Lojong Point 4: Make Practice Your Life

This group of slogans is connected with the perfection of diligence. Diligence means that we aren’t lazy in our practice, we are motivated and determined. When we talk about laziness we’re talking about lack of joy on the path. We can think of diligence as developing an appreciation for what we’re doing. The path shouldn’t be a chore. Uncovering our true nature should be something we are delighted to do. It’s been said that the path can’t be walked without diligence. We have a natural resistance to our training but that resistance can be overcome by overcoming laziness with diligence. The fourth point deals with training in our whole life, no separation. Every moment is sacred and important. This diligence on the path is both the result of our practice thus far and the core of our efforts going forward.

17. Practice the Five Strengths

The Five Strengths are an aid to help us develop diligence. Here they are:

Strong Determination: this means not wasting our time. Practice is our way of transforming ourselves and not practicing is a waste of our time. The idea behind this is that even when we first wake up in the morning we are thinking about or cultivating bodhicitta. The point is that we’re rousing our basic goodness and because of this we are feeling more determined in our practice. This is how we begin to take ourselves seriously as spiritual practitioners. We have the energy within us to walk the path. Strong determination is about finding our motivation on the path and not losing sight of it.

Familiarization: Because we’ve developed strong determination we now have a natural feeling about the practice. Even when we are mindless and unaware, reminders start coming up that make us think of going back to our practice. Bodhicitta has become part of our everyday life. Whatever we do becomes a reminder. Because we’re bringing to mind the teachings over and over, we can think of them at any time.

Seed of Virtue: Our inherent wakefulness is the seed of virtue. We are dwelling in this wakefulness without taking a break. Because of this wakefulness our body, speech, and mind are all dedicated to cultivating bodhicitta. This is where we recognize our true nature.

Reproach: this is reproaching our egoic mind. It’s where we are repulsed by the ego clinging that has done harm to us and those around us. It’s when we realize how much harm our selfishness often causes us and deciding that we don’t want to be harmed anymore.

Aspiration: This is where we dedicate our practice. We want to end each meditation session by declaring the wish to : 1) save all beings 2) not forget bodhicitta 3) apply bodhicitta in spite of any obstacles that come up. This is the same kind of aspiration one has in taking the bodhisattva vows.

18. Practice For Death As Well As For Life

Understanding the truths of suffering and impermanence is important in Buddhist practice. The fact of the matter is that all of us are going to die. Because we are born, we are going to die. This slogan is about accepting our fate instead of railing against it all the time. We want to cultivate those five strengths from the previous slogan, even while we’re dying. Knowing and accepting that we are going to pass away one day also helps us be more motivated on the path.

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About Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel Scharpenburg is an independent dharma teacher in Kansas City. He regularly gives teachings through the Open Heart Project. He also runs the Monday Night Zen Group at the Rime Buddhist Center.
Daniel received a BA in English from KU.
Once a Novice Zen Monk, Daniel dropped out of monk school to become a regular person. He takes his inspiration mainly from Buddhist teachers who were renegades and madmen, like Ikkyu and Han Shan.
Daniel has taken Bodhisattva Vows.

Find out more about Daniel on his website and connect with him on Facebook.