The Eight Verses on Training the Mind is a description of mindfulness training written by a vajrayana teacher named Geshe Langri Tangpa.
It is an important text in Vajrayana Buddhism. It is one of the most famous texts in the lojong (mind training) tradition. These verses are designed to help us transform our suffering and cultivate wisdom and insight.
Here they are, with my commentary.
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.
Sentient beings is sometimes taken to mean every living animal and it’s sometimes taken to mean only humans. This verse means simply that we should simply love and feel compassionate toward everyone. Even our enemies deserve our love and compassion. All beings do.
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.
This verse is an argument against pride. We shouldn’t feed our ego by trying to elevate ourselves above others. That only puts us deeper into delusion.
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.
This is about self control. When I see that I am growing anger or anxiety, I should become a witness to that feeling and try to manage it instead of letting it lead me into trouble. Destructive emotions can easily cause us to make bad decisions.
Whenever I see ill-natured people,
Or those overwhelmed by heavy misdeeds or suffering,
I will cherish them as something rare,
As though I’d found a priceless treasure.
Again, we should love and show compassion for everyone that we meet, even when it’s not easy.
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.
We should recognize, when someone is envious or jealous, that they are struggling with their own suffering. Jealousy is a poison that hurts people a great deal. It can be hard to remember to feel compassion for someone who is acting out of jealousy for us, but we need to try.
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.
It has been said that we learn a lot from those that test our patience and resolve. It is hard to view those that mistreat us as helpful along the path, but they can be. Our patience has to be tested and exercised so that it can grow.
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.
All my mothers refers to everyone in the world. This verse means we should be selfless and relieve the suffering of others any time that we can, regardless of the trouble it might cause us.
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.
Transcend delusion and unleash your Buddha Nature.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Girish Jain/Pixoto