If you want to circumvent my ramble and cut to the chase, Pema Chodron's version of the First Slogan of the Lojong Teachings is in large print below.
than ourselves but from realizing our kinship with all beings."
"Lojong: How to Awaken Your Heart", Shambala Sun On-line
"THIS BOOK IS ABOUT AWAKENING THE HEART."
Although I had certainly experienced a number of "heart openings" over the years, both on and off the zafu, I poured through Start Where You Are to discover a new approach to the Practice, a new way to examine the nature of heart and mind, and --more importantly -- a systematic method to approach the deep conditioning that separates us from one another and our own True Nature.
As well as offering forth guidance on two forms of sitting meditation, Shamatha-Vipashyana and Tonglen, the 59 slogans of the Lojong Teachings offer a means to approach our lives in a way that cultivates kindness, clarity and compassion. Organized as 7 main points, I think that anyone who explores them and takes them to heart is in for a very interesting, perhaps sometimes heartrending, but profoundly heartwarming, adventure toward the One Love we share.
Slogan 1: First, Train in the Preliminaries.
Interestingly, in Start Where You Are, Pema doesn't refer to the traditional "Four Reminders" that are considered to be the "preliminaries" in this Tibetan tradition. Instead she refers to the basic Shamatha-Vipashyana meditation practice as the fundamental foundation of the Lojong, the quality of consciousness involved as both the means and ends of Practice. (Fair enough, although I have a dear friend who doesn't Sit that has still found great value in Pema's Lojong teachings.)
In other works though, Pema does offer forth her understanding of the Four Reminders. Here's her version of the elements of Slogan 1:
"In your daily life, try to:
1) Maintain an awareness of the preciousness of human life.
2) Be aware of the reality that life ends; death comes for everyone.
3) Recall that whatever you do, whether virtuous or not, has a result; what goes around comes around.
4) Contemplate that as long as you are too focused on self-importance and too caught up in thinking about how you are good or bad, you will suffer. Obsessing about getting what you want and avoiding what you don't want does not result in happiness. "
In Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings of the Practice of Lojong, Zen Teacher Norman Fischer entitles his chapter on the first slogan, "Resolve to Begin". If we actually do take these four reminders to heart a commitment to the work to be done can become pretty obvious.
Along with the Bodhisattva Vow, I think this is Mahayana Buddhism in a nutshell. With these Reminders, we are called to step up to the plate and squarely face the reality that the absolute Preciousness of this Human Life Dances across the Abyss of our Inevitable Demise. We are also called to consider that Karma is actually the way it works, and to see for ourselves that undo self-importance, and continually obsessing on trying to control things to our advantage hasn't really made us happy.
If more of us would try this out, we might even survive as a species on this old suffering planet.
I can't think of anything better to do. How about you?
Originally Published, April 9, 2014