Born in Tibet, Khentrul Lodrö T'hayé Rinpoche attained a rarely achieved level of three khenpo degrees in Buddhist philosophy after 30 years of training and studies in the Nyingma lineage. Abbot, director, retreat leader, teacher and world traveler (now based in the USA), Rinpoche is most passionate about sharing mind training, which is why he is affectionately nicknamed "the 'mind trainer'. khenpo. "
The Power of the Mind: A Tibetan Monk's Guide to Finding Freedom in Every Challenge is a contemporary manual of the age-old teachings known as the Seven Key Points of Mind Training brought to Tibet by the Grand Master Atisha. This book was taken from transcriptions prepared by Rinpoche's students in Connecticut following a retreat in 2006-2007. They had been so motivated by Atisha's teachings and the personal insights of Atisha and Rinpoche that they organized and structured his wisdom into something they could continue to study.
The teachings focus on a concept known as the lojong: a system of meditative practices for cultivating compassion and the wisdom of bodhicitta – a kind of Buddhist contemplative alchemy, forged in the crucible of the mind of every human, to put meditation into action for the benefit of all beings.
If you are interested in the discipline of the mind, then you may know modern lay teachers such as Dr. Joe Dispenza or Dr. Rick Hanson. However, Rinpoche's book reminds us that over a millennium ago, the sages of the East already understood that unconsciously formed mental habits needed conscious rewiring. The saying "neurons that fire together, wire together" is an explanation of the physical manifestation of any repeated action or thought. And like any athlete, the way to make an action instinctive is to practice it repeatedly. I practiced a martial art and self-defense for several years, and at the zenith of my training, I had such confidence in knowing my body that I no longer needed to think about what was next. Likewise, a seasoned musician no longer searches for the next note, and an experienced driver no longer fumbles over which foot, which pedal, which gear, which signal, easily dodging cars, pedestrians and cyclists, without speeding, stalling or crash. One day, we realize that driving is simply, does.
But when our habits mask healthy and desired attributes, we need to consciously unplug what we don't want and form new consciously thoughtful practices and habits.
Sensitivity and awareness are intrinsic to our experience of being human and are ultimately ineffable and pure. This uncorrupted consciousness is something we all have access to, once we are able to dispel the fog of delusional experiences. The reality we perceive as real is an awe-inspiring and persistent illusion – on a quantum scale, we know it is. And if the consciousness does not reside in our physical brain (because the "physical" does not exist per se), and if we are really drinking from the same etheric pool - we are actually part of the same pool, in fact - then let's purify our minds and radiate this return to the pool will ultimately benefit us all. We practice for everyone, not just for ourselves. (That said, if everyone "out there" is just a manifested projection of consciousness, then we is do it for ourselves, it's just that "ourselves" is not constrained to a bag of organic meat.)
Either way, as the title of this book makes clear, this is a Buddhist approach to mind training. It contains references that some may consider culturally relevant. For example, try telling a young single parent at his most poor and desperate that it is better to give his money to support a monk than to pay rent or buy food for his child. However, a parent will often give food and lodging to his child at his own expense, so isn't the act already benevolent? When we think of others beyond ourselves, surely this cannot be confused with being subject to the happiness of someone who would cause harm?
Or let's say you're in a relationship where one partner is very happy, but the other knows they're not. Do you stay in the relationship knowing that you are both deprived of true happiness? If we accept the idea of always placing ourselves below the desires, needs and happiness of others, it misses the point of the Buddhist teachings. And yet, rediscovering the benevolence we have for our loved ones and extending it to all beings is an excellent way, at the very least, to remember that making others benefit is for the benefit of our loved ones. Because our loved ones are us.
The author states that we should practice according to our abilities. While there is no obvious advice for complex situations, the overriding reminder is to practice when and where we can. As such, while most of us do not have the luxury of a life without obligations, and these obligations often result in chronic stress and tension when we feel like a victim of circumstance, Rinpoche brings the wisdom of an age of archaic living in modernity and within the Buddhist lexicon, reminding us to assume the mind of a bodhisattva. We are not doormats.
Without denying our experiences of this (seemingly) physical world, we are asked to remember the ultimate truth; transcend the relative truth of dualistic reality by the space between particles in the quantum domain (my terms, not Rinpoche's). This space, like the pauses between musical notes, gives way to a transient form that appears, our mind being nothing more than a radio transmitter broadcasting signals at different frequencies (our thoughts) and at a high volume. None of this exists on its own, but achieving this state of being while remaining present and accountable is a challenge for most of us.
Rinpoche also reminds us of impermanence. During each lifetime we can recall a pressing sense of urgency because our time on this Earth is so limited. It behooves us to cultivate as much compassionate wisdom as possible and extend it to the world as an imperative. Even seemingly small things like hugging our loved ones and remembering our love are an accessible practice for most of us. We are also reminded that whenever someone walks through the door, it might be the last time we see each other. This may sound depressing, even morbid, and certainly a bit “pessimistic”, but it may also provide the impetus to grow something more beautiful and alive during our embodied time.
This mind training book is clearly organized, even including an initial explanation of how best to read and use it. Rinpoche shares key points and mental practices that we can meditate on, contemplate and incorporate into daily life. We are offered a detailed yet concise framework with which to reconfigure our mindset. A frame worth pinning to the fridge door and bathroom mirror, worth framing and hanging over the mantle as constant reminders to bring our habitual unconscious thinking back into conscious life. , until the old and outdated neural networks dissolve.
We are also offered reminders about mental extremes and deep self-reflection. Along with each of these core ideas, Rinpoche shares his own thoughts on how these key points and experiences may manifest in our contemporary world; practical advice on how to update lessons – almost like lesson plans that span a school term. And as if that weren't already enough, the pages of this collection contain detailed meditations, prayers, history and even more useful information.
It's a worthy book, especially for those new to these Buddhist concepts, or reasonably new to Buddhism in general, and equally valid for those who might already feel like they know it all. As Rinpoche says:
If we get into the habit of listening to the teachings without applying them, we risk becoming desensitized to Dharma. In Tibet, it is said that these people have become chötrey, that is, jaded or dharma-hardened. Such people might think, “Oh, I have heard this teaching before,” or they might think they already know what is being taught. If, for example, we are sitting in a teaching on the four thoughts but we say to ourselves, “I have already received this message about the precious human birth. I know that everything is impermanent. I would like this lama to talk about something deeper”, this is not a good sign. This suggests that we have become jaded. If the teachings seem dry and harsh instead of juicy and uplifting, then it will be difficult to use them to tame the spirit.
Milarepa said that a person who has hardened himself in dharma is like a bag of butter. In Tibet, butter is stored in leather bags. When the bag is new, the leather is supple, but over time it hardens due to constant exposure to oil. Likewise, a person who receives the teachings but does not practice becomes like a piece of leather that has been hardened by overexposure to oil. And just as this leather will not be made softer by applying more oil to it, no matter how many teachings a person receives, the dharma will not soften or tame his mind.
Nobody wants to be a bag of butter. Don't be a bag of butter.