Dharma Woman by Marie Minnich by Marie Minnich - Read Online

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Dharma Woman - Marie Minnich

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Meditation on modern woman

Beautiful woman, you are the heart of the universe. You are the crown of creation. You serve selflessly every day of your life. You are expected to be mother, wife, teacher. You wake up in the middle of the night to feed the baby, then you get up and go to work, pay the bills, come home and take care of the baby again. You are the nurturer, the lover of life. You are oftentimes abused, overlooked, and passed by in life. What need have you of teachings of compassion, of meditation, of loving kindness, when in every gesture of your life you manifest these selfless attributes? You are the living, breathing goddess of love and nurturing. You are the manifestation of compassion itself.


I consider myself extremely fortunate that I’ve experienced a great deal of hardship in my life.

Without these hardships, I doubt that I would have become the compassionate human being that I am today. Without the hardships I’ve experienced, I may never have found my Buddhist path.

I’ve been practicing meditation and following the teachings of Buddhism for a long time—over 40 years to be exact. I emphasize the word practice, as it is an ongoing daily challenge to open our hearts and minds to the precepts and teachings of Buddha, particularly as citizens of the secular world. We sometimes need all the help we can get to conquer the habitual traits and negative emotions that lead to our greatest failures as human beings.

Enter: Lojong.

Lojong, or mind-training instruction, is handed down by two great Tibetan Buddhist master teachers: Atisha in the 10th century—and then Geshe Chekhawa in the 12th century, who summarized the teachings into 59 slogans, or aphorisms, formally named Lojong. This is when Lojong was birthed—and venerable Lojong has survived for a few centuries now.

The 59 slogans are provided as principles for study and meditation. (There are many esteemed books and commentaries on Lojong just waiting for you to discover: see Bibliography.) Once I found Lojong, I was inspired to incorporate the 59 slogans into my daily Buddhist practice. Lojong study proved to be an immense help. Reflecting or meditating on a slogan can be exactly what I need to shift my perspective at exactly the right moment.

Lojong is a Tibetan word of two syllables. Loosely translated Lo means mind.  Jong means training or processing.  The purpose of the Lojong practice then is to train or discipline our mind. But the training is deeper than that as we are also asked to purify our hearts.

Living Lojong

The 59 proverbs

Lojong practice is energetically designed to undo negative mental and emotional habits that have created stumbling blocks for us. Just pronouncing a slogan, or thinking about it,  is useful to break up old, crystallized thought patterns.

By contemplating and meditating on Lojong, we can begin to see how much trouble we actually cause ourselves because of our own ego-based reactions to life. We need to stop working to cause ourselves so much trouble. Buddhists believe it is our personal emotional response to everything that happens to us in our life that causes us a great deal of mental and emotional anguish. Put in the proper perspective, a great deal of our emotional turmoil would just disappear if we recognize that much of our ego-based drama is exactly that: a drama playing out based on nothing but our egocentric, ego based wants and desires. Once we get a handle on how much grief our ego-based desires are causing in our life, we have a much better grip on our suffering. This is not to say that when something truly tragic happens we should not respond with appropriate grief, or likewise appropriate joy. But so much of what happens in daily life is just our own ego reacting to things that, in reality, have very little need to generate so much reactivity.  Much of what happens to us in daily life is not personal, yet we take it personally.

Lojong exists to help us to become more compassionate people. That is, more compassionate not just to other people, but also to ourselves. We will not be so reactive to everything and everybody that doesn’t go our way, if we can begin to see that we are connected to all of life, then we can begin to develop empathy for all living beings. Being a human being is basically difficult and uncomfortable, and we need to recognize this.

It may help to think of our life as a movie. We are the director, the producer, and also the star, and all the people around us are the supporting actors. We’re the witness to the action. If the actors around us are acting up and saying lines that are causing us to be reactive, we need to maintain being the witness. In reality, we can just remain neutral. We have within ourselves the ability to change the script of our life and end our emotional suffering, simply by not reacting to everything that happens around us.

Someone makes an offhand remark that completely pushes our buttons. We react with great indignation and suffer for hours on end. We’re angry and we’re hurt. Pretty soon we’ve turned the incident into a full blown technicolor movie in our head with a supporting cast of thousands. We’re so angry with the person who pushed our buttons that they’re now on our mortal enemy list. But who are we really angry with? Maybe we’re really angry with ourselves for allowing this situation to happen in the first place. Maybe this person always pushes our buttons and we’d be better off not seeing them anymore. Maybe we’re tired of being ambushed by this person. Maybe we’re really angry because we know that we’re overreacting. Maybe we’re actually hurting and suffering because we’re in emotional pain and this incident hurt so much, it really touched our soft spot.  If we could just step back for a minute and witness our own reactions, then we begin to calm down.

It’s possible to learn to maintain our equilibrium and balance in all situations. Meditation can be a useful tool to start maintaining this equilibrium.  This is the best time of all to take a deep breath and practice a Lojong slogan.


The slogans

The Preliminaries

First, train in the preliminaries

First indicates that we must start at the very beginning with the preliminaries to cultivate our practice. The preliminaries contain the four points that change our way of thinking to counteract our normal attitudes.

Four Points: Maintain an awareness of the preciousness of this human life, the reality of death, entrapment of karma, and the intensity of the suffering of sentient beings.

How do we maintain this awareness? When caught up in everyday secular life, it’s sometimes difficult to realize the preciousness of human life. Most of us don’t live in an ivory tower. Most of us are slugging it out, like boxers in the ring. And a great deal of our current culture seems to be anti-preciousness of life.  It sometimes seems like all of modern life is purposely designed to annoy us on a  daily basis. We’re being beeped to death by electronic reminders.

If we are so fortunate as to have young children, we know without even trying that life is precious. We gaze upon our sleeping child and we feel overwhelming love. We feel a love that is the greatest love we have ever felt. Perhaps we love dogs and have a beautiful pup in our care. The unconditional love our dog gives us is truly divine love. But when our innocent child is screaming, crying, and throwing a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store, of course, it’s more difficult to maintain that feeling of unconditional love. All of our good intentions to be an enlightened bodhisattva go out the window. Then we become annoyed and upset. Someone is giving us the evil eye because our child is screaming and we feel anything but loving. We’re mortified and we’d  like to punch them in the nose. Deep down, however, we know that life is still precious.

Many times throughout our day we’re distracted from the preciousness of life. Just when we need to complete critical work to meet an important deadline, our computer crashes.  Our cel phone is flooded with robotic autodialers: ringing the line  and interrupting our workflow.  The news is filled with horrific gloom and doom.

Yet inherently we know that human life is precious. We know that life is precious, because when we’re out in nature, we feel the beauty of life that surrounds us. We know when we gaze at our precious children, or adorable animals, how beautiful and fragile and precious life really is. We have so many moments when we experience the beauty of life.

But when we’re in a hurry to get home after work, perhaps because we have to get home and pay the babysitter, and some person is pushing us to