Gheshe Chekawa: Training the Mind in Seven Points

Gheshe Chekawa: Training the Mind in Seven Points

Seven Points of Mind Training (Wyl. blo sbyong don bdun ma) — the famous instruction on ‘mind training’ (Tib.) “Lojong-Nyimai-Hoeser.” brought to Tibet by Lord Atisha and written down by Geshe Chekawa. The seven points are:

  1. The Preliminaries to Mind Training (sngon ‘gro rten gyi chos sems pa)

  2. The Main Practice of Training the Mind in Bodhichitta (dngos gzhi byang chub kyi sems sbyong ba)

  3. Transforming Adversity into the Path of Awakening (rkyen ngan byang chub kyi lam du bsgyur ba)

  4. Applying the Practice Throughout One’s Whole Life (tshe gcig gi nyams len dril nas bstan pa)

  5. The Measure or Signs of Proficiency in Mind Training (blo ‘byongs pa’i tshad dam rtags)

  6. The Commitments of Mind Training (blo sbyong gi dam tshig)

  7. The Precepts of Mind Training (blo sbyong gi bslab bya)

Chekawa’s original text was not arranged into these seven points. This was done later by his disciple, Sechilphuwa Özer Shyönnu (aka Chökyi Gyaltsen) (1121-1189).

Homage to great compassion.
The essence of this nectar of secret instruction
Is transmitted from the master from Sumatra.

Revealing the features of the doctrine to engender
respect for the instruction

You should understand the significance of this instruction
As like a diamond, the sun and a medicinal tree.
This time of the five degenerations will then be transformed
Into the path to the fully awakened state.

The actual instruction for guiding the disciple
is given in seven points

1. Explaining the preliminaries as a basis for the practice

First, train in the preliminaries.

2. The actual practice, training in the awakening mind
(a) How to train in the ultimate awakening mind
(b) How to train in the conventional awakening mind

(According to most of the older records, the training in the ultimate awakening mind is dealt with first. However, according to our own tradition, following the gentle protector Tsong Khapa, as contained in such works as the Mind Training like the Rays of the Sun, Ornament for Losang’s Thought, Essential Nectar and Keutsang’s Root Words, the order is reversed for special reasons.)

(b) Training in the conventional awakening mind

Banish the one to blame for everything,
Meditate on the great kindness of all beings.
Practice a combination of giving and taking.
Giving and taking should be practiced alternately
And you should begin by taking from yourself.
These two should be made to ride on the breath.

Concerning the three objects, three poisons and three virtues,
The instruction to be followed, in short,
Is to be mindful of the practice in general,
By taking these words to heart in all activities.

(a) Training in the ultimate awakening mind

When stability has been attained, impart the secret teaching:
Consider all phenomena as like dreams,
Examine the nature of unborn awareness.
The remedy itself is released in its own place,
Place the essence of the path on the nature of the basis of all.

In the period between sessions, be a creator of illusions.

3. Transforming adverse circumstances into the path to enlightenment

When the environment and its inhabitants overflow with unwholesomeness,
Transform adverse circumstances into the path to enlightenment.
Apply meditation immediately at every opportunity.
The supreme method is accompanied by the four practices.

4. The integrated practice of a single lifetime

In brief, the essence of the instruction is
To train in the five powers.
The five powers themselves are the Great Vehicle’s
Precept on the transference of consciousness.
Cultivate these paths of practice.

5. The measure of having trained the mind

Integrate all the teachings into one thought,
Primary importance should be given to the two witnesses,
Constantly cultivate only a peaceful mind.
The measure of a trained mind is that it has turned away,
There are five great marks of a trained mind.
The trained (mind) retains control even when distracted.

6. The commitments of mind training

1. Don’t go against the mind training you promised to observe,
2. Don’t be reckless in your practice,
3. Don’t be partial, always train in the three general points,
4. Transform your attitude but maintain your natural behavior,
5. Don’t speak of others’ incomplete qualities,
6. Don’t concern yourself with others’ business,
7. Train to counter whichever disturbing emotion is greatest,
8. Give up every hope of reward,
9. Avoid poisonous food,
10. Don’t maintain misplaced loyalty,
11. Don’t make sarcastic remarks,
12. Don’t lie in ambush,
13. Don’t strike at the vital point,
14. Don’t burden an ox with the load of a
15. Don’t abuse the practice,
16. Don’t sprint to win the race,
17. Don’t turn gods into devils,
18. Don’t seek others’ misery as a means to happiness.

7. The precepts of mind training

1. Every yoga should be performed as one,
2. All errors are to be amended by one means,
3. There are two activities—at beginning and end,
4. Whichever occurs, be patient with both,
5. Guard both at the cost of your life,
6. Train in the three difficulties,
7. Seek for the three principal causes,
8. Don’t let three factors weaken,
9. Never be parted from the three possessions,
10. Train consistently without partiality,
11. Value an encompassing and far-reaching practice,
12. Train consistently to deal with difficult situations,
13. Don’t rely on other conditions,
14. Engage in the principal practices right now,
15. Don’t apply a wrong understanding,
16. Don’t be sporadic,
17. Practice unflinchingly,
18. Release investigation and analysis,
19. Don’t be boastful,
20. Don’t be short-tempered,
21. Don’t make a short-lived attempt,
22. Don’t expect gratitude.

This is concluded with a quotation from Geshe Chekawa, who had an experience of the awakening mind:

My manifold aspirations have given rise
To humiliating criticism and suffering,
But, having received instructions for taming the misconception of self,
Even if I have to die, I have no regrets.

Geshe Chekhawa or Chekawa Yeshe Dorje (1102-1176) was a great Kadampa Buddhist meditation master who was the author of the celebrated root text, Training the Mind in Seven Points which is an explanation Buddha’s instructions on training the mind or Lojong in Tibetan. These teachings reveal how sincere Buddhist practitioners can transform adverse conditions into the path to enlightenment, principally, by developing their own compassion. Before Geshe Chekhawa’s root text this special set of teachings given by Buddha were secret teachings only given to faithful disciples. [1]

Geshe Chekhawa was born into a family that practiced the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. However, he was not satisfied with his Nyingma practice and sought teachers from other traditions. He received teachings from Rechungpa (one of Milarepa’s main disciples) and later from Kadampa Geshes. After reading the text Eight Verses of Training the Mind by Geshe Langri Tangpa he immediately set out to Lhasa in search of Langri Tangpa. When he arrived in Lhasa, he discovered that Geshe Langri Tangpa had died. So he searched for his disciples and found Geshe Sharawa who was one of his main disciples. [2]

When Geshe Chekawa met Geshe Sharawa, he asked him “How important is the practice of accepting defeat and offering the victory to others?” Geshe Sharawa replied, “If you want to attain enlightenment, this practice is essential.” Geshe Chekhawa then requested full instructions on this practice and Geshe Sharawa said “If you stay with me for several years I will teach you.” Geshe Chekhawa stayed with Geshe Sharawa fo 12 years until he mastered the practice of training the mind. He had to face many different kinds of ordeals: all sorts of difficulties, criticism, hardships, and abuse. And the teaching was so effective, and his perseverance in its practice so intense, that he completely eradicated any self-grasping and self-cherishing.[3]

At this time in Tibet, leprosy was very common in Tibet, because doctors were unable to cure it. When Geshe Chekhawa ecountered lepers, he developed heartfelt compassion for them and wished to help them. He gave them teachings on training the mind, especially the teachings on Tonglen or taking and giving. Through these practices many lepers were able to cure themselves. After overhearing Geshe Chekhawa’s teaching to lepers on training the mind, his brother who strongly disliked Dharma teachings even began to put them into practice and receive great benefit from them.

As a result of these successes, Geshe Chekhawa decided not to keep these teachings secret any longer and he composed Training the Mind in Seven Points. This is one of the essential root texts of the Kadampa tradition and was the basis for Je Tsongkhapa‘s text Sunrays of Training the Mind, which is regarded as one of the most authoritative commentaries on training the mind.

Geshe Chekhawa’s conclusion of Training the Mind in Seven Points is as follows:

Because of my many wishes,
Having endured suffering and a bad reputation,
I received the instructions for controlling self-grasping.
Now, if I die, I have no regrets.

Addestramento Mentale in Sette Punti di Ghesce Chekawa, che formulò la tradizionale dottrina

chiamata dei « Sette punti»in cui vengono insegnati i preliminari e l’addestramento alla Bodhicitta, come trasformare le circostanze avverse in favorevoli, come comprendere i criteri per trasformare la mente, i consigli per l’esecuzione di questa pratica.

Nel Buddhismo tibetano, per la grande importanza attribuita al guru e alla trasmissione diretta da maestro a discepolo, i testi spirituali sono spesso semplici promemoria, scarni elenchi di pratiche, ermetici e incomprensibili senza le istruzioni di un maestro. Questa pratica, detta ‘Addestramento mentale in sette punti’, risale ad Atisa ed è stata trasmessa ininterrottamente per quasi mille anni. Essa si rivela particolarmente adatta a chi viva una vita attiva e impegnata. Non chiede al praticante di ritirarsi in un eremo, ma piuttosto di riesaminare tutti i suoi rapporti con gli altri, e di trasformare gradualmente le sue reazioni alle varie circostanze della vita. Le conoscenze della fisica consentono di rivelare interessanti paralleli tra l’interpretazione dell’universo della filosofia madhyamika e le scoperte più recenti della scienza moderna. Il mondo del tempo e dello spazio assoluti sperimentato dai sensi è oggi considerato dalla fisica pura illusione, e ciò non può non ricordare la definizione della realtà data dal Buddha: un miraggio, un’illusione creata da un mago, un’eco, un riflesso in uno specchio.