Eight Verses for Training the Mind
This short text was paid high attention by many great masters throughout the history. H.H. Jigme Phuntsok Rinpoche regarded this text as the principal instruction among all the Dharma teachings he imparted. In his life, he had taught this text dozens of times. Actually, only Bodhisattvas abiding on the first level or above, can fully perfect the practice of Eight Verses for Training the Mind. Nevertheless, we can do similar practices. With these pith instructions, and with the blessing of the guru, work with it in our mind continuum as much as we can, and gradually, we will veer to such a status in our spiritual practice.
The Eight Verses for Training the Mind can bring tremendous benefits to the practice of both Sutrayana teachings and Tantrayana teachings. The words of this text are simple, but their meaning is profound. I believe that this text will be of great help to the majority of dharma practitioners, both in their practices and as a way to help them to behave properly.
The background of this text
The Eight Verses for Training the Mind is not a complete commentary. Actually it is a lojong (mind training) among Langri Tangpa’s pith instructions on Dharma practice.
Lojong means observing and training one’s own mind, and is the most important practice in Buddhism. This text was composed on the basis of the bodhichitta pith instructions of Lord Atisha and Geshe Potowa. The eight verses in this text are eight key instructions of Mahayana practice. They look independent but are in a logic sequence, and form a complete lojong system.
For some beginners or those who don’t really want to put them into practice, the eight verses might seem simple. For the genuine Dharma practitioners, however, the practice of even one of these verses is of great benefit. One can even attain enlightenment by just practicing one or half of the verse in his or her life.
Verse 1: Always Hold Others as Dear and Precious
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.
Every genuine dharma practitioner should hold fully to an aspiration like this: “I will think of all sentient beings who inhabit the three realms and are wandering in samsara, they are more precious than the wish-fulfilling gem; for this reason, I am determined to work for the ultimate benefits and well-being of all sentient beings, who I will always hold as dear and precious. This I will do gladly.”
Verse 2: Consider Myself as the Lowest Among All
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.
Wherever I am and whomever I interact with, I will view myself as the lowest of all and humble myself before them. From the depths of my heart, I will think constantly of benefiting others. By constantly holding others as superior to me, and treating them with reverence and respect, I will tame my pride and arrogance, and hold others above me.
Verse 3: Avert Afflictions as soon as They Arise
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.
In every action and deed, every speech and behavior, of my everyday life, I will examine my mind, and as soon as mental and emotional afflictions arise, because they endanger myself and others, I will discover and confront them rapidly, and firmly avert them without delay.
Verse 4: May I Cherish This Precious Treasure
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.
Great numbers of beings, who have a negative disposition or an unpleasant character, and who are constantly oppressed by negative habits and sufferings, accumulate bad karma endlessly, endangering both themselves and others. When I, as a practitioner, meet such beings, may I consider them as precious as a rare treasure, so that they may become a special object of the patience practice.
This instruction is exceedingly precious. If a Mahayana practitioner has not fully developed such a merit, attaining Buddhahood in a single lifetime is impossible, and even the ordinary worldly accomplishments will be virtually out of reach. Therefore, we should value highly, this marvelous pith instruction of the Mahayana practice.
Verse 5: Take Loss and Defeat Upon Myself
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.
Whenever other people, out of jealousy or other afflictive emotions, mistreat me with abuse or slander, or even if they mistreat my lama, my relatives, or my friends, may I take upon myself the sufferings, losses, and defeats, and offer to others the happiness, benefits, and victories.
Verse 6: View Those Who Harm Me as Spiritual Teachers
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.
When someone that I have benefited, or helped, or in whom I have placed great concerns and hopes, mistreats me in extraordinarily unjust ways, I will sincerely regard that person as my true spiritual teacher, without the least bit of resentment.
Verse 7: Secretly Take Upon Myself All Their Sufferings
In brief, directly or indirectly,
I will offer help and happiness to all my mothers,
And secretly take upon myself
All their pains and suffering.
No matter whether directly or indirectly, I will offer happiness and benefits to all the sentient beings that have been my loving mothers. I shall secretly take upon myself all my mothers’ hurts and suffering.
Verse 8: All Things Are Like Illusions
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.
May all my practices and actions, in the past, present, and future, be undefiled by the eight worldly concerns, be untainted by wealth or fame; and through recognizing all phenomena as like illusions, may I eradicate all the clinging to true existence within my mind. May I be released from the bondage of the four extremes and concepts, and attain the ultimate liberation.
When afflictive emotions arise, such as attachment or anger, we should directly examine the nature of these emotions, so that we will not be deluded by these phenomena, and that we will be released from bondage and achieve enlightenment.