Mindfulness, alertness, and discernment are developed in the process.

Four basic personal mind training practices are:

(1) Be mindful of (watch and observe) the breath.

(2) Watch more; react less.

(3) Check the intention (or motivation) for every volitional action (karma) – is it skillful or unskillful?

(4) Be mindful of death – be prepared should death unexpectedly occur during any given day or night.

To continue personal mind training, one can learn to be mindful of the following:

One Dhamma (Dharma)

Two Truths – relative truth and absolute truth

Three Refuges – the Buddha, the Dhamma, the Sangha

Three Poisons (unwholesome states) – greed, aversion, delusion

Four Brahma Viharas – loving-kindness (goodwill), appreciative joy, compassion, equanimity

Four Noble Truths – existence of suffering, origin of suffering (for example: five aggregates, 12 links of dependent origination), cessation of suffering, Path to end suffering (right view, resolve, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration)

Five Precepts – no killing (destroying sentient beings; sentience indicates that a being has the power of perception through the senses), no stealing (not taking anything unless it is explicitly given to us), no sexual (or sensual) misconduct, no false speech, no intoxicants.