Making Disturbing Emotions Fuel for Spiritual Practice

In early March this year, Lama Jampa continued his teaching from the ‘Great Collection of Mind Training Teachings’ (‘Lojong Gyatsa’ in Tibetan). This anthology of individual teachings by a range of different masters spanning over five centuries was originally compiled by two Tibetan masters, Shonu Gyalchok and Konchok Gyaltsen in the 15th Century.

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Last year in London, students were introduced to the principles of ‘mind training’ (lojong in Tibetan) from the text ‘The Eight Verses of Mind Training’. See our earlier blog on this together with a link to a recording of that teaching.

This recent teaching was about what we do about strong emotions that we normally think of as obstructing spiritual progress. Amazingly, in this system of lojong, these emotions, which have up to now enslaved us in self cherishing, become the very fuel of our practice.

It is true that disturbing emotions such as desire, pride, jealousy, hatred and delusion have always been factors that alienate us from our true nature, our buddha nature. So, one may think that they are to be somehow pushed away or denied. However, that is not the approach that is adopted in the lojong. Here, they are not to be denied, but equally they are not to be indulged. By falling prey to them, we give in to habits of unskilful actions, perpetuating karma that keeps us enmeshed in sufferings of samsara.  

The lojong approach is first to acknowledge that these universal emotions inevitably  arise in our minds, in our experience of life. It is what we do next that is so radically different from anything we have done before.

In the lojong, we use the experience of whatever emotion that has arisen to draw in the common experience of others, of that emotion and its attendant suffering. We cease to see the arisen emotion as being particular to ourselves. It is a universal that others experience and so we can use its momentary arising as revealing a bond between ourselves and others; a connection that otherwise would not have been seen as positive at all.  

The example is given in the text of desire. In the particular example given, we train so that on the arisal of desire, we firstly bring to mind someone who we feel is antagonistic to us. Then, acknowledging the fact that sometimes they must experience desire, we draw this imagined desire (without giving it any specific form) into our mind to merge with our desire. We then extend this by bringing others to mind and drawing in imagined desire from them also. In this way, we grow a great heap of desire in our mind so that it is no longer just ours alone. Now, we have taken our desire in a completely different direction from the route of self-cherishing that has so entrapped us in samsara. Instead, we have taken it on a completely different route: towards bodhichitta.

From this we see that lojong, this training that we are undertaking privately within our own mind, is not a path of cool detachment at all, but one of developing an inner sense of connectedness with others.

To learn to practise this teaching properly, of course one needs to do much more than just read a brief blog post like this. One must attend teachings by a qualified dharma teacher to receive the full body of instructions and explanations necessary to embark on the training properly.  Fortunately, that is perfectly possible for us, as Lama Jampa is just such a qualified teacher and he gives these teachings regularly at his Dechen centres and also at other centres around the world. See the events page of this website for details of the former and the Lama’s website for details of teachings he will be giving in other places.

He will be presenting further teachings from the ‘Great Collection of Mind Training Teachings’ in London in the Autumn.

This blog is the work of students of the Dechen Dharma Community. Posts are typically a result of contemplation by its authors on teachings given by their Lamas. Whilst  every effort is made to accurately reflect teachings given, any misrepresentation is entirely the responsibility of the authors. Please address any communication to blog@dechen.org.