Seven-Point Mind Training

mindA talk given by H.E. Aenpo Rinpoche on 13 October 2000

Lord Buddha has given countless teachings with respect to Mind Trainings.

Later in Tibet it was put into a formal text by a Tibetan master called Jha Chekawa Yeshe Dorje. [1]

The lineage that that master was handed over from one of the great masters called Atisha. [2]

Generally when we teach the text, there are two different types of texts, one which we call the root text and the other one is the commentary.

The root text was composed by Jha Chekawa Yeshe Dorje and the commentary was written by one of the great teachers of my monastery in Tibet called Khenpo Naga.

This text, Seven Pointed Mind Training, is a text that anyone can practice, regardless of what your background is.

This text is designed to help sentient beings, specially human beings, to think better in terms of transforming our negative thoughts and emotions into something positive.

We as human beings all share one instinctive thought and that it to be free from suffering and to be happy as much as we can and to avoid or eliminate suffering as much as we can.

Despite having such similar thoughts we cling to ourselves and put ourselves into number one and because of this action, this is how we have suffering and this is how we bring suffering.

There is no one out there bringing you suffering other than yourself. This is why Lord Buddha stated

‘You yourself is the saviour of yourself and you yourself is the enemy of yourself.’

It is very much up to oneself whether we really want to be happy or whether we want to do the same thing repeatedly.

We wish to transform our habitual thoughts that we have been doing for the past many months and many years and many lifetimes. To transform this, since the habitual actions have been planted in the past we will not be able to remove it as it has already been planted.

Therefore we can try up to one’s ability not to do these habitual activities again. To do this, just by thinking that I don’t want to do this I would rather transform my mind, one will not be able to do it straight away.

Therefore we call it mind training, because we need to teach our mind not to be mislead by our own habitual thoughts and deeds. This is like the elderly people trying to teach the younger ones, saying what you are supposed to do and not supposed to do, trying to lead towards a better place.

However since we ourselves have got the authority upon oneself, rather than just having a choice of thinking I want to do this, why not try to put it into practice which means from today onwards I will try to practice mind training and I will try to train my mind.

To do this, just to attend a teaching is not enough. Attend the teaching, listen to the words and then the most important thing is to contemplate upon it and not necessarily upon the same topic, related topics as well, there are many other books on preliminary practices, we can read as many books as we can, the Sutras [3] because we need to have a solid foundation.

Whatever things we need to do we need to have a solid foundation, no matter how much knowledge and skill we have, to do the next steps one will always be in danger of collapsing.

Seven Topics of the Mind Training

Therefore one needs to build a solid foundation. In the Seven Pointed Mind Training practices, the seven different topics are:

  1. the Preliminaries,
  2. the training of the Two Bodhicittas,
  3. the transforming Negative Conditions into the Path of Enlightenment,
  4. the Synthesized Practices of One Life,
  5. proficiency of Mind Training,
  6. commitment of Mind Training,
  7. precepts or Advice of Mind Training.

When we say we need to train our mind, the most important thing we need to have is the enlightenment thought.

The definition or the meaning of enlightenment thought is generating an intention to help other sentient beings.

Thinking of helping oneself is not called enlightenment thought even though we think I would like to help myself to attain enlightenment thought, that mere thought is a cause for further suffering for onself.

Right from the beginning the motivation is called mistaken motivation because again we put ourselves into number one.

We have to have the intention at least to help others, and if possible every sentient being, as much as one can. Not an intention for oneself merely.

In Bodhicitta (the heart of enlightened mind) there are two different kinds of Bodhicittas, relative and ultimate and there are other Bodhicittas like wishing Bodhicitta [4] and engaging Bodhicitta [5].

The Four Common Foundations

First in the root text it says study the preliminaries first.

This is always very important, because without the preliminaries, jumping into the actual part rather than going through the preliminaries, this kind of process will not be successful because one doesn’t have the proper base. Generally whatever we do, and specially in Dharmic practices, the preliminaries which are called Ngon-dro in Tibetan which means something to go forward, without this as a base one will not be able to reach enlightenment.

Whether we are thinking to reach enlightenment or whether we are thinking to just gain liberation or whether we are thinking to just be free from suffering, you must have the preliminaries.

When we talk about preliminaries there are different types on which you can contemplate. One of the most common preliminaries on which we meditate or contemplate upon are the four common mind trainings. They are:

  • first, the rarity of obtaining human rebirth;
  • the second one is impermanence and death;
  • the third one is the infallibility of the law of the karma;
  • the fourth on is the frustrations or defects of samsara.

These are the four most common mind training practices, we call them the four common foundations. These four are one of the most important preliminary practices, because we can practise these four everywhere, wherever we are, whenever we can think upon them again and again.

When we think upon the preliminaries constantly, the more things get clearer, the things that are happening within oneself and to others. It will help oneself to see things clearer.

Once we see things clearly then we know what needs to be rejected and what needs to be adopted.

In the text it was quoted from, a text called Bodhicaryavatara, in English it is called A Bodhisattvas Way of Life, written by one of the great Indian Buddhist masters called Shantideva, it says this rebirth is very rare to obtain and we need to utilize this body for the sake of other sentient beings.

If we don’t make use of this precious human rebirth, if we don’t capitalize upon or seize the opportunity that we have, then there is a big question whether we will obtain this human rebirth again very soon or not.

This life we have got is very precious and rare. Another text says the nature of samsara itself is impermanent. The analogy given to this is that it is like the autumn clouds, in autumn in one day sometimes there are clouds and sometimes there are no clouds, there can be so much difference, probably like the weather in Melbourne!

It is very impermanent, the weather can change very frequently. Then birth and death of beings are like watching the dancers playing in a drama in the theatre. It is one person but they can play so many different roles.

They can paint their face and disguise their clothing and change their faces the birth and death of being are like that. The life force of the sentient beings are like lightening in the sky, in a moment one can be alive and in a moment one’s life can be exhausted, it is so fast.

How fast? Like a river running from the top of a cliff, one’s life is like that.

Even though one has been born and we are grown up, we think we are growing up and we seem to be happy with our material or spiritual gains, we seem to be really proud, but in fact we are lost in this bit of gain that we have, we have been tempted.

Impermanence and Death

The moment that we are born means that we are nearing towards our death, there is nothing to party about because the impermanence and death is certain and the time of death is uncertain.

We can not guarantee that we will not die, but even though we have an intellectual understanding or sometimes even experiential as well, but do we think it from the head or do we think it from the heart?

Regarding impermanence and death, there are two things to remember, the certainty of death and the uncertainty of the time of death.

There are different ways to meditate upon this but one of the most effective ways, and at the same time one of the most difficult ways, is to reflect upon the uncertainty of the time of death as the same as the certainty of death.

We are not sure when we will die, but just by thinking that we are not very sure and thinking that the moment I am young I will die when I’m about 70 or 80 because I eat good food and take vitamins,?

Even though we have all these vitamins and good medicine maybe it will only help us to live maybe 5 years longer, but still everyday life is shortening. We must do something.

If we have this kind of intention that there is certainty of death but the uncertainty of the time of death, if we think these two things as the same thing then in the things that we do there will be a big difference. We will not plan so much, even though planning is important, we will not plan in a way that brings more suffering.

There are many people who have lived a very healthy life then at the age of about 50 or 60 they are struck with an incurable disease and without any kind of spiritual ideas they seem to be grieving immensely.

Only then do they ever think that they will die and because of that thought they get so frustrated and doesn’t allow the doctors to give treatment. It is all because they’ve not prepared. We don’t have to learn this from the texts, it is so obvious.

Even though there are many people who don’t go out, still just by sitting home and watching television you can see so many disasters. When we watch it as just another news but just by watching television there are a lot of chances to practice and remind us.

Sometimes we are lost in our own happiness, the temporal happiness that we have.

References

1. Jha Chekawa Yeshe Dorje

2. The great Indian Buddhist Master Atisha (982-1054 AD)

3. A Complete List of Buddhist Sutras

4. Also called aspirational, or aspiring. It refers to the uncontrived spontaneous mind that wants to attain total enlightenment for the well-being of all sentient beings.

5. This type refers to the altruistic enlightened mind that engages in drawing sentient beings to the Dharma.

6. Bodhicaryavatara: www

7. The Story of Shantideva

Photo by: Hartwig HKD

About Aenpo Kyabgon Rinpoche

Aenpo Kyabgon Rinpoche has been reincarnated ten times. The present reincarnation of Aenpo Kyabgon, Ngawang Thupten Chokyi Dragpa, was born on June 10th 1976 at Chakrata in the mountainous region of Uttar Pradesh State of Northern India. At the age of five His Holiness Sakya Trizin, the Head of Sakyapa Order of Tibetan Buddhism, recognized him as the reincarnation of his predecessor. Aenpo Kyabgon is one of the very few Tulkus (reincarnated Rinpoches) in Kham province in eastern Tibet who possesses the Kyabgon title.