Lojong Cards and Booklet

Lojong Cards and Booklet
This self-published deck and booklet are the intellectual property of Beverly King. Please do not copy or reproduce any photos or blog posts without permission.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Slogan Seventeen

Train in the Five Strengths.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
1) Strong determination - As spiritual warriors, we intentionally stay connected to our higher goals and maintain our practice. Yet we retain an attitude of appreciation and playfulness instead of drudgery and dread. 
2) Familiarization - Through repetition we establish new habits that we consciously cultivate. We begin to develop a natural response which brings us back to mindfulness and awareness.
3) Seed of virtue - This strength reminds us of who we really are - our human potential for wisdom, compassion, and loving-kindness.
4) Reproach - Instead of blaming ourselves, we see the ego as the cause of our suffering. We let it know we are aware of its habits that result in our pain, and we tell it we refuse to be fooled anymore.
5) Aspiration - Our vows help cut through negativity and serve to empower us. We commit to the service of others, cultivating mindfulness and loving-kindness, and attaining enlightenment. These aspirations give us an objective to keep working toward.
Photo: Mophead hydrangea bloom surrounded by five Kimberly Queen fern fronds.

            Sometimes it’s easier to understand a concept when I look at its opposite:
1) Strong determination becomes Lukewarm effort – I only practice when it’s convenient or when I have nothing else better to do.
2) Familiarization becomes Unnatural response – When I find myself in dire straits, I just react out of habit. I don’t do anything new because it doesn't feel comfortable.
3) Seed of virtue becomes Source of sin – I choose to believe people have a predisposition toward vice; this idea of human nature makes a convenient scapegoat for my unwillingness to change and my lack of kindness.
4) Reproach (of the ego) becomes Shame – I am worthless, so why even try? (Do you feel sorry for me?)
5) Aspiration becomes Aimless Apathy – Commitment and pledges require a sustained effort; I’d rather just spend time only doing what looks interesting or fun.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Slogan Sixteen

Whatever you meet unexpectedly, join with meditation.
From the Lojong for Laypersons booklet:
            There are times when life surprises us to the point where our minds are shocked into stillness. These moments may be a pleasant surprise (a friend declares his or her love) or an unpleasant one (a boss delivers a pink slip). Either way, we can rest in that pause - the nature of alaya - an unbiased expanse of the mind. Of course the pause won’t last forever, and our thoughts will start churning out at a furious pace. Instead of responding in our habitual way, we can respond with openness and courage through awareness. Whether it is positive or negative, we can practice tonglen. No matter what we meet unexpectedly, we can use it to cultivate compassion and reconnect to the spaciousness of our minds.
Photo: Green treefrog hiding during the day in a storage shed.

            When I first learned to drive, I would often catch myself on autopilot as I drove along boring stretches of road. Late one afternoon, as I was driving down a curvy, rural road in such a mindless way, I ran off the pavement and onto the shoulder. I quickly over-corrected and found myself rolling down the road on two wheels instead of four. Thankfully I landed on all four wheels without a crash, but that incident impressed upon me the need to pause before I react. Years later when it happened again, I was able to let the car slow down before I pulled back onto the road. The sixteenth slogan could easily be called “Pause for the cause.” When I have an adrenaline rush, I can hesitate before I respond. That small space of sanity can help keep my reaction from being based on pure emotion. Pause, open then proceed. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Slogan Fifteen

Four practices are the best methods.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
Four things can help us cultivate an awakened heart and mind:
1) Accumulating merit – This is not giving so we will receive, but a way to open and give wholeheartedly without any strategy plays by the ego. We let go of fear and hope, refuse to shield our hearts and accept what is. We give what we find hard to let go of.
2) Acknowledging evil (neurotic) actions – This action has four parts: regret, refraining, remedial action, and resolution. Awareness and mindfulness make it hard to hide from ourselves. We get sick and tired of what we see, which leads us to want to put a stop to it. We refrain because we realize the chain of misery it sets off. We commit ourselves to freedom, and are encouraged and gain confidence from the success of others. We gently resolve not to repeat our neurotic actions.
3) Offering to the dons – The dons are those emotions that seem to take possession of us, like anger, fear or depression. When we recognize we've been “possessed,” we can regard these moments as opportunities for mindfulness and awareness. We can be grateful for this wake-up call to become open and expansive rather than closed-hearted.
4) Offering to the dharma protectors – The dharma protectors are like shepherds who give us direction, let us know when we have strayed and point the way back to the path. These guides represent the wisdom of awareness and reveal to us how to overcome obstacles through our practice.
Photo: Fringe tree berries, roses, immature pine cone, liriope blooms.

            The Four Practices are practical ways we can use lojong in our daily life. Here are some simple examples of what these might look like:
1. As you walk out to retrieve your morning newspaper, you notice the paperboy has tossed your elderly neighbor’s paper beneath a shrub. You retrieve it and place it by her front door.
2. At the grocery store, you start to add a gallon of ice cream to your cart, but pause when you think about how tight your waistband has been getting. It’s been your late night comfort food, and the way you've handled stress for a month now. You realize that soon you’re not going to fit into your pants if you keep this behavior up, so you put back the ice cream and buy some sliced apples instead.
3. Later that day, you and your teenage daughter get into an argument than ends with her retreating behind a slammed door. Angry about her attitude, you start to march in without knocking and give her an earful. Instead you pause and recognize this as an opportunity to practice deep listening skills.
4. In the evening, you speak with a friend and mentor about a new woman in the book club you attend. This woman disagrees with every view presented and refuses to consider any perspective other than her own. Your friend suggests using this situation as a way to practice patience and kindness rather than focusing on how you can "put her in her place."

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Slogan Fourteen

The ultimate protection is emptiness; know what arises as confusion to be the Four Kayas.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
            Every new perception we have begins with uncertainty and openness (What was that light that flashed in the window?), then gradually comes into focus through organization (Maybe it was from headlights or lightning?). These two stages are linked by a third that forms a relationship between them (I heard thunder.) Finally we have a panoramic experience of the whole (A thunderstorm is rolling in.). The four kayas (qualities of the Buddha mind) follow the same pattern above, but from an enlightened perspective:
  • dharmakaya – open, spacious emptiness
  • nirmanakaya – manifestation of a boundless variety
  • sambhogakaya – connection of the absolute (unrestricted) with the relative (conditional); heightened awareness
  • svabhavikakaya – inseparable union of the kayas; present moment experience
Confusion in this slogan refers to any challenge or obstacle we face. Through the practices of awareness and mindfulness, we begin to see the mind is actually fluid and flowing, not fixed. We stop clinging to our thoughts and enjoy the liberation of spaciousness. As Pema Chodron clarifies, “Shunyata [emptiness] is protection because it cuts through the solidity of our thoughts, which is how we make everything – including ourselves – concrete and separate.”
Photo: Slash pine stump with cone and seedling in the foreground.

            Many years ago in the area I now live, native peoples discovered a “blue hole,” or natural spring. They called it “Skywater” and considered it a sacred ceremonial site. An unseen source funnels fresh water through limestone caverns to this place, producing ripples on the surface of the blue hole. At its peak, the spring releases up to 70,000 gallons a minute. The flow of the spring is like watching the process of the mind in meditation. The unseen source is similar to the formless, limitless quality of the mind. Just as the limestone caverns continuously channel the water, so the mind’s energy constantly produces thoughts. The ripples on the water’s surface are like the seemingly solid forms of our discriminating thoughts. The activation of our ego makes them appear substantial, but they come and go, as impermanent as the ripples. Being in the totality of each moment allows us to experience a timeless awareness, empty of preconceived ideas and expectations. It gives us a chance to drop the story line we've been writing and unhook ourselves from the intensity of emotion. 

Edited to add:
Nirmanakaya is often translated as “manifestation body” and refers to the actual physical and mental manifestation of the Buddha as well as other enlightened individuals. This is the “thing” that seems to appear then pass away.
Dharmakaya refers to the body of Buddhist teachings, and the ability to see what is true and act in accord with what is real. It includes the teachings of impermanence, emptiness and inter-being.
Sambhogakaya is a term that appeared later in Buddhist history and is usually translated as “enjoyment body.” It refers to the beauty, joy and meaningfulness found in the present moment. Transitory phenomena are appreciated for their intrinsic worth, not for worldly value.

John J. Baker, a student of Chogyam Trungpa, expressed the Three Bodies this way:
Things arise from and pass back into nothingness: dharmakaya. Things arise from and pass back into nothingness: nirmanakaya. And as those things arise and pass away, they communicate their unique, brilliant, emotionally moving individuality: sambhogakaya.
One day you notice a tree in your yard now contains a nest of eggs. Soon the eggs hatch, and in the following days you watch as robins raise their young. In a few weeks all the robins are gone, but the joy from watching them remains.