This article serves as an introduction to the teachings on the seven contemplations, an ancient system of mind-training (lojong) teachings that has been preserved as part of a rare set of instructions on Dzogchen Nyingma to train the mind.

Lojong (Tibetan: བློ་སྦྱོང་) is a contemplative practice in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, which makes use of various lists of aphorisms or slogans used for contemplative practice.

Generally speaking, you should practice these seven mind trainings at all times and places. More specifically, when you receive the instructions or other such teachings, you should practice them for twenty-one, fourteen, or seven days at the very least.

The Great Master of Oddiyana taught: “This isn’t just a matter of words. You have to practice … [the seven mind trainings]. If you don’t, it will be just as though you are plagued by hunger and thirst yet do not partake of the food and drink you have in your hands. Simply knowing that the food and drink will help you won’t do a thing. It’s clear that you need to actually eat and drink!”

What is Dzogchen in Nyingma?

Dzogchen is primarily taught in the Nyingma and Bön traditions in Tibet and was later adopted into various Kagyu schools and the Gelug school as well.

In the Nyingma classification system of the nine vehicles of the mind, it is known as atiyoga, which is the highest of the six tantra vehicles.

Dzogchen can be translated from Tibetan as ‘Great Perfection.’ The goal of Dzogchen is to attain rigpa, which means ‘awareness’ and ‘the innermost nature of the mind,’ and integrate it into everyday life.

Dzogchen offers us the opportunity to become fully enlightened buddhas and also helps us realize that we already are buddhas, as pristine awareness is the fundamental nature of ourselves and the world, simply waiting to be rediscovered.

To begin practicing Dzogchen, you need to study the outer preliminaries: read and contemplate the preciousness of human life, impermanence, the sufferings of samsara, karmic cause and effect (ethics), the benefits of liberation (renunciation), and establish a healthy relationship with a qualified spiritual teacher.

The second stage involves the inner preliminaries, which include taking refuge (seeking safe direction), prostration, generating bodhichitta based on love and compassion, Vajrasattva purification, offering mandalas, chod offering of one’s body, and guru-yoga.

Impermanence
First mind training

“According to Buddhist teachings, every being is a composite of mind and body. Our mind is who we are. Our body is a precious but temporary abode where our mind lives and functions as long as we are alive. As soon as we die, our mind, or consciousness, leaves our body and takes rebirth. Whether this rebirth is happy or painful depends solely on whether the effects of our past karmic deeds are positive or negative. The important point is that if we train our mind on the path of profound teachings, such as Dzogchen, our mind will become free from emotional flames and karmic bondage and will awaken to its innate wisdom”.

-Steps to the Great Perfection: The Mind-Training Tradition of the Dzogchen Masters by
Jigme Lingpa.

The first of the 7 mind trainings of Dzogchen is impermanence. By impermanence, we mean the constantly changing nature of things. Every single compounded entity around us is in a state of continuous change.

When we finally realize that everything is impermanent, our mental attachments, expectations, and aversions fade away.

The four seasons come and go. Day and night come and go as well, changing moment by moment. Unit body is changing day by day. You will die one day, as every signee one of us. On a secret level, your parents and loved ones are impermanent and will die. Don’t be scared. You have to embrace the constantly changing nature of things.

Everything is impermanent, it is. A good thing. You have the ability to change your life and life of others. Nothing is permanent.

The Buddha said, “Oh, Bhikshu, every moment you are born, decay, and die.” He meant that in every moment, the illusion of “me” renews itself. Not only is nothing carried over from one life to the next; nothing is carried over from one moment to the next. This is not to say that “we” do not exist–but that there is no permanent, unchanging “me,” but rather that we are redefined in every moment by shifting impermanent conditions. Suffering and dissatisfaction occur when we cling to the desire for an unchanging and permanent self that is impossible and illusory. And release from that suffering requires no longer clinging to the illusion.

Karma
Second Mind Training

“Therefore we can be our own perfect guide. There is no external thief of our happiness. Unhappiness and suffering are created by ourselves when we allow ignorance and the other delusions to influence our actions.”

The Four Noble Truths
Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Read full article about Karma – here

Suffering and Compassion
Third Mind Training

Read our article about Death here

People around the world are experiencing all kinds of suffering. To create an approximate subjective experience of the suffering they encounter, imagine feeling an intense craving for food, clothing, and material things.

If you see a person suffering cultivate an internal experience, as though you yourself are experiencing the suffering. Generate compassion towards that sentient being.

We spend our entire lives preoccupied solely with the eight worldly concerns (pleasure and pain, gain and loss, praise and blame, and fame and infamy). We think we need something in order to be happy. When you get one thing, you’ll need something else and something else.

Meditate until you feel sad and dejected. You feel as you want to save all the sentient beings from suffering.

Don’t feel sad only about human beings. Think about animals. How much suffering they encounter. Domesticated animals, such as horses, yaks, goats, sheep, cattle, and so forth, are all tortured by having an iron bit put in their mouths and being ridden long distances. Cows, chickens, and pigs being tortured and killed.

When you are experienced in meditation, just hearing (or seeing) the suffering of other sentient beings causes you to generate an intense feeling of compassion for all the sentient beings in situations similar to your own. This, coupled with the courage that you now have to give away your own happiness and take on the suffering of others, instantly purifies your negative karma.

Contemplate on the sufferings of the 6 realms of existence:

  • Hell – extreme hot or cold, the torment of your own intense anger and hate.
  • Hungry Ghost: Great craving and eternal starvation.
  • Human: Frustration, consumed by their desires.
  • Animals – ignorant complacency and dullness.
  • Demi-Gods – Fueled by ego and aggression, jealous or warring gods.
  • Gods: Pride

You should accumulate virtuous thoughts, even those that seem insignificant and pass your time doing only what is wholesome and virtuous. No matter how much virtuous karma you have, avoid becoming satisfied with yourself or trying to calculate how much you have. Do not stop doing good things.

“The day you die, all of the things that you have done in your present life will do you no good. This includes protecting your loved ones, thwarting your enemies, engaging in farm work, seeking to profit from business dealings, pursuing material gain and fame, getting caught up in attachment and aversion, benevolently counseling others, chasing after influence and a good reputation, making friends and enjoying material pleasures with your loved ones, and making a home for yourself. Indeed, everything that you have done in the past is now nothing more than a memory. Like last night’s dream, it won’t come again. What you experience today is like this evening’s dream, while all that you will do tomorrow will be like tomorrow night’s dream. What a waste to have spent your time on pointless pursuits: getting caught up in attachment and aversion, quarreling with others, hoping to hear pleasant things and not to hear anything unpleasant, pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain, accumulating and hoarding things, and so on.”

The Mind-Training Tradition of the Dzogchen Masters
Jigme Lingpa

The Guru
Fourth Mind Training

The essence of this mind training is that the only way you will be able to grasp the true Dharma is by serving a teacher, the root of the path.

The qualities of the Guru:
    1.  Guru’s mind should be thoroughly tamed by three higher trainings.
    2. Guru should be experienced and should have studied widely and without any partiality.
    3. Should have the quality of special superiority.
    4. Be aware of the underlying intent of the scriptures and present them in ways that disciples find pleasing, thereby leading them to the ultimate path.
    5. Unconcerned with wealth and honor.
    6. Should be loving and compassionate toward those who are less fortunate.
    7. Should not get tired of having to explain things repeatedly.
    8. Have the strength of character to tolerate ingratitude.
    9. Skilled in cutting through misconceptions.
The qualities of the student:
    1. Follow the guru’s instructions.
    2. See good qualities, instead of only examining faults.
    3. Diligent.
    4. Patient
    5. Respectful.
    6. No attachment.
    7. Concentration and an undistracted mind.
    8. Avoid treating the teacher as equal to the student.
    9. From the student’s perspective, the guru is superior even to the Buddha, since he or she is the one who has actually taught the student the instructions.
The behavior between the guru and the student:
      1. Do not walk in front of the guru.
      2. Do not walk behind the guru.
      3. Do not walk to the right of the guru.
      4. Do not step on the shadow of the guru’s head.
      5. Do not step on the guru’s pillow or seat.
      6. Do not measure the guru’s height.
      7. Do not take a higher place than the guru.
      8. If you have any food, first offer it to your guru.
      9. If you have any food, first offer it to your guru.
      10. Do not speak behind the back of the guru.

The teaching should not be given to anyone who lacks any of the qualities mentioned above.

How to meet a guru?

Contemplate. Meditate. Truly desire to find a guru. Purify your karma by engaging solely in virtuous actions.

At times, it is our own unfavorable karma and circumstances that hinder us from encountering seasoned teachers and becoming a suitable vessel to receive their teachings, much like the sun not illuminating a north-facing cave.

Obtaining a human existence and encountering an enlightened teacher is an exceedingly fortunate occurrence.

Meditation
The Fifth Mind Training

You’ll receive a wealth of information and instructions from teachers, lecturers, and the books you’ve read. However, without contemplating or meditating on this knowledge, you’ll gain no benefits.

To practice Dzogchen, guidance from an enlightened teacher is necessary. Afterward, you must meditate without distractions, laziness, or attachment.

Set up a proper motivation:

“I will meditate every day! I won’t fall prey to laziness and sloth for even a moment! I won’t procrastinate, concerning myself with food, future plans, hopes, or fears! I won’t let myself get lost in a state of apathy!”

The Method of Meditating:

To avoid distraction from sensory cognition, meditate in total darkness and total silence with three immovables:

  • Immovable body – with body straight, hands either in the meditation pose in our laps or lightly resting on the knees
  • Immovable senses – with eyes neither closed nor wide open, but gazing naturally in front
  • Immovable mind – not actively thinking, with no thoughts of the past or future, and with no analysis. We just rest in the present moment of awareness, fresh and uncontrived, without being self-conscious about what we are doing. In other words, even if a thought arises, we do not follow it out.

Start meditating on the Six Outer Preliminaries:

  • The freedoms and advantages of precious human rebirth
  • The truth of impermanence and death
  • The workings of karma
  • The suffering of living beings within samsara
  • Benefits of Liberation
  • Attending a Spiritual Master

If you are serious about practice, you might consider practicing Ngondro.

Dealing with negativity
The Sixth Mind Training

Engaging in negative actions leads to rebirth in lower realms. Negativity arises from our attachment, ignorance, and fixation on the five sense objects we disregard.

If we desire happiness but continue to commit harmful deeds, we will endure suffering and remain trapped in Samsara.

Past negativity can be purified through earnest confession and self-restraint.

You have to have a strong motivation to abandon negativity once and for all because it is a cause and source of the suffering of you and all the sentient beings.

Non-virtue or negativity is:

    1. Killing. Taking the life of any sentient being. Subdivided into three categories: the intention to kill; the act of killing; the results.
    2. Stealing. Taking objects that do not belong to you. Robbery.
    3. Sexual Misconduct. Sexual relationships with someone who is upholding the vow of celibacy. Someone who is married (or in a committed relationship), with a relative. Having sexual intercourse in front of the sacred object is not permitted.
    4. Lying. Telling something that is not true. Pretending that one has enlightened qualities, and fully understands Dharma (when one does not), fake gurus.
    5. Harsh words. Proclaim the person’s faults openly, saying harsh words in order to hurt another person.
    6. Divisive speech. A speech that causes people to dislike one another. Something that creates a division.
    7. Gossip.
    8. Wrong views. Believe in false doctrines
    9. I ll will/Hatred. Intense hatred, obsession with harming other sentient beings.
    10. Covetousness. The strong desire for another’s wealth and possessions.

Wisdom
The Seventh Mind Training

The best way to train the mind towards enlightenment is the path of concentration, developing non-duality (non-conceptuality) and emptiness.

Using this path one can develop profound control of the karmic energies movements.

Three meditation techniques will help you along the path.

THE NONCONCEPTUALITY OF BLISS-EMPTINESS

  1. Seven-point meditation posture.
  2. Visualize the central (blue) channel and the energy running up and down.
  3. Meditate on this channel.
  4. Visualize a white HAM syllable on the crown of your head.
  5. Visualize a red syllable AH at your navel.
  6. Imagine that the energy from the AH syllable at your navel, cause the HAM syllable to melt.
  7. Special nectar produces due to the melting of HAM, which flows down to four chakras and all the minor channels.
  8. Special nectar produces due to the melting of HAM, which flows down to four chakras and all the minor channels.
  9. Now visualize a white AH syllable at your heart center.
  10. Relax and rest in one-pointed meditation.
  11. Until you familiarize yourself with the process, meditate in short frequent sessions.

THE NONCONCEPTUALITY OF CLARITY-EMPTINESS

    1. Purify your breath.
    2. Inhale – imagine that all appearances melt into light and merge into clear blue space.
    3. The light fills your entire body.
    4. Press the upper energy down, and draw the low energy upward, so they join together in the middle.

THE NONCONCEPTUALITY OF REALITY ITSELF

    1. Relax your mind and body.
    2. Keep your gaze fixed.
    3. Visualize yourself as the yidam deity.
    4. Fill the navel area with central energy. (Slightly inhale and press the upper energy slightly down)

Lojong should only be practiced after receiving empowerment from your guru.