Twenty Seven Verses
The 27 Verses on Mind Training have been composed by Lama Je Tsongkhapa (1357 – 1419). This translation is from the book: Mother of All Buddhas by Lex Hixon.
First Verse – infinite garden
With body, speech, and mind fully aligned, I prostrate fervently before those rare beings, who are victorious over all notions of limitation, and before their spiritual daughters and sons. May a cosmic celebration of pure poetry, perfectly expressing the most subtle teaching of these victorious sages and the inheritors of their wisdom, now burst forth like an infinite garden in perpetual spring.
Je Tsongkhapa begins with introducing his family, which he is loving like a fervent lover.
Of course ‘family’ doesn’t necessarily mean his father, mother, siblings and so on – even though they can be part of it; it means his spiritual family which has become much more important than material bonds 😉
And he makes the wish that what he want to tell us may – with the help of his family – be perfectly expressed and burst forth like an infinite garden in eternal spring.
If we join him in the love of his family, we are in on a delicious treat: not only will we perfectly understand, but the understanding will be happening in a splendid garden!
It is very worthwhile to look at the details of his verse: Why is he saying ‘victorious over all limitations’ and not temptations? Why is he mentioning the daughters before the sons?
Second Verse – gaze calmly
Gaze calmly with the clear eye of Prajnaparamita (Perfect Wisdom) upon universal manifestation, this beginningless tapestry woven from vibrant karmic threads of conscious beings, and listen to the harmonious symphony of interdependence. Purify entirely this boundless expanse of apparent struggle and conflict from the slightest shadow of negativity. With diamond-clear intention, instill faith everywhere. With mirror-like wisdom, stabilize all chaotic minds.
Here is what we understand from the second verse: Je Tsongkhapa proposes an attitude of how to face reality:
We could look at any reality with tranquillity.
Tranquillity could come from a clear understanding that all we see does not come at us but from us; nothing that we see exists on it’s own, all is our projection.
If we understand all that each of us sees, comes from each of us; then the whole Universe is a living, harmonious symphony, continuously played by all of us, with no beginning and no end.
Sometimes we may find ourselves in struggle or conflict. Instead of reacting, we could remember our mission, the Universal Principle: We are here to serve and not to be served. The more often we do this, the easier our chaotic minds will stabilize again.
Third Verse – Dispel Negativity
If shadows of negativity are not dispelled immediately, these strange insubstantial absences of light gain immense potency with every new action, until even those who understand the dangers of negation will not have enough power to choose the way of Clear Light. Even those who study philosophy and speak eloquently are unable to release themselves from illusory darkness.
Here’s what we understand from this verse: there is a very dangerous illusion, dangerous yet not real. Je Tsongkhapa calls them: the shadows of negativity.
I remember hearing from Buddha the relationship between thoughts and our personality: it all starts with a thought; repetitive thoughts can become a belief, maintained belief can become a habit, the sum of habits become our character or personality. This chain works like a balance: on the thought level the balance is equal (a), we can move the other side as easily as it can move us. We can change thoughts in the same way as thoughts can change us.
If we do not consciously intervene, thoughts will gain weight by becoming beliefs. The other side has become heavier and it takes for us much more effort to change a belief.
When the belief has become a habit the weight disadvantage is still more pronounced; it is very very difficult to change habits.
And finally when beliefs have manifested themselves to form our personality, we have reached the point (b) where the other side outweighs us – it is a sheer impossibility for us to change our personality.
Thoughts can be positive = aligned with our Soul ► giving us happy emotions.
Or thoughts can be negative = resisting our Soul ►giving us negative emotions.
According to our understanding of Je Tsongkhapa, if we do not dispel negative thoughts immediately, we will loose any power to do so very rapidly. Even if we are well learned Buddhists or clever philosophers, we won’t be able to dispel the darkness. Darkness is a good metaphor because it does not exist – it is just the absence of light…
So let’s make a little discipline and remember each time, a negative thought comes to mind – dispel it with a thought about something we like!
4th Verse – What hinders our evolution
The full spectrum of struggling and aspiring humanity, from immature persons to advanced contemplatives, suffers the painful delusion of clinging to these empty shadows as they become filled with affective power by self-centred action and intention.
Je Tsongkhapa states here that the clinging to negative thoughts is not a casual fallacy, according to him it is something everybody suffers, from the most immature and unconscious person to the most advanced activist or meditator. It’s worse than herpes, because each human being suffers from it.
It’s not that we are actively clinging to negative thoughts, but these empty shadows get their life force from another ‘bad habit’ which is self-centred intention and action. Whenever we are not living the Universal Principle – We are here to serve and not to be served – , whenever we pursue our personal, small happiness, we infuse the empty shadows with life. In other words: we cannot abandon negative thoughts while continuing to be selfish.
5th Verse – reactivity
This apparent bondage, this clinging to shadows, is constituted by reactions of pleasure and pain, obviously or subtly rooted in self-serving motivation. By those rare beings who have gone beyond, who throughout all time abide in bliss as Buddhas, the true nature of reactions and their results is clearly known to be insubstantial. But the boundless expanse of self-oriented beings, who bind themselves inexorably to selfish motivation, therefore cannot liberate or even distance themselves slightly from egocentricity.
Je Tsongkhapa goes deeper into the reasons why it is difficult for us to evolve beyond a egocentric life: the fetters which bind us to the ‘clinging shadows’, the negative thoughts are our reactions of pleasure and pain. Instead of simply observing ‘Ah this is so’, we react by investing our energy and emotions in the sense ‘Yes I like it’ or ‘No I don’t like it’. These reactions are possible only while we are following the small happiness, only looking after our small personal good and not following the Universal Principle which aims at the Common Good: We are here to serve and not to be served.
All the enlightened beings, people who have gone beyond the small Me Myself and I , for them reactions are clearly unsubstantial – they don’t matter at all.
So we have to look beyond selfishness, experience the bigger happiness which comes when we are being of service, relaxed and deeply happy.
6th Verse – why do i do this?
We should meditate carefully and thoroughly upon the inevitably binding nature of negativity, learning to discriminate sensitively and unerringly between the actions which negate the preciousness of others and actions which affirm and judiciously care for others. From this clear viewpoint, renounce all negation and strive with the total commitment of your being to become entirely affirmative of all life everywhere.
Now Je Tsongkhapa offers us a solution to escape out of the eternal trap of negativity. He proposes that we could learn to make a difference between
- actions which negate the preciousness of others and
- actions which affirm the caring for others
In discriminating all our actions intelligently we could develop an inner clarity, to immediately feel if an action that we are about to undertake is caring for others or negating their preciousness. Whenever we have this clear viewpoint, we could just not do the action which negates the preciousness of others and wholeheartedly go for everything that affirms all expressions of LIFE everywhere.
In other words, Je Tsonkhapa proposes us to put all we do under the Universal Principle: We here to serve and not to be served. We promote only the Well Being of All and do not follow the small well being of our tiny, insignificant ego.
In order to get this clarity, it is a good idea to take the time; to not jump from a motivation or impulse right away to an action. This means cutting an automatism within our selves by asking every time the question: “What I am about to do here; is it a life affirming action, is it a good for All? Or is it just satisfying what I want?”
7th Verse – only the intention
The seeds of action are positive and negative intentions. Any intention consciously rooted in selfless motivation, desiring only sheer goodness for all conscious life, will establish the stable ground of goodness and will universally generate rich results of goodness. Any intention even slightly weakened by selfish motivation undermines both the ground of our life and its fruits. Intention is the sole creative force of existence.
Today Je Tsongkhapa has a surprise for us: we may have believed that karma means that each of our actions is like a seed that grows in the soil of time to finally sprout into a perception we will have: good seeds give us happy perceptions and bad seeds give us unhappy perceptions.
But now he’s telling us that there are no good or bad deeds – but there are good or bad intentions: a good intention is when what we want to do is motivated by the Universal Principle or the Happiness of All; and a bad intention is motivated by caring about the happiness of only ME.
He goes even so far as to say that whatever we do for the good of All will always and inevitable result in rich results of goodness. But if there is even the slightest trace of selfish motivation, this will undermine both: the basis of our life and the fruits of our actions.
The intention is the ONLY creative force of existence! Can you imagine what this means: the only force that creates in the Universe is our intention!
8th Verse – The Revolutionary Truth
To cling to the intention of triumphing over another, the desire to prosper at the expense of any being or to indulge in the slightest bias against any being because of personal feelings of attraction or repulsion, these alone are the causes for whatever suffering exists in personal lives and in the universe as a whole. We should meditate ceaselessly on this revolutionary truth, remaining conscious of it during every moment of existence.
Here’s what Je Tsongkhapa calls The Revolutionary Truth
We have learned from Abraham that the continuous stream of our own thoughts create the reality we are living in. And we have learned form Jé Tsongkhapa in the 7th session how solely important the intention is. Both sources affirm that it is our wish what happens, whether we are conscious of it or not. We can all live in paradise right now, if we do not resist our own wish for it by producing negative thoughts or by unconsciously wanting negative things for others.
This means: if each thought is co-creating our reality, we would want to have only positive thoughts for ourselves and for others. That is easier said than done. I think nobody can pretend being able to completely control his or her thought! So what to do?
Well, according to Je Tsongkhapa, this is a process of ceaseless meditation, of trying to be conscious every moment of our life of what we intend. This process should be soft and compassionate, a series of very little steps, slowly approaching the goal: the more we remember to put our intention inside the frame of the Universal Principle – We are here to serve and not to be served – the more we will remember it. Just keeping this small sadhana, discipline without being too serious about it – no guilt feelings when we didn’t remember – will get us there is a sure and probably imperceptible way 😉
9th Verse – hopelessly narrow minded
Those who attempt to deceive with words of advice that in any way exalt selfishness and depreciate selflessness become hopelessly lost in narrow-mindedness, obsessed with their own selfish interests. Such persons create the only error in the universe: diverting our precious care and concern for others to ourselves. This deception not only expresses hatred for Buddha’s wisdom but is the absurd attempt to destroy universal Buddha nature.
There are people – we ourselves sometimes – who apparently are compassionate and give advice to others just to help… but deep down are motivated by self interest – to get an advantage over others, to earn fame or fortune for oneself and so on.
Selflessness and selfishness don’t mix, they are like oil and water. The moment we exalt selfishness, we inevitable depreciate or deny selflessness.
So when we promote selfishness in any shape or form, we create the only error in the Universe – diverting our concern for the precious other to ourselves. Doing so we resist the Universal Principle, we deny how everything works always and only for the Good of All. Denying means we act as if we don’t know – and the Law of Attraction will make us hopelessly lost in narrow-mindedness. When we deny the Universal Principle we barre ourselves from knowing, from understanding.
Our denial of the Universal Principle, however, does not affect the workings of the Universe in any way – only we become intellectually blind, hypnotized and crazy.
10th Verse – our choice
To avoid decisively this disastrous way of hatred, bring to birth within your stream of awareness the maternal mind of totally positive intentions toward all beings as toward cherished children. This mind of kindness, supremely skillful in loving care, unveils the infinite value of every single life, demonstrating compassion as the meaning of existence. But the clumsy negative mind, operating blindly without concern for the preciousness of others, drains the nectar of meaning from human life. Cultivate diligently the selfless love that transforms every thought and action into tangible help for conscious beings.
We have the choice, according to Je Tsongkhapa, to cultivate a mind (soul of the physicality) which is either supremely skillful or clumsy and negative.
- If we let the clumsy negative mind have it’s way, we are not acting at all, but all the time reacting blindly without concern of the others. Our life will become meaningless plunged in disastrous vortex of destruction.
- If on the other hand we cultivate the skillful mind of kindness, we will be living a meaningful, infinitely valuable life.
The choice is ours. OK the choice will first be a mental, voluntary decision. We can help this decision to slowly soak through our whole being by seeing all others as our cherished children for whom we do want to selflessly care. In the process everyone of our thoughts will slowly be transformed into a tangible help for all beings.