Lojong, Abbreviated Version

Abbreviated Lojong

Short Introduction

The lojong’s 59 aphorisms, or slogans, are designed as antidotes to mental habits that cause discomfort and suffering. They present methods for relating to the world in a constructive, wholesome way. “Lojong mind training,” as it is known, as a practice, was developed over a 300-year period between 900 and 1200 CE, as part of Tibetan Buddhism. The origin is largely attributed to Atisha (982–1054 CE), a Bengali meditation master with an arm-long pedigree in Buddhist practice.

Here we are addressing the 21 slogans our students have found most helpful in their practices, not the complete 59 in the series. We address them from our perspective, the perspective of the renowned Tibetan nun, Pema Chodron, from the perspective of Zen Master Norman Fisher, author and former Abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center, and from the perspective of Judy Lief, Buddhist teacher in the tradition of Chögya Trungpa Rinpoche. If there is no authorship credit, then the commentary is DeepDharma’s. Offering all these different perspectives gives a greater insight into the slogans and how to use them than if there were just one commentator.

Note that everyone who has written a commentary on these slogans has translated the slogans in their own way; we have done the same. Slogans are in bold italics.


Practicing With a Slogan

Begin to practice by picking a slogan and gently thinking about it. Take five minutes, maybe ten. It can be sitting quietly in a contemplation place at home, in the car waiting to pick up the kids after sports practice, whenever the occasion of a few “free” minutes presents itself. Just think about the slogan; let it float in your mind, no straining. Give yourself time to explore it, to reason through it, to deeply know what it means by repeating this over a period of days and weeks. You can think about it once or twice or even three times in a day, whatever your schedule allows. But never contemplate it for more than about ten minutes at a time. We don’t want to overthink it.

Now Contemplate the Slogan

Choose a slogan. Notice that the first slogan is the only aphorism with more than one slogan. Study each slogan for a week or more, contemplating it in the three-step contemplation outlined below. Set an intention to contemplate the chosen slogan every day. Sit in a comfortable, quiet place and gently watch a handful of breaths, allowing mind and body to become calm. Then begin thinking about the slogan.

Step One: Start with the broadest questions about the slogan’s general meaning and work toward tighter and more detailed questions, more narrowly focused questions about its meaning. Stay focused, but let your mind go wherever it needs in this contemplation, as long as you don’t stray from the slogan. Examine it with intellectual scrutiny. Establish the slogan as the most important thing you could possibly consider in the moment; keep exploring it.

Question every thought, every phrase, parse each word that arises. Also, ask yourself how you would explain this to a 10-year old, then rehearse (actually say it out loud so you can hear yourself!) explaining it to that youngster. Do the same with a peer who isn’t likely to understand it easily. Rehearse. Finally, rehearse how you might explain this to a dying parent. Doing this daily for a week or so will allow you slowly understand its meaning, at least in a superficial way.

Next, Step Two (each step should take a week or two): You can be anywhere, just allow the slogan to flood over you. Encourage and allow it to arise from deep inside you when you are showering, dressing, eating, exercising, working, relaxing, getting ready for bed. Gently play with it whenever it arises, then let it drift off. Give it space to nurture you.

Step Three is considering the slogan with intellectual scrutiny—as deeply as you possibly can. Eventually, in step three, it will become a part of you, resetting your default intention to a place from which compassion arises without hesitation and peacefulness ensues whatever the conditions. The aim is to have these slogans deeply imprinted on our consciousness, a karmic intentional motivation for future actions of body, speech, and mind.

There isn’t one correct way to work with a slogan, but with practice and experimentation, you will find the ways that work for you to make the slogan yours. Just remember, it takes patience, commitment and discipline to make these slogans yours—to make them work for you in a profound way.

Generally we recommend you start with the first slogan, Train In the Preliminaries:

The important thing about the first slogan, the preliminaries, is that they nurture a very special attitude toward life, one which makes us realize the importance of being here and motivates us to act for the longterm benefit of all beings. We start by realizing the preciousness and importance of each moment, its impermanence making it so valuable, and from there we move to resetting our intentions so that our karmic thrust leads us more and more toward the peacefulness that arises from helping others rather than being self-serving, which always leads to some level of discomfort. Finally, we conclude from this short sequence of practice that it is being of benefit to others that really makes us wholesome and happy, not acquiring more stuff.

Another technique from Norman Fisher, author, longtime teacher, and abbot at the San Francisco Zen Center:

The best way to develop a mind-training slogan is to work with it initially on your meditation cushion. The technique is simple enough: sitting calmly with breath and body awareness, simply repeat the slogan silently to yourself again and again, reflect lightly on it, breathe it in with the inhale, out with the exhale.

The point is not to sit and think about the slogan as much as to develop it as an almost physical object, a feeling in your belly or heart.

Doing this repeatedly will fix it in your mind at a level deeper than is possible with ordinary distracted thinking. After this initial fixing of the slogan in the mind, you can think about it more, journal about it, talk about it with friends, write it down, repeat it to yourself—maybe when you are walking or driving, or any time you remember to do it—committing yourself to holding it in your mind during the day as often as you can. You can post it on your refrigerator, or float it across your computer screen.

When you suddenly notice you have forgotten it and your mind is muffled with anxiety or worried rumination, use the very moment of forgetting as a cue to remembering rather than as a chance for self-judgment. This is, after all, mind training. Of course you are going to forget! But noticing that you forgot is already remembering. Mind training requires commitment, repetition, and lots of patience.

[“Rehearsal” is the word for this in neuroscience. Rehearsing, over and over, is the way to make this a new default setting to ensure you stay on the path. —CJ]

If you practice with a slogan in this way, soon it will pop into your mind unbidden at various times during the day. Hundreds of times a day instances will arise that seem germane to the slogan you are working with. In this way, you can practice a slogan until it becomes part of your mind, part of your own natural thought process and a new default theme for daily living.

Fischer, Norman. Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong.


Train In the Preliminaries (sometimes called the Four Reminders or the Four Thoughts)

  1. This human life is most precious.
  2. The time of death is uncertain, but death comes to everyone.
  3. Everything I say and do and think leaves a karmic imprint.
  4. Getting what I want, and getting rid of what I don’t want, will leave me unsatisfactory, not happy.


Nine Point Death Meditation

This practice is known as the nine-round death meditation, in which we contemplate the three roots, the nine reasonings, and the three convictions. Ideally one should spend 5 to 10 minutes a day, for a week, on each slogan, learning and reasoning them deeply, then exploring them in the quiet of a meditation until they become omnipresent in our daily lives. Then we repeat the practice with each of the three elements of the root, and then with the conviction. Finally, we repeat with Roots Two and Three and their components.

Root One: Death is Certain

  1. There is no possible way to escape death. No one ever has. Of the current world population of over 8 billion people, virtually none will be alive in 100 years’ time.
  2. Life has a definite limit. And although it is not defined, each moment brings us closer to death. We are dying from the moment we are born.
  3. Death comes in a moment and its time is unexpected. All that separates us from the next life is one breath.

First Conviction: To practice the spiritual path, to cultivate positive, wholesome mental qualities and abandon unwholesome, negative mental qualities.

Root Two: The Time of Death is Uncertain

  1. The duration of our life is uncertain. The young can die before the old, the healthy before the sick, etc.
  2. There are many causes and circumstances that lead to death, but few that favor the sustenance of life. Even things that sustain life can kill us.
  3. The weakness and fragility of one’s physical body contribute to life’s uncertainty.

The body can be easily destroyed by disease or accident.

Second Conviction: To ripen our inner potential now, without delay; to practice as though our head was on fire.

Root Three: The Only Thing That Can Help Us at The Time of Death Is Our Mental/Spiritual Development

  1. Worldly possessions such as wealth, position, and money can’t stop death
  2. Relatives and friends can neither prevent death nor go with or for us.
  3. Even our own precious body is of no help to us. We have to leave it behind like a shell, an empty husk, an overcoat.

Third Conviction: To work with great diligence on purifying body, speech and mind, without staining our efforts with attachment to worldly things and concerns.


i. This human life is most precious.

“‘Yeah, I get it.” You’ve already read the first slogan. You’ve put a check mark next to it, said to yourself: “Yeah, I get it: Life is precious” and then you dismissed it as done. In classes, when I ask students to explain why life is precious, I get blank stares or vague statements that don’t address the question. When I pry, students often seem, to their surprise, dumbfounded.

The preciousness might be because life is fleeting; if life were eternal, then nothing we might do in the here and now would matter. After all, there will always be time to do it later, or better. As a stand-alone reason, fleeting isn’t particularly solid. After all, there are things that are fleeting that aren’t precious, like bee stings and tornadoes.

A more solid reason might be, knowing that everything lacks permanence, knowing that everything is impermanent and therefore interrelated, we realize that everything we do effects everyone else–our family, our friends, our neighbors, everyone. Therefore everything I think and say and do matters, and every moment is precious, is to be highly valued, because it is an opportunity for me to better myself and the world. As everything lacks permanence, it is precious because it is meaningful.

Of course there are many answers, some more solid than others, but all worthy of exploration. This understanding that arises from realizing that all phenomena lack permanence, all phenomena are “empty,” is a deeply optimistic view of life. It leads us to understand that everything we do matters, and therein is the precious meaning of life. If it were not so, everything would be permanent, nothing could be changed, and so nothing we did would matter.

ii. time of death is uncertain, but death comes to everyone.

In the broadest terms, we prepare for death by living skillfully, by living in ways that in each moment make us and our families and friends, our communities and our planet, a better and more peaceful place. Contemplative meditations on death (above) are an important tool in learning to die peacefully, and with ease and grace.

Contemplation and meditation on death are important practices because it is only by recognizing how to make death meaningful and to familiarize ourselves with death that we can remove the fear that is haunting for so many. We can reduce dramatically the anxiety that accompanies death by realizing it is a normal part of living, not an aberration

Learning about death, with deep analytic study, teaches us the best way to live a meaningful life: with care to do no harm and, as much as possible, always to be beneficial and other- rather than self-centered.

The aim of our spiritual practice is, at the time of death, to have no fear, period. Every moment, in a sense. People who practice with death, to the best of their abilities in each and every moment, die peacefully, content in knowing they are doing exactly the right thing–being strongly on the path of right conduct, knowing that their karma has led them to recognize the value of a life lived following the Noble Eightfold Path to liberation.

But more solidly on the mark is the understanding of this slogan that teaches us that there is a way to view ourselves and the world so that death is understood as the norm and not as an aberration.  The nine-point death meditation from the Tibetan tradition is very useful for this.

iii. Everything I do, say, and think leaves a karmic imprint.

What makes everything so important is that whenever I act, whenever I do something, whenever I say something, or whenever I think something, it leaves a memory fragment in my consciousness—a karmic imprint. These imprints, sometimes referred to as “seeds,” (though that is not a particularly good metaphor) engrave themselves on our brain so that the next time I am in similar conditions, I do the same thing that I did before. (We do what we know; we can’t do something we don’t know.) Even if this “imprint” flagrantly contradicts reason and logic, my brain will inscribe it in a way that overrides my reason and logic and tells me to be consistent and do what I had done before. This gives dominance to our old karma and ignores the understanding that we can change our karma by interacting with it in the current moment. The past and the current then lead me to the future.

iv. Getting what I want, and getting rid of what I don’t want, will not make me happy.

When we get caught up in our self-importance—in our dreamlike thinking where we are the center of the universe and right about what we want and believe—our mind tells us that if we just get what we want, if we are just able to get rid of the things we don’t like and want, we will be happy.  But it doesn’t actually work that way. In fact, getting what we want just makes us want more, and makes us live a life of neediness. The karmic imprint isn’t for satisfaction and comfort, but for more—which is greed, not contentment.

The delusion that always wanting and needing more will somehow make us happy leads to frustration and anger—and even rage sometimes—because we never actually become “happy.” That, ironically, reinforces the karmic imprint rather than changing it into a more workable model.

Consistent greed is the problem, not the answer.


See everything as a dream.

Regard all phenomena as dreams, not solid experiences.

When we sit quietly and meditate by watching our thoughts, rather than concentrating on our breath, we see that everything appears very solid and substantive, real and permanent. But when we look closely, we notice that, as vivid as our mind seems to make things, it really is not so. Nothing is solid and happening, not in the way we perceive it, not from its side. Everything is, in fact, illusion not reality.

Although we might think everything is very solid, they are just passing illusions in our mind. All that arises in our minds is not as it appears. The experience may seem extremely vivid and autonomous, but it is just a concoction of our mind. Realizing this, we work to see everything as a dream. In fact, it is hard to differentiate a dream from a physical reality as both occur in our minds, and both appear as “real” which they are not.

Also, everything is always passing away. As soon as something appears, in that same moment, it disappears. Things certainly do appear to be here, but as we look more closely, it is less certain. The me that is here now may seem solid and substantive, but isn’t it really different from the me that was here ten years ago, or ten months ago, or ten weeks ago, or ten days ago, or ten hours ago, or ten minutes ago or ten second ago, or ten moments ago, or even the me of an instant ago? We think of ourselves as a permanent entity with changing characteristics. Really. Really? That makes no sense, does it?

The closer you look, the harder it seems to get to actually see what is happening. The closer we look, the more dreamlike it is.

When we think about it, the world and us in it are more dreamlike than permanent. When we see things in this context, as an illusion, things become less concrete, we tend to attach less, and our suffering lightens. If we realize then that what we are seeing is more dream than reality, then we experience an easing of our discomfort with things. We become less judgmental and we lighten up in the face of difficulties, no matter how big or tough they may seem.

Practicing with Slogan Two: In addition to practicing with a slogan as explained above, try this: As people, places, things, thoughts, emotions, experiences “arise” and “cease,” see if you can notice the point when you appropriate them. This is the point at which you identify with them, making them and you solid and apparently permanent. Notice the “ceasing” part too, how you let go of something as solid, autonomous: “there.”


See Everything As Dreamlike: Dreamlike like this:


  1. When I drive to class, my mind tells me I am on the road to my class. And that dreamlike assignment of false definition makes it seem like it is “my” road to “my” class. More specifically, the 50 feet between my car’s front bumper and the rear bumper of the car in front of me are my lane. Anyone who wants to use my lane, of course, needs permission. And I do get upset if they move into the lane without my prior consent–regardless of whether they responsibly signal and gently come into the lane or just cut in front of me. The tarmac and concrete aren’t tarmac and concrete, they are highway and curb illusorily moving past me as I take my road to my class.


  1. My mother. The reason that mother just goes on and on reminiscing about things I have no interest in is to annoy me. Or embarrass me. And she does it every time she comes over to my house. She’s not just talking out of nervousness, nor reminiscing because she’s lonely; she talking to annoy me. Really! Really.


Try spending time seeing the dreamlike quality of those perceptions. Examine what you are telling yourself about your mother and her behavior, allowing yourself to realize their dreamlike nature.


As the Indian mystic, Osho, suggests:


Start contemplating in this way: if you are walking on the street, contemplate that people passing by are all dreams. The shops and the shopkeepers and the customers and the people coming and going, all are dreams. The houses, the buses, the train, the airplane, all are dreams. You will be immediately surprised by something of tremendous import happening within you. The moment you think “All are dreams” suddenly, like a flash, one thing comes into your vision: “I am a dream too.” Because if the seen is a dream, then who is this ‘I’? If the object is a dream, then the subject is also a dream. If the object is false, how can the subject be the truth? Impossible.

If you watch everything as a dream, suddenly you will find something slipping out of your being: the idea of the ego. This is the only way to drop the ego, and the simplest. Just try it — meditate this way. Meditating this way again and again, one day the miracle happens: you look in, and the ego is not found there.

All that’s left when you look in and there’s no one to be found is the patient, compassion, generous, wise you filled with the joy of the present moment, wholly without suffering.


Abandon blame; drive all blames into one.

Only Blame Yourself. Good or bad, right or wrong, problem or not, difficulty or not – you’re to blame. Seems counterintuitive, but it’s not.

We know from meditation and everyday experience that people, places, events and things are empty of any permanent definition, value, function, and meaning until we assign those false attributes, those fictional characteristics, to them. Therefore, if something seems uncomfortable or difficult or anger provoking, there is only one person to blame for the discomfort, difficulty, or anger–oneself. Our suffering is never anyone else’s fault. This means you and you alone are totally responsible for what happens in your life, both physically and emotionally. This is certainly counterintuitive; our habit of complaining and whining and finding fault outside ourselves is very strong. Far stronger than the alternative, to be present with what is happening, with an open heart and mind, free of judgment, and trusting in ourselves that, if we look honestly and clearly, we will do right.

Consider this in terms of the two previous slogans: everything we do leaves a karmic imprint, and everything is like a dream.

Blame everything bad that happens to us, from tragedy to ingrown toenails, on one thing alone: self-centeredness. This is a very powerful antidote to a natural tendency. When we experience misfortune, we almost invariably look outward and say, “Who did this to me?” But we should look inward and realize, “I did and am doing this to me.”

This is a great practice for ending suffering, ours and everyone else’s.

Faulting and blaming others is, as we all know, easy and convenient. But it is also seriously flawed as a way of life, and ultimately counterproductive. It keeps us off the path, not on it!

When things in our society aren’t the way we think they should be, our first line of “reason” is to determine who is responsible, who is to blame. With little or no evidence to support us, we simply blame or accuse another person or group for what we feel is wrong. At times it is the person or group who is accusing us of exactly the same wrong-doing, but no matter. After all, we’re right. Take religious or nationalistic conflicts–both sides feel they are right and correct in blaming the other.

The flaw in this way of reasoning is the assumption that I am always right; it’s the flaw that assures me others are to blame. When we look closely, however, we observe that there is no right and wrong.

Similarly, when things in our personal lives aren’t the way we think they should be, the first thing we do is to look for someone to blame.

What makes this such a dangerous and maladaptive way of living is that it never works; blaming never solves the problem. Why? Because blaming others never gets at the cause. And the cause is never external–the cause of our suffering is always internal, always in the way we choose to narrate the event.

What mindfulness is suggesting is that, as we go about our lives the moment we sense fault or blame arising, we tell ourselves to come to a screeching halt. We look inward instead of outward and we notice that our suffering is coming, not from what others are doing or the external situation, but from how we have chosen to write the narrative about those people and conditions.


Two Renowned Tibetan Lamas on This Slogan

Chogyam Trungpa’s Commentary: Drive all blames into one means that all problems and the complications that exist around our practice, realization, and understanding are not somebody else’s fault. All the blame always starts with ourselves…. The intention of driving all blames into one is that otherwise you will not enter the bodhisattva path. Therefore, you do not want to lay any emotional, aggressive blame on anybody at all. So driving all blames into one begins with that attitude.

Jamgon Kongtrul’s Commentary: Whether you are physically ill, troubled in your mind, insulted by others, or bothered by enemies and disputes, in short, whatever annoyance, major and minor, comes up in your life or affairs, do not lay the blame on anything or anyone else, thinking that such-and-such caused this or that problem. Rather, you should consider: This mind grasps at a Self where there is no Self. From time without beginning until now, it has laid the blame where it isn’t.


Blame everything on one culprit.

When adversity strikes, trace it to its root, the one culprit. When somebody irritates you, when you become angry or disappointed, find the culprit. The mind does not get disturbed because of other people’s behavior. Frustration and unhappiness occur because self-centeredness makes us unable to bear other people’s behavior. Self-centeredness has us in its power and can make us very unhappy. When the Mind-Training says, “Blame everything on one culprit” the one culprit is self-centeredness. During the course of the day, identify moments of self-centeredness. Identifying self-centeredness in other people is easy but benefits no one. Only identifying our own self-centeredness brings about spiritual growth. It is my self-centeredness, not yours, that gives me grief.

Alan Wallace: Atisha encourages us to recognize self-centeredness, our dearly beloved malevolent enemy that harms us day after day and will do so forever until it is counteracted. This advice, central to Dharma, seems to run counter to some of our favorite modern therapeutic ideas about the route to happiness, such as “Embrace every aspect of yourself” and “Don’t judge or reject any part of yourself. Accept yourself wholly.” Shantideva’s advice is to check within your mind, recognize that some of the impulses that arise there are poison and need to be absolutely annihilated. Which approach should we choose?

From a modern psychological point of view, destroying the enemy of self-centeredness might appear to be a radical fragmentation of individuality. The notion that some mental processes, such as generosity, openness, cheerfulness, are acceptable, but others, the chief being the “great demon,” self-centeredness, are to be exterminated, seems the antithesis of the modern psychological viewpoint of self-acceptance and integration. However, the modern psychological theme of global self-acceptance and the Tibetan Buddhist warrior stance of complete annihilation of the enemy of self-centeredness may not be as different as they first appear.

The challenge here is to identify self-centeredness, but not to identify with it.

 In Buddhism, self-grasping is understood as a form of ignorance and self-centeredness is ignorance in action. When the root of self-grasping is severed by insight, then even when adversity strikes, self-grasping won’t afflict us. There is no target.


Always be grateful

Pema Chodron: Others will always show you exactly where you are stuck. They say or do something and you automatically get hooked into a familiar way of reacting—shutting down, speeding up, or getting all worked up. When you react in the habitual way, with anger, greed, and so forth, it gives you a chance to see your patterns and work with them honestly and compassionately. Without others provoking you, you remain ignorant of your painful habits and cannot train in transforming them into the path of awakening.

 Osho: If you can experience it — this is of tremendous importance — then start absorbing it. Don’t throw it away. It is such a valuable energy, don’t throw it away. Absorb it, drink it, accept it, welcome it, feel grateful to it. And say to yourself, “This time I’m not going to avoid it, this time I’m not going to reject it, this time I’m not going to throw it away. This time I will drink it and receive it like a guest. This time I will digest it.

 It may take a few days, or even more, for you to be able to digest it, but the day it happens, you have  stumbled upon a door which will take you really far far away. A new journey has started in your life, you are moving into a new kind of being — because immediately, the moment you accept the pain with no rejection anywhere, its energy and its quality changes. It is no longer pain. In fact one is simply surprised, one cannot believe it, it is so incredible. One cannot believe that suffering can be transformed into ecstasy, that pain can become joy.

Norman Fischer: You need others every single day, every single moment of your life. It is thanks to others and their presence and effort that you have the things you need to continue, and that you have friendship and love and meaning in your life. Without others you have nothing. Our dependence on others runs even deeper than this – we wouldn’t be here without our parents and their genes; we wouldn’t be writing if others had developed language for us. Without the myriad circumstances that provided us the opportunities for education, for speech, for knowledge, for work, we wouldn’t be here as we are. And without all the people in our life who we know and who know us and love us and create complications for us and infuriate us, we would have nothing to think about, we would be very bored. More than bored: without others our consciousness would be shattered by loneliness. …It is literally the case that we could not be without other people.


There’s only one point.

Pema Chodron: There is only one point. Understand this one point: Everything I believe about who I am is false. Learn this, understand this deeply, realize it. Then naturally and effortlessly you will settle into a life that is comfortable and at ease, at peace with everything internal and external.

All dharma agrees to one point. All Buddhist teachings (dharmas) are about lessening one’s self-absorption, one’s ego-clinging, one’s Self. This is what brings happiness to you and all beings.

Of the two witnesses, hold the principle one. The two witnesses of what you do are others and yourself. Of these two, you are the only one who really knows exactly what is going on. So work at seeing yourself with compassion, but without any self-deception.

Osho: The purpose of all dharma is contained in one point. That point is the ego. The ego is false. If you live according to the false ego, your whole life will remain false. If you live without the ego your whole life will have the flavor of reality, truth, and authenticity.

Think, meditate, practice. Enough for today.

Norman Fischer: There’s only one point, no matter how much we keep forgetting it: Don’t be so stuck on yourself. Open up! Mind training comes down to this. Keeping this slogan close at all times is a good tool for seeing how you are doing. Whenever you feel upset, unhappy, dissatisfied, in a snit, frozen, constricted, bound–check and see. Probably if you reflect deeply enough, you’ll come to the realization that the ultimate cause of this unpleasantness is that you are in one way or another stuck on yourself, favoring yourself and your own needs, desires, and viewpoint more than is necessary. Even recognizing this, and opening up just a little, relieves the pressure.

You can practice this slogan particularly when you are feeling tight and embattled. When you notice a sinking feeling inside, say to yourself: “There’s only one point: open up!” Take three conscious breaths. Don’t think something in particular is supposed to happen. This is training. It takes time. You just have to keep on repeating the process. So take those three breaths. Notice what happens, and whatever it is, go on.


Be joyful.

Joy is always present. We’re just so self-absorbed with our artificial relations to externals and what we want from them that we don’t see that presence is joyful.

Pema Chodron: Always maintain only a joyful mind. Constantly apply cheerfulness, if for no other reason than because you are on this spiritual path. Have a sense of gratitude to everything, even difficult emotions, because of their potential to wake you up. 

Unnamed Web Source: This slogan is referring to the state of mind that you have even though you know what problems are going on in your life and in the world at large. Even though there are problems which we can or cannot solve, this slogan asks that we maintain an awareness of our inner joy. It asks that we not take everything so seriously (especially ourselves)! We don’t need to make a big deal of everything; we can learn a better way. We can approach our perceived problems with a lightness; seeking solutions but not getting caught up in our dramas, our dreamlike imaginings, our stories.

Judy Lief: This is not referring to the “Ignorance is bliss” kind of joy. According to this slogan, we should not practice the dharma with gritted teeth, but with delight. We should appreciate our good fortune in having found a teaching that not only talks about uprooting suffering and its cause, but also shows us how to do so. We should have a little humor.

Trungpa Rinpoche: It is like taking a holiday trip: you are very inspired to wake up in the morning because you are expecting to have a tremendous experience. Exertion is like the minute before you wake up on a holiday trip: you have some sense of trusting that you are going to have a good time, but at the same time you have to put your effort into it.

The point of this slogan is continuously to maintain joyful satisfaction. That means that every mishap is good because it is encouragement for you to practice the dharma. Other people’s mishaps are good also: you should share them and bring them into yourself as the continuity of their practice or discipline. So you should include that also. It is very nice to feel that way, actually.

To start with, you maintain a sense of cheerfulness because you are on the path; you are actually doing something about yourself.In some sense the whole thing is ridiculously trippy. But if somebody doesn’t begin to provide some kind of harmony, we will not be able to develop sanity in this world at all. Somebody has to plant the seed so that sanity can happen on this earth.


Focus on process, not outcome.

Osho: The ego is result-oriented; the mind always hankers after results. The mind is never interested in the act itself, its interest is in the result. “What am I going to gain out of it?” The mind, the ego, are all result-oriented. Meditation happens only to those who are not result-oriented. And then there is no need to go anywhere. Deep down, say, “I give up.” These are clear-cut instructions given only to those who are ready to travel, to go on the pilgrimage into the unknown.


Abandon any hope of fruition.

Pema Chodron: Abandon all hope of fruition. You could also say, “Give up all hope” or “Give up” or just “Give.” The shorter the better.

One of the most powerful teachings of the Buddhist tradition is that as long as you are wishing for things to change, they never will. As long as you’re wanting yourself to get better, you won’t. As long as you have an orientation toward the future, you can never just relax into what you already have or already are.

One of the deepest habitual patterns that we have is to feel that now is not good enough.

One of the things that keeps us unhappy is this continual searching for more. For more pleasure, more security, for a little more comfort. And what we fail to observe is that more is never enough.

 Nowadays, people go to a lot of different places trying to find what they’re looking for. There are 12-step programs; someone told me that there is now a 24-step program; someday there will probably be a 108-step program. There are a lot of support groups and different therapies. Many people feel wounded and are looking for something to heal them. To me it seems that at the root of healing, at the root of feeling like a fully adult person, is the premise that you’re not going to try to make anything go away, that what you have is worth appreciating. But this is hard to swallow.


Don’t be so predictable.

This slogan asks that we have a look at our automatic reactions so that we can be mindful of what has simply become habitual. Habits are just that, they can be broken, modified, curbed.

We tend to go about our days on automatic pilot; when someone brings harm to us we react a certain way and perhaps hold a grudge for a long time out of habit; when someone praises us we react by feeling a certain way (some of us feel good, others not really); when encountering stress we react in predictable ways. When we aim to break these programmed ways of being, end these automatic responses, we are practicing mindfulness as taught with this slogan. By becoming less predictable and deciding how to react we begin to live in the present moment instead of allowing our past to dictate where we are or how we are in the world. It allows us to detach from the ego-centered mind and open our eyes to a new way of being–a way of freedom.

Judy Leif: When we work with mind training, we are interrupting our usual way of going about business. We find that many of our actions are programmed and extremely predictable and we notice that in other people as well.  This is why it is so easy to push each other’s buttons. It is why it is so easy to manipulate and to be manipulated.

If we do not make an effort to do otherwise, if we do not pay attention, then much of what we do will be in the form of predictable, automatic reactions. We can see this whole process as it is happening, although often we do not. We might recognize it in the sinking feeling of “Here I go again.” We might see it coming, but our reaction is so fast that we can’t stop ourselves.

This kind of predictability is fueled by the self-centered undercurrent of fascination with our own concerns and disinterest in others except to the extent that they either threaten or feed our own desires. When someone does us harm, we hang onto our grudge about that for a very long time. When a neighbor is chronically offensive, mentally and physically, we have such a strong gut feeling that we go into avoidance mode rather than being patient and compassionate. But when someone helps us, we take it for granted, and soon forget it.

We do not have to be predictable. If we cultivate awareness enough to step back a bit from simply reacting, we can insert a gap or a pause before being carried away. In that little gap there is the freedom to respond in a fresh way, less predetermined. When we respond from a more dispassionate perspective, and are not just caught in the game of defending or promoting our ego, it is as though a different world opens up. We begin to see how our limited focus has prevented us from developing a bigger vision of what is going on and how best to respond to it.                               

Pema Chodron: Do not hold a grudge against those whom you perceive as having done you wrong.

Don’t be consistent.

Osho: Have you heard anything like that – “Don’t be consistent”? When you hear it for the first time or read it for the first time, you will think that there has been some mistake, maybe a proofing mistake or something. Because your so-called teachers have been telling you just the opposite: “Don’t be inconsistent”, they say. “Be consistent.” It is here that Atisha is superb. He says: DON’T BE CONSISTENT!

Why? What is consistency? Consistency means living according to the past. With what will you be consistent? If you want to be consistent you can have only one reference, and that is the past. To be consistent means to live according to the past, and to live according to the past is not to live at all. To live according to the past is to be dead. Then your life will be just a repetition. To be consistent means that you have already decided that now there is no more to life, that you have already come to a full stop; you don’t allow life to have anything new to give you, you have closed your doors. The sun will rise, but you will not allow its rays to enter your room. And the flowers will bloom, but you will remain unaware of their fragrance. Moons will come and go, but you will remain stagnant.

Be open to the moment; alive and fresh and not seeking predictability. Allow conditions to arise without trying to know them in advance. Challenge your patterned responses.


Avoid malfeasance

 Osho: People are always finding scapegoats. Because they cannot answer the strong person, they take revenge on the weak.

The husband has been humiliated by the boss and he comes home and is angry at the wife for no reason at all. Or maybe he finds a reason; a reason can always be found, they are so simple to find. He will find a reason, and he will convince himself that he is angry because of this reason. The reality is that he is angry at his boss. But the boss is a powerful man: to say anything could be dangerous, he might lose his job.

Atisha is saying: please don’t shift things. Otherwise your whole life will be just shifting and shifting. Take the responsibility, take the risk. Respond to the situation, whatever the cost.


Don’t transfer the ox’s load to the cow.

Trungpa Rinpoche: The ox is capable of carrying heavy burdens; the cow is less capable of carrying heavy burdens. So the point of this slogan is that you do not transfer your heavy load to someone who is weaker than you. Transferring the ox’s load to the cow means not wanting to deal with anything on your own. You don’t want to take the responsibilities; you just pass them on to your subordinates or your friends or anybody you can just order about.

This is “passing the buck.” Doing that is a bad idea, since we are supposed to be cutting down chaos and creating less traffic in the samsaric world altogether. We are supposed to be cutting down on administrative problems and trying to sort things out. We could invite other people to be our helpers, but we cannot pass the buck to them. So don’t transfer the ox’s load to the cow.

Pema Chodron: When something comes along that you find unpleasant and don’t want to do, you pass it on to someone who works for you. You pass the burden to someone else. It’s like that Greek myth about Atlas. He was just walking along innocently and somebody said, “Oh, Atlas, would you mind for a moment just holding the earth?”

 We do that. When we don’t like something that has come our way, it doesn’t occur to us to actually work with that feeling, to somehow open up the situation and work in an honest, fearless way with what’s going on. Instead we just give our burden to somebody else and ask them to hold it. It’s called passing the buck. Don’t pass the buck.


There is only one intention

It is not at all clear from the commentaries and books on this slogan, what this one intention is.

  • The one intention is to have a sense of gentleness toward others and a willingness to be helpful to others – always. That’s according to Trungpa Rinpoche.
  • This one intention is to the heart. All activities should be done with the intention of communicating; in this process we also learn how to listen and how to look. That’s according to Pema Chodron.
  • All should be turned toward one action – the development of the awakening mind. That’s according to Brian Beresford.
  • We should try to think altruistically, transforming what we have into benefit for others. For example, when we receive good clothes, let us think, “May everyone have good clothes like these. That’s according to Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.
  • The idea is to replace our unspoken intention based on fear and the need to prop up the ego with an intention of benevolence. That’s according to Judy Lief.

Another similar translation of the slogan is “All activities should be done with one intention.”

This alternative translation asserts that all our daily activities be conditioned by a right intention.

It is not about just having this right intention, or even having right view, which is a condition that allows right intention to arise, but it is about realizing the need to practice this one intention energetically, enthusiastically, and diligently.

This is, after all, the path to emptiness, the Middle Way. It suggests we monitor every action of body, speech, and mind—every thought we have, sentence we utter, everything we do—to see if it’s driven by a right intention. By right intention we mean the intention to realize the two truths (https://www.deepdharma.org/beliefs/two-truths/), to realize emptiness.

In final analysis, it seems to us at DeepDharma that it is all about intention and there is only one intention that can guide us to freedom from suffering: the intention to be alert, mindful and aware, to be fully present in each moment: patient, compassionate, and generous; open, curious, and accepting.

We do this by monitoring our understandings and actions to ensure they are right intentioned. If we see they are not, we stop what we are doing or, if already done, we make a mental note to shift intentions next time we are in a similar situation by allowing ourselves to feel a very gentle sense of regret and to let it guide us back to the one right intention.


There’s only one remedy. Correct all wrongs with one intention

Trungpa Rinpoche: When you are in the midst of perverse circumstances such as intense sickness, a bad reputation, court cases, increase of kleshas (mental states that result in unwholesome action), or resistance to practice, you should develop compassion for all sentient beings who also suffer like this, and you should aspire to take on their suffering yourself through the practice of lojong.

To correct all wrongs means to stamp on the kleshas. Whenever you don’t want to practice – stamp on that, and then practice. Whenever any bad circumstance comes up that might put you off–stamp on it. In this slogan you are deliberately, immediately, and very abruptly suppressing the kleshas.

Jamgon Kongtrul : Analysis itself is used to correct mistakes in analysis. If, when you are meditating on mind training, adverse conditions develop, people criticize and insult you, demons, devils, enemies, and disputes trouble you, your disturbing emotions become stronger, or you have no desire to meditate, think:

“In the whole universe, there are many sentient beings that have problems like mine; my compassion goes out to all of them,”


 “In addition to this unwanted situation, may all the unwanted circumstances and suffering of all sentient beings be assuaged here”


Whether things seem good or bad, difficult, or easy, be patient.

Patience is not wishing things to be other than what they are.

 Anger is the complete opposite of patience. Patience cannot be in our mind when anger is present. Anger is the mind that wishes to harm another being — that is its function — whereas patience is an altruistic intention to be of benefit. Patience is being present, mindfully so, not wishing things to be other than what they are. Patience considers the well-being of others, and so wishing even the slightest harm is impossible. Therefore, patience is vital to develop.

Consider Verses One and Two of Chapter Six of Shantideva’s The Way of the Bodhisattva:

(1) One moment’s anger shatters all

Good acts accumulated

In a thousand eons, such as the giving

Of offerings to the Buddhas

(2) There is no misdeed like anger

No austerity like patience,

So cultivate assiduously

Patience in its various ways.


Our most urgent practice, therefore, is patience!


Patience involves learning to be present and upright with all our experiences, whether we have an affinity or an aversion for them, without turning toward or away from them. It is our capacity to accept how things really are, and it is necessary for developing the capacity to accept relative truth and to realize ultimate truth.

Patience is the capacity to open to the ultimate truth of emptiness.

Being patient means welcoming wholeheartedly whatever arises, having given up the idea that things should be other than what they are. It means being present, without our stories blinding us to what might really be happening. It is a mindstate that is open, curious, and accepting. It is being present without characterizations that leave us in delusion.

Patience is the antonym to anger.

When patience is present in our mind it is impossible for anger to gain a foothold. If we are patient, we are other-centered, so self-centered anger is impossible.

It is always possible to be patient; there is no situation so bad
that it cannot be accepted patiently.



Pay attention to the three difficulties

The first difficulty is that obstacles arise too quickly for us to catch. It is hard to slow down enough to recognize the first instant when an obscuration or emotion arises. There are, of course, endless varieties, but the traditional list of such upsetting conditions, or kleshas, include the obvious: greed, anger and delusion, as well as conflicting emotions that arise from the assert of “I,” primitive beliefs in the permanence of the impermanent, what one has learned (wrongs views, wrong intention, wrong speech, desire for a permanent self, envy and jealousy, pride and arrogance and flattery, deceit, and so on. Usually, by the time we recognize that we have been captured and confused by one of these, it is too late to easy shift direction. So the first training is to try to be practice being quick on the draw, and to recognize them as soon as they arise.

The second difficulty is that once unwholesome mindstates have moved in on us, it can be hard to know what to do about them. Kleshas are difficult to overcome. So the second training is to learn to overcome them with antidotes once they appear. Examples are patience when anger arises, generosity when greed arises, and deep inquiry and intellectual scrutiny when doubt arises.

The third difficulty is that these klesas keep coming back: it is hard to cut them out. So the third training is to stop buying into them, to stop seeing them as meaningful and real rather than illusions and fictions, to stop being attached to them and inviting them back.


Train wholeheartedly.

Train wholeheartedly is about making a commitment to practice with a deep and diligent commitment, in everything we do, with body, speech, and mind, every day.

The key to a wholehearted practice is unmitigated patience.

It means you don’t push back against or avoid feelings or experiences that seem difficult, that make you uncomfortable, or even those people, places, things, etc., for which you have an affinity.

Training wholehearted is being mindful, mindful of phenomena for which we have affinities as well as phenomena for which we have aversions.


Training wholeheartedly is not a chore, not something we feel is inconvenient. It is not something we do half-heartedly. Meditation isn’t a chore. It’s something to put your whole being into. Being wholehearted means dissolving the Self, the ego, and allowing yourself to be changed, moved, and transformed by what you encounter, whether positive or negative.

Anything and everything that happens in your life can be used in your meditation practice. Carl was rear-ended on the highway by a woman who said, “I’m sorry, I got distracted.” Instead of getting angry, he reminded himself to be patient. So we can even use $6000 worth of damage to one’s car beneficially.

No matter what you’re feeling, you can open your mind to it and allow it to slowly transform you into a being whose character traits are patience, compassion, and generosity—the traits that lead us to liberation.


Don’t be swayed by externals.

This slogan is advising us, as Nagarjuna does so often, to meditate no matter what’s going on in our life. Whether circumstances are favorable or not, we practice anyway. Diligence will bring a calm sense of joy when we do it consistently, without regard for externals

We can’t control reality. You can only control your reaction to it. So meditation and Right Action should always be guiding us, again, regardless of weather or outside noise, or whatever.

You can choose to pay attention to whatever is happening with mindfulness and a willingness to be present, not distracted by externals. You don’t have to wait for your life to be perfect before you start to practice, and there’s no need to use difficult circumstances as an excuse to avoid it. You can practice virtually anywhere, anytime.


Know your mind; don’t misinterpret.

There are six teachings that we need to be careful to be mindful of and not to misinterpret: patience, yearning, excitement, compassion, priorities, and joy. The misinterpretations are:

  1. You’re patient when it means you’ll get your way but not when your practice brings up challenges.
  2. You yearn for worldly things but not for a mindful life.
  3. You get excited about wealth and self-indulgent entertainment but not about your potential for peacefulness.
  4. You have patience, compassion, and generosity for those you like and admire but not for those you don’t.
  5. Worldly gain is your priority rather than cultivating patience, compassion, generosity, openness, curiosity, and acceptance.
  6. You feel joy when your enemies suffer, but you do not rejoice in others’ good fortune.

Practice noticing these and avoiding them with diligence!


Don’t be frivolous.

This means focusing on the things that really matter: patience, compassion, generosity; openness, curiosity, and acceptance; right view and right intention; and the precepts and paramitas, for example. This doesn’t mean we will be serious to the exclusion of enjoying ourselves. It just means we will be diligent about our practice.

This slogan is asking you to look more deeply at how you spend your time and the kinds of things you care about. When you’re being frivolous nothing really touches you deeply, especially the qualities that keep you on the path to freedom.

Real joy is a spontaneous expression of a serious, diligent practice.

These days, many of us spend far too much time wasting time. Cliche as it may be, we check social media incessantly or binge watch violent shows. We fill time with trivial activities.

When we’re not doing this, we often express frivolity in what we’re doing. When we are frivolous, we feel the need to judge and/or comment on every little thing. We don’t have to do this. We could just refuse to be part of the petty drama, whether it’s on Twitter or in our own family group chat.

“Don’t be frivolous” isn’t meant to be a call to be dour, though. There’s a distinction between frivolity and actual fun. Frivolity has this escapist, greedy quality to it, in a way that is unhealthy. The answer isn’t to take everything absolutely seriously all the time. It’s to take your life seriously, enough so that you also find joy in your practice.

Frivolity comes across as light-hearted and innocent, but it is not. It is a practice that derails us from the path to liberation, wherein lie profound joy and happiness.

This slogan also reminds us not to waste our precious time, for we never know how long we have (while death is certain, its time is uncertain).


Don’t expect applause.

If our motivation for practice is accolades or fame, or thanks or applause, then our intention is shallow and greedy and our practice will not lead us along the path to liberation. For example, when we leave a tip, we should not wait until the server is watching before do so; when we let a car cut in front of us on the highway, we should not feel slighted when the driver in front of us doesn’t wave his hand as a thank you gesture.

“Don’t expect applause” is about not expecting acknowledgment for the things we do. Not expecting applause encourages us not to attach to outcomes, nor applause, which would make it difficult to stay on the path. It teaches us not to seek or expect approval. Mostly, it teaches us to be humble in a deep and profound way and not expect or seek recognition or gratitude for our deeds.