Sunday, December 30, 2018

Finding Lojong practice

At our Coming and Going Sesshin at Boundless Way Temple this year (see my previous post for more details: Coming and Going Sesshin post) we are focusing on the book "Training in Compassion" by Norman Fischer, which explores the Tibetan Buddhist practice of  Lojong from a Zen perspective.  Lojong practice derives from a text written by the Tibetan teacher Geshe Chekawa Yeshe Dorje, called The Root Text of the Seven Points of Training the Mind,  composed in the12th century, and based on an earlier text by the Indian teacher Atisha. 

This text is very important to me personally, because it provided a lift raft at a very difficult time in my life.  In 2001, I had just left my original Zen teacher, because of my heart-broken perception of his inability to abide by our Zen precepts.  I had lost my faith in Zen as a practice, but not in the Buddhist teachings, and so I did some exploration of other kinds of Buddhism.  I had already studied with other non-Zen Buddhist teachers, in the southeast Asian traditions, sometimes called "Theravada" or the Way of the Elders, and with Tibetan teachers, and had learned different approaches to Buddhism that I deeply appreciated.  But I always returned to Zen for some mysterious reason. 

In this time of confusion, I stumbled on a book about Lojong called "Buddhism with an Attitude" by Alan Wallace, and took on the slogans as a way to study my life, without the guidance of a teacher.  I immersed myself in all the translations of the text that I could find, including an earlier book by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche called "Training the Mind."  A few months later I met my second teacher, James Ford, Roshi, and set aside Lojong for continuing with zazen and koan practice under his guidance. 

When Norman Fischer's book came out, I was delighted to find such a clear, Zen-oriented version of the Lojong practice, and for a time resumed working with the slogans.  I am thrilled to engage with them yet again during this winter period of intensive practice at the Temple.  The teachers at the Coming and Going Sesshin will be offering talks on this practice, and they will be posted on our Temple podcast.  In addition, I hope to offer some reflections on this blog during this time.  Stay tuned!

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