Eight Verses of Training the Mind

Here I have collected a couple of translations of Geshe Langri Tangpa‘s Eight Verses of Training the Mind, which is considered a succinct summary of Lojong teachings of Mahayana Buddhism.

First, a little history of Lojong, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Lojong mind training practice was developed over a 300-year period between 900 and 1200 CE, as part of the Mahāyāna school of BuddhismAtiśa (982–1054 CE), a Bengali meditation master, is generally regarded as the originator of the practice. It is described in his book Lamp on the Path to Enlightenment (Bodhipathapradīpaṃ). The practice is based upon his studies with the Sumatran teacher, Dharmakīrtiśrī (Tib. Serlingpa, Wylie: gser gling pa), and the Indian teacher Dharmarakṣita, a prominent teacher at Odantapuriand author of a text called the Wheel of Sharp Weapons. Both these texts are well known in Tibetan translation. Atiśa’s third major teacher of lojong is said to have been the junior Kusalī, known also as Maitrīyogi.[3]

Atiśa journeyed to Sumatra and studied with Dharmakīrtiśrī for twelve years. He then returned to teach in India, but at an advanced age accepted an invitation to teach in Tibet, where he stayed for the rest of his life.[4]

A story is told that Atiśa heard that the inhabitants of Tibet were very pleasant and easy to get along with. Instead of being delighted, he was concerned that he would not have enough negative emotion to work with in his mind training practice. So he brought along his ill-tempered Bengali servant-boy, who would criticize him incessantly and was challenging to spend time with. Tibetan teachers then like to joke that when Atiśa arrived in Tibet, he realized there was no need after all.

The aphorisms on mind training in their present form were composed by Chekawa Yeshe Dorje (1101–1175 CE). According to one account, Chekhawa saw a text on his cell-mate’s bed, open to the phrase: “Gain and victory to others, loss and defeat to oneself”. The phrase struck him and he sought out the author Langri Tangpa (1054–1123).[5] Finding that Langri Tangpa had died, he studied instead with one of Langri Tangpa’s students, Sharawa Yönten Drak,[6] for twelve years.

Chekhawa is claimed to have cured leprosy with mind training. In one account, he went to live with a colony of lepers and did the practice with them. Over time many of them were healed, more lepers came, and eventually people without leprosy also took an interest in the practice. Another popular story about Chekhawa and mind training concerns his brother and how it transformed him into a much kinder person.[7]

I’ve recently decided that I’m going to study these eight verses and embed them into my being. Will I be perfect? Hell no. Will I get the practice down pat? Probably not. Will I forget these verses? Quite likely. Will I still be an asshole? Well, I’m human, so, occasionally, yes.

None the less, I’m going to practice them. Over time, I’m confident that they will work.

Below I’m going to present two translations of the text. The first is what His Holiness the Dalai Lama conducted teachings on. The second is a translation provided by Lotsawa House.

Verse 1

With a determination to achieve the highest aim
For the benefit of all sentient beings
Which surpasses even the wish-fulfilling gem,
May I hold them dear at all times.
By thinking of all sentient beings
As more precious than a wish-fulfilling jewel
For accomplishing the highest aim,
I will always hold them dear.

Verse 2

Whenever I interact with someone,
May I view myself as the lowest amongst all,
And, from the very depths of my heart,
Respectfully hold others as superior.
Whenever I’m in the company of others,
I will regard myself as the lowest among all,
And from the depths of my heart
Cherish others as supreme.

Verse 3

In all my deeds may I probe into my mind,
And as soon as mental and emotional afflictions arise-
As they endanger myself and others-
May I strongly confront them and avert them.
In my every action, I will watch my mind,
And the moment destructive emotions arise,
I will confront them strongly and avert them,
Since they will hurt both me and others.

Verse 4

When I see beings of unpleasant character
Oppressed by strong negativity and suffering,
May I hold them dear-for they are rare to find-
As if I have discovered a jewel treasure!
Whenever I see ill-natured beings,
Or those overwhelmed by heavy misdeeds or suffering,
I will cherish them as something rare,
As though I’d found a priceless treasure.

Verse 5

When others, out of jealousy
Treat me wrongly with abuse, slander, and scorn,
May I take upon myself the defeat
And offer to others the victory.
Whenever someone out of envy
Does me wrong by attacking or belittling me,
I will take defeat upon myself,
And give the victory to others.

Verse 6

When someone whom I have helped,
Or in whom I have placed great hopes,
Mistreats me in extremely hurtful ways,
May I regard him still as my precious teacher.
Even when someone I have helped,
Or in whom I have placed great hopes
Mistreats me very unjustly,
I will view that person as a true spiritual teacher.

Verse 7

In brief, may I offer benefit and joy
To all my mothers, both directly and indirectly,
May I quietly take upon myself
All hurts and pains of my mothers.
In brief, directly or indirectly,
I will offer help and happiness to all my mothers,
And secretly take upon myself
All their hurt and suffering.

Verse 8

May all this remain undefiled
By the stains of the eight mundane concerns;
And may I, recognizing all things as illusion,
Devoid of clinging, be released from bondage.
I will learn to keep all these practices
Untainted by thoughts of the eight worldly concerns.
May I recognize all things as like illusions,
And, without attachment, gain freedom from bondage.

I will practice these verses to the best of my ability, until my time comes to an end. May countless beings benefit from this practice.

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