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, August 30, 2015

Slogan Forty-four

Train in the three difficulties.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
          Imagine going to meet some companions for dinner and deciding to take a short-cut through a dark alley. Focused solely on not being late, we neglect to notice a shadowy figure behind us. Suddenly a bag is thrown over our head, and though we struggle and yell, we can’t free ourselves. Once our wallet has been taken, we are left bruised and shaken on the ground. Yet the very next weekend, we take the same short-cut. This scenario is much like dealing with our kleshas – the onset of intense feelings and thoughts caused by aversion or desire.  First we get blindsided by our emotions, then confused about how to handle them. Even after things settle down, we continue to wind up in the same place over and over. How can we work with these three difficulties? When we are mugged by a klesha, we can use it as a chance to wake up and identify it as the neurosis it is. Instead of choosing a habitual reaction, we can do something different. Finally, we can continue to train using these practices instead of allowing our emotions to control us.
Photo: Three ant lion (Myrmeleon sp.) sand traps.

            Do you remember the classic “snake in a can” gag? A tin labeled as salted, mixed nuts held a fabric-covered spring inside. When the lid was lifted, the “snake” would pop out, startling the unsuspecting person who opened the can. But once a person was aware of the joke, he couldn’t be fooled again. Unfortunately, we’re not so cognizant of our emotional states. The three difficulties spoken of in the forty-fourth slogan refers to the stages we go through as these intense states arise quickly, catch us off-guard, and continue to happen again and again. Training with them involves:
  • ·         Seeing them as an affliction that causes our suffering.
  • ·         Altering our response (stop fueling the emotions with our thoughts).
  • ·         Committing to continue this change (refuse to bite any “baited hooks”).
There’s no need to open that nut can when you already know what’s inside.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Slogan Forty-three

Observe these two, no matter what.
          People generally marry with the expectation that their vows will at least last longer than the honeymoon. But what happens when she realizes his idea of cleanliness and order doesn't match hers, or when he discovers she can't cook like mom? Hopefully their commitment to love will go deeper than any petty disagreements or challenges that arise. This slogan refers to the vow of refuge and the vow of the bodhisattva taken by those who choose to formally dedicate themselves to Buddhist practice. The vow of refuge involves accepting the Buddha as an example to follow, the dharma as truth, and the sangha as their community of fellow practitioners. The vow of the bodhisattva is a devotion to the welfare of all sentient beings. For those of us with an informal practice, these vows might simply mean a commitment to continue working on ourselves and helping others. As Norman Fischer explains, "Live your life with your eyes and heart wide-open. No matter what."
Photo: Blooms of a geranium and a begonia held in the hand of a Buddha statue.

            How well do you make and maintain personal commitments, dedicating yourself to a cause or activity? I’m very good at making them, but keeping them is not as easy. My “I” eventually thinks it deserves a break, which usually leads me to abandoning my commitment altogether. I was recently reading an article by Thupten Jinpa in which he spoke of turning intentions into motivations. He described an intention as deliberate, “an articulation of a conscious goal,” while he explained a motivation was “the desire to act accompanied with a sense of purpose.” My intention might point me in the right direction, but it is my motivation which will get me moving and provide the fuel to keep me going. What could possibly motivate my intention to develop wisdom and compassion while devoting myself to the welfare of others? Suffering. Buddhist teachings and practices are a map that points the way to freedom.  

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Slogan Forty-two

Whichever of the two occurs, be patient.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
            Some days we drag our feet, feeling like an overloaded mule burdened with stress, worries and obligations. Other days we are full of energy, enjoying the spacious freedom of a wild mustang as it races across the open plain. When we feel like a mule, we may excuse ourselves from practice saying, “When I don’t have so much drama going on, I’ll get back to it.” When we feel like the mustang, we reason that life has to slow down before we can find time to squeeze in our practice. Either way, the intensity of life wraps itself around us, and we lose our bearings. Instead of waiting for conditions to be just right, this slogan encourages us to be steady and consistent no matter what is going on. When things are going great, they’ll eventually change; when things are awful, they’ll change sooner or later too. Our spiritual practice helps us meet the ups and downs with patience, a patience that is not passive but allows us to meet what comes courageously and creatively.
Photo: A peach pit and a slice of peach on a sweet potato vine leaf.

            When I first began studying this slogan, I thought of a phrase used to describe life when it wasn't unfolding as desired: “the pits.” Being from Georgia, this expression prompted me to compare the sweet, juicy flesh of a peach with its rough, hard pit. No matter which part of life I’m currently experiencing – the pleasant, sweet side or the unpleasant, rough side – it will change in time like the natural cycle of a growing season. The fertilized peach blossom produces a fruit, which eventually ripens then rots, and then leaves behind a pit that holds the potential for a new peach tree. If I can patiently maintain my spiritual practice, I won’t become obsessed no matter which part of the peach is on my plate. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Slogan Forty-one

Two activities: one at the beginning, one at the end.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
            Before our feet even hit the floor in the morning, our mind is busy with our plans of the day. By evening, after a day full of activities, all we want to do is crawl back into our bed and get a good night sleep. But this slogan suggests we use two bookends to support our day – a reminder of our practice in the morning and a review of it in the evening. We begin with the intention that we will think, speak and act mindfully and with an open heart; we dedicate what we will do in the hours ahead to the benefit of others. This activity helps us start our day in a calm, positive frame of mind. At night, we look objectively at the places we stayed firm and the places we slipped in our dedication. We don’t use the assessment to beat ourselves up or brag, but to help us make progress – each day is only a small part of a training period. Our review allows us to unload the stress of the day and view our actions with clarity. Both activities can lift our spirits and encourage us in sustaining our practice.
Photo: Two pine cones with a pile of shredded cone debris (created by squirrels eating the seeds out of green cones).

            I've got a stack of books to read on my bedside table. Some are purely for pleasure reading, one is for the book club, a few are for learning about interests of mine, and several are for spiritual contemplation and growth. When I bought them, my intention was to read every page of each one. Of course the easy-to-read novels I've almost finished; a few books with a more difficult or technical subject, I'm barely past the introduction. Yet reading and understanding just a few pages a day is progress, no matter how slow. None of them are library books, so I don't need to finish them within a certain time-frame. Likewise, as I begin my day with the aspiration to let the lojong slogans guide my thoughts and actions, I don't need to berate myself for less than perfect results. There is a phrase used in twelve-step groups that encourages "progress not perfection." My mistakes can be used to help me see more clearly how to change and what to do differently. They are only the few pages left to turn, until I reach the next chapter. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Slogan Forty

Correct all wrongs with one intention.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
            On the Appalachian Trail in the eastern U.S., white paint blazes are painted on trees, rocks and posts to mark the trail. It is suggested that if hikers go more than a quarter of a mile without seeing a blaze, they should turn around to avoid getting lost. As we travel along on our spiritual journey, we will meet both internal and external obstacles. Emotional or physical struggles may cause us to become disillusioned with our practice, wondering if what we're doing even matters. During these challenges, how can we keep from losing our way? What can help us stay connected to our practice? We can remember that other people suffer just as we do, and we can reaffirm our intention to be of service to them. The way out of spiraling self-concern is through our dedication to assist all beings.
Photo: A wire basket prevents a green pepper plant from flopping over as it grows.

            During the fall, the fair comes to our town. When I was a teenager, I always rode the Round Up, an amusement ride with a shape similar to a wheel that had open, cage-like sides on the rim. The ride would spin round and round until centrifugal force pushed riders into the cage wall. It would then tilt vertically, with nothing but the centrifugal force holding the riders in place. When life presents me with challenges that feel devastating or overwhelming, my self-concern can keep me stuck as if I were on a never-ending ride of the Round Up. The "off" lever gets pulled when my self-preoccupation is replaced by gentle compassion directed outward, as I realize other people suffer as I do. My willingness to be of benefit to them can help me get my bearings once again.