Bringing fear of coronavirus (and all other fears) onto the path Part 2: Mind training in two words

When Lama Karma Samten taught the seven points of mind training at Palpung Thubten Choling Monastery in 2016, he began by summing up the entire path of mind training in two words:

“Others first.”

The worst thing about fear is that it can cause our awareness to contract around our sense of danger and personal vulnerability, and we can temporarily lose sight of our dharma perspectives of putting others first and recalling the emptiness of all phenomena.

However, through mind training practice, the arising of anxiety, fear, anger, or illness can instead become a cue to reconnect with our basic Mahayana motivation of cultivating wisdom and compassion in order to wake ourselves up for the benefit of others in all circumstances, and we can immediately put it into practice wherever we are both by helping others in material ways and by engaging in taking and sending, the meditation practice associated with mind training.

The seven points of mind training emphasize love and compassion as the most efficient way of traveling the path to full awakening. In his classic commentary The Great Path of Awakening, Jamgon Kongrul Lodro Thaye advises us that it’s very difficult to train in wisdom — recognizing and resting in the nature of mind — directly, but it’s easy to train in love and compassion, and if we do that, then wisdom will naturally arise as a result.

The 59 “slogans” or reminders of mind training help us bring all adversity onto the path and keep “others first” at the center of our practice. Some of my favorite slogans are:

“Drive all blame into one.”

“Be grateful to everyone.”

“Rely all the time on a joyful mind.”

“Work with whatever you encounter, immediately.”

“The ultimate protection is emptiness: Know what arises as confusion to be the four kayas.”

Recommended reading: In addition to The Great Path of Awakening, there are many wonderful contemporary commentaries on mind training, including Training the Mind by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, The Seven Points of Mind Training by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, Enlightened Courage by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Traveling the Path of Compassion by The Seventeenth Karmapa Orgyen Trinley Dorje, Mind Training by Ringu Tulku, and Start Where You Are by Pema Chodron. Any of these would be great to have on hand as we wait to see how the coronavirus develops and for any other adversity, large or small, that may strike in the meantime.

Finally, from today’s New York Times:

“The Best Response to the Coronavirus? Altruism, Not Panic.”

Other posts in this series:

Part 1: The four ends

Part 3: Five practices to empower your life and your death

Related posts:

From Gampopa’s Ornament of Precious Liberation: Impermanence of the composite

A beautiful day in New Hampshire: In a Nutshell

From the 37 practices: Verse 4: to let go of attachment to this life

Ways to work with fear itself: Some Buddhist ways to work with emotional overwhelm

Bonus reminder from Western literature: Ozymandias