Lojong and Tonglen, Macclesfield, Sunday Dec 9th, am, 2006
In general, the Buddhist teachings are divided into two main groupings: one is called the Vehicles of the Cause, that is to say, these are methods of study, reflection and practice which generate the causes of being able to awaken or become enlightened at a future time. This includes practices like Lojong, or mind training. The second are called Vehicles of the Result, which are vehicles that bring us into a state in which we practice with the result already present.
In the method of Tantra, that is the practice of ‘as if’; we act ‘as if’ we are living in a mandala of deities, we act ‘as if’ we are divine beings and that all the beings we encounter are divine. And through that ‘as if-ness’, through that imaginational intentionality, we transform the sphere in which we operate.
In the practice of Dzogchen, we directly integrate into the ground nature and we practice with the absolute openness of trusting that now, whatever is arising, is arising from the ground.
These are two very different groups of practices. The Vehicles of Result say that the door to paradise is already open and you have stepped through; you don’t even need to move, you’re already there. The Vehicles of Cause say that enlightenment is a long way off, but “Courage, pilgrim! Here’s something for your rucksack!”
Now we are going to look a little bit at rucksack territory. Lojong says that the main thing that keeps us far from our goal, from where we want to get to, is our obsession with ourselves, our self-protection and self-aggrandisement.
Feeling that we are more important than other people, we put ourselves first. Of course we don’t often do that in a grandiose, narcissistic manner, but we do it all the time in simple everyday matters. For example, you’re in the supermarket and you’re going to the checkout; there are various people queuing up and you’ve got a whole trolley full of stuff. Someone is coming with three items in their hand; should you let them go first? “Well, I was here first, I’ve already been waiting behind these other people. Yes, but they’ve only got three things…”
How will you work that out? Should you sacrifice your two seconds for them, or should you insist on the letter of the law? How shall one proceed? It’s a big question. So all the time, if you’re an ethical person you find yourself tortured and spinning on these points, “What shall I do? I want to be useful but there’s a cost. Do I want to pay the cost?”
In order to free ourselves from this turning and turning and turning, we have the Buddhist teaching and practice of Tonglen. ‘Tong’ means to give—we give to other beings everything which is beneficial and good—and ‘lenpa’ means taking—we take onto ourselves all the troubles and all the misery of all beings.