Many people interested in hearing more about mind training in the Buddhist tradition gathered at the beautiful London Wetland Centre in Barnes last weekend to hear Western Buddhist master Lama Jampa Thaye begin teaching Geshe Langri Thangpa’s text The Eight Verses of Mind Training, along with the commentary by Chekawa Yeshe Dorje.
Lama Jampa introduced the text by explaining that there are two ways to study the Mahayana dharma. First there are the extensive texts for reflection and practice which give a stage by stage presentation of the path. Second there are the shorter, pithy explanations for both formal practice and daily life. The latter are designed to bring about rapid transformation of our perceptions and actions. One type of such instructions are the mind training teachings which originate with the eleventh century Bengali master Atisha (982-1054), who spent the last ten years of his life in Tibet teaching and translating Indian texts and helping to restore Buddhism in Tibet after some years of persecution. Atisha didn’t write down much of his own teaching but his disciples such as Geshe Langri Thangpa (1054-1123) did and it was he who wrote down these now famous eight verses. Later masters such as Chekawa Yeshe Dorje wrote commentaries to explain and expand on these root verses in order to help people to understand and practise them.
In order to realise the full benefit from these teachings one should first receive them from a qualified master then study their meaning and finally learn and recite the verses. In this way one will both correctly understand them and remain mindful of the practices they advocate as one goes about ones daily life.
Our main problem is our attachment to the self and the associated idea that the way to achieve happiness is to cherish that self above all others. The Buddha saw that this is not natural but a neurotic and poisonous way to relate to the world. The purpose of these mind training teachings is to transform this mind of self clinging into the mind of bodhichitta, free from self-centredness and misperceptions. This mind, endowed with wisdom, sees the world as it truly is. This mind of bodhichitta is in fact the fusion of wisdom and compassion. It is achievable by all of us and can lead any of us to enlightenment.
Mind training begins with our ordinary perceptions and actions and is both radical and practical. The training starts with our normal, neurotic mind and require no special knowledge or capacity for meditation. Furthermore, mind training is suitable for both complete beginners and accomplished practitioners.
Lama Jampa gave detailed presentations of the commentary and root text for the first four of the eight verses. For those who were not able to attend the video of the teaching is available on Lama Jampa’s YouTube channel. Please note that in order to gain the full benefit of such teachings it is preferable to have received the direct transmission of the text.
At the end of the morning session there was time for questions, including one about how to distinguish between mindfulness and a neurotic mind:
Real mindfulness is an open, relaxed, spacious clarity…. it’s not an anxious watching.
In February of this year Lama Jampa gave a public talk on mindfulness in Buddhism. The recording of this talk is available on Lama Jampa’s Soundcloud channel.
Before lunch everybody gathered around the beautiful statue of the young Buddha on the elephant presented to Lama Jampa Thaye by the World Buddhist Summit in celebration of the Buddha’s Birthday on April 8 as International Buddhist Day to celebrate and give thanks for the advent of Lord Buddha.
In the afternoon Lama Jampa bestowed an intiation in the Vajrayana tradition of Buddhism. The initiation was one of Dzambala, a meditation deity associated with the accomplishment of increased spiritual and material wealth as aids on the path to enlightenment. Lama Jampa also gave the reading transmission for the sadhana, blessing those present to be able to do this practice for the benefit of all beings.
Lama Jampa will give the second part of the teaching in London in September - details will be available on his website in due course.
The Eight Verses of Mind Training by Geshe Langri Thangpa
Translation by Lama Jampa Thaye
With the wish to achieve the aim of sentient beings who surpass even a wish fulfilling gem I shall train myself at all times to cherish them as supreme.
When accompanying anyone I shall view myself as the lowest of all and from the depths of my heart shall hold others as supreme.
During all activities I will examine my mind and as soon as a disturbing emotion arises that endangers myself and others I will train myself to meet it directly and turn it away.
Training to regard beings of unpleasant character or beings oppressed by suffering with special care because they are very precious.