The transformative practice of tonglen, described as “the exchange of self and other,” is the subject of this book. The author, a contemporary teacher in the west with deep roots in Tibetian monastic training, takes us in a very systematic fashion through a series of lojong (mind transformation) teachings designed to help us diminish our own sense of self importance and shift towards extending bodhicitta compassion to others.
In the Tibetan tradition these teachings go back to the eleventh century and a teacher by the name of Atisha Dipamkara. In a time of what he perceived as weak and diluted practice he wanted to help his students develop a way to let go of their self-centeredness and develop altruism. He created a method of using “slogans” that were easy to understand and memorize so that students could hold each one in their mind as they worked with them.
The book presents lojong teachings as very accessible and understandable. They are an encouragement to simplify our lives and see our life situations and encounters with others as rich opportunities to practice. I continue to find the slogans helpful as they remind me that “because the mind is malleable, even the strongest habits can be changed.”
In my own practice of lojong it was helpful to take one slogan per week and make it my guiding principle. I created a small wooden token that I inscribed with that week’s slogan. This way I could occasionally take it out of my pocket and re-read it during the day. I could also touch it periodically or even hold it in my hand during a more challenging time. Giving myself a week to fully dive into each slogan proved helpful as a way to promote more than a surface understanding and time enough to try and really bring each one to life.
I found Kongtrul Rinpoche’s wording and descriptions of these ancient teachings filled with wisdom and inspiration.
From The Intelligent Heart:
“If we are to make any progress on the path of the Bodhisattva, we have to do it in the situation we have now in the environment that surrounds us, among the people in our lives, in the times we are on this earth. This is the perfect time and place for all of us. This is our life. It is what we have on our karmic plate, which is everything we need to progress on the Bodhisattva path.”
— Dzigar Kongtrul, Rinpoche
Rick Ryoha Dunworth, MRO, lives with his wife in Rutland, VT where he works as a psychotherapist and is an active member of the MRO Affiliate groups.