Notes on the Seven Points

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English | བོད་ཡིག

Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö

Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö

Notes on the Seven Points of Mind Training

by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö

The guru Dharmarakṣita held the view of the śrāvaka Vaibhāṣika school. As scriptural authority he cited the Garland of the Three Clubs[1] and for logical reasoning he relied upon the Sūtra of Expansive View[2] and the Jātaka Tales.

Maitrīyogi was the junior Kusalī brother. His view was that of non-abiding. As scriptural authority he cited the [Questions of] Ākāśagarbha and for logical reasoning he relied upon Introduction to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life (Bodhicaryāvatāra) and Compendium of Training (Śikṣāsamuccaya).

Serlingpa held the view that self-grasping is not to be relinquished but taken as the logical basis of the practice. His conduct was like that of the non-Buddhists (tīrthika). As scriptural authority he cited the Questions of Vimalakīrti.[3] and for reasoning he relied on the Levels of the Bodhisattvas.[4] This instruction derives from Maitreya. As stated in the Sūtra of Vimalakīrti: "The view of the perishable collection is the heritage of the buddhas." For Serlingpa, the equalizing of self and other must come first, followed by the meditation on exchange. This was said by Chenga Rinpoche.[5] Dromtön Rinpoche said that Serlingpa would practise the exchange from the very beginning.

The text of the Seven Points says to "train in viewing all things and events as dreamlike" and "examine the nature of unborn awareness". This shows the unreality of grasping subject and grasped objects. "Let even the antidote be freed in its own place" shows the unreality of all phenomena. "Rest in the ālaya, the essence" refers to the clear light of the main practice, untainted by thoughts of subject or object.

"Between sessions, be a conjurer of illusions" means that you should not depart from the practice of meditative equipoise during post-meditation but train in recognising how things are unreal and dream-like.

The verse beginning "Through practising like this..." shows the benefit.[6]

For the cultivation of relative bodhicitta, the text says: "Train in the two—giving and taking—alternately." This shows how to begin with loving kindness and compassion. "These two are to be mounted on the breath" explains the actual method of training.

Then "Three objects, three poisons and three sources of virtue" shows how to take the objects of experience onto the path. The lines "In all activities, train by applying slogans" and "When all the world is filled with evil, transform adversity into the path of enlightenment" show how to transform adversity into an ally.

"Meditate on the great kindness of all" shows that we must recognise the great kindness of beings and cherish them as dear. This is also known as 'the instruction of taking flesh and taking blood.'

The four lines beginning, "Three views..." demonstrate how to transform adversity through ultimate bodhicitta.[7]

"Without suffering, there is no renunciation. Disenchantment drives away arrogance. Develop compassion for those in saṃsāra."[8] This shows that one must first develop renunciation, then meditate on the great kindness of beings and cultivate compassion.

"The fourfold practice is the best of methods" points out how to train in bodhicitta through accumulation and purification. The four practices are: 1) accumulating merit; 2) purifying misdeeds; 3) offering to harmful influences, which means offering torma to harm-doers; and 4) offering to dharma-protectors.

"The essence of the instruction, briefly stated, is to apply yourself to the five strengths" shows how to apply the practice throughout one's whole life. The five strengths are those of: 1) impetus; 2) familiarization; 3) wholesome seeds; 4) revulsion and 5) aspiration.

"The same five strengths. Conduct is important." These lines reveal the instruction for transference at the moment of death. Conduct here means blocking the right nostril and lying down on one's right side when dying.

"All teachings share a single purpose" refers to the measure of mind training.

"Of the two witnesses, rely upon the principal one" highlights two possible witnesses—oneself and others—who might disapprove.

"Always maintain only a joyful attitude" means that no matter what unwanted circumstances arise, if you can see them as allies that is a measure of your mental mastery.

"If this can be done even when distracted, you are proficient" refers to another measure of mind training, which may be illustrated through the example of a skilled horse-rider.[9]

"Train constantly in three basic principles" means to avoid 1) transgressing commitments, 2) being reckless and 3) falling into partiality.

"Change your attitude, but remain natural" means maintaining ordinary conduct while never parting from the yoga of exchanging oneself for others.

"Don’t speak of injured limbs" means to avoid [speaking of] faults.[10]

"Abandon any expectations of results" means to give up hope concerning karmic ripening.

"Give up poisonous food" means to abandon clinging to things as real.

"Don’t lash out in retaliation" means avoiding harsh words.

"Don't lie in ambush" means to give up malice.

"Don’t transfer the ox’s burden to the cow" means giving up spite.

"Don’t be competitive" means to avoid stratagems for procuring desirable objects for oneself.

"Don’t misperform the rites" means to abandon practising mind training in any way that does not eliminate selfishness.

"Don’t reduce gods to demons" means to avoid ridiculing or belittling others. There are two senses to the example.[11]

"Don’t seek others’ misery as crutches of your own happiness" means to avoid taking delight in others' misery out of desire for one's own happiness.

"Do everything with a single intention" shows how mind training is sufficient by itself alone.

"Counter all adversity with a single remedy" means that if you no longer have enthusiasm for train the mind your meditation may go astray, so you must apply yourself conscientiously.

"Two tasks: one at the beginning and one at the end" means that first thing in the morning you should vow to remember the guru's instructions and establish your motivation untainted by self-grasping. Then in the evening you should review the day by thinking "I did this...then I did that..." and so on. If you find that you have transgressed the training, confess; if you did not, cultivate joy and recite verses of dedication and aspiration.

"Whichever of the two occurs, be patient" means that whether you find yourself promoted or demoted in rank, made joyful or sorrowful, you should avoid becoming arrogant or despondent.

"Keep the two, even at your life’s expense" means that you should not impair either the commitments of the teachings in general or the commitments of mind training in particular.

"Train in the three difficulties" refers to overcoming the mental afflictions. It can be difficult to remember the antidote, difficult to confront the afflictions, and difficult to cut their momentum. But we must learn to accomplish these without difficulty.

"Acquire the three main provisions" means to take to heart the guru's instructions, to feel intense disenchantment, and to amass favourable circumstances and facilities.

"Cultivate the three that must not decline" means training in the three undeclinable factors: faith and devotion, enthusiasm and conscientiousness.

"Keep the three inseparable" means that body, speech and mind must be constantly devoted to virtuous practice.

"Meditate constantly on those who’ve been set apart" means to train with a special focus on those who are in close proximity and those who seem unpleasant, as if they were pieces of your very own heart. It also means to train with special focus on those powerful objects in regard to whom karmic effects are inconceivably consequential.

"Don’t be dependent on external conditions"[12] means that if you should fail to secure favourable conditions that failure is itself a reason to practise this instruction.

"This time, practise what’s most important" refers to the important accomplishment of what is beneficial for future lives; the important practice of training in bodhicitta; the important instructions of the guru; and the important place to stay, which is on one's seat.

"Don’t misunderstand" means to avoid misplaced patience, intention, relish, compassion, pursuit and joy.

"Don’t be inconsistent" means to avoid occasionally practising mantra recitation and occasionally training the mind. As long as mind training remains incomplete practise it with determined resolve.

"Gain freedom through discernment and analysis" means to train assiduously in overcoming mental afflictions by employing methods that take into account both the past and the future.

"Don’t be boastful" [13] means to avoid boastful posturing and arrogance.

"Don’t be irritable" means that one should not retaliate.

"Don’t be temperamental" means to avoid fickleness of expression based on an inconstant temperament.[14]

"Don’t seek acknowledgement" means to give up desire for fame and renown, as expressed in words of gratitude and the like.

"The five prevalent signs of degeneration are transformed into the path of awakening" shows the benefits.

The four lines that begin "When karmic seeds left over from former trainings were aroused...etc." show the difficulties that the author endured in putting this into practice.

| Translated by Adam Pearcey 2020, with the generous support of the Khyentse Foundation and Terton Sogyal Trust.


Tibetan Edition

'Jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros. "Blo sbyong don bdun ma'i zin bris" in 'Jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros kyi gsung 'bum. TBRC W1KG12986. vol. 9: 401–407. Bir, H.P.: Khyentse Labrang, 2012.

Secondary Sources

Ga Rabjampa. To Dispel the Misery of the World: Whispered Teachings of the Bodhisattvas. trans. Rigpa Translations. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2012.

Gyalse Tokme Zangpo. Commentary on the Seven Points of Mind Training. trans. Adam Pearcey. Lotsawa House, 2018.

Thupten Jinpa. Mind Training: The Great Collection. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2006.

  1. Reading g.yug pa as dbyug pa.  ↩

  2. lta yangs kyi mdo. This is likely an error. Other sources mention Aśvaghoṣa's Ornament of Sūtras here. See Thupten Jinpa 2006: 88.  ↩

  3. Reading grang as grags.  ↩

  4. The Tibetan here omits the term for level/bhūmi (sa). The translation follows Thupten Jinpa 2006: 88.  ↩

  5. Note that Sé Chibu Chökyi Gyaltsen's text, which appears to be Jamyang Khyentse's source, includes the same statement by Chenga Rinpoche but attributes this view to Maitrīyogi rather than Serlingpa. See Jinpa 2006:89.  ↩

  6. This appears to be a reference to the following four-line verse: de ltar sgrub pa thams cad kyang/ /dngos 'dzin zhen pas ma bslad par/ /mkha' bzhin stong pa chen po byer/ /'chi med bde chen ngang du 'gro// which might be translated as: By practising like this, in all these ways,/ Untainted by attachment or grasping at things as real,/ Everything disperses into vast, space-like emptiness/ And one is brought to a state of great bliss beyond death. See also Jinpa 2006: 93  ↩

  7. The first two of the four lines referred to here are not included in most editions of the Seven Points. They are as follows: lta ba gsum dang nam mkha' mdzod/ rnal 'byor bsrung ba bla na med/ These might be translated as: Three views and the treasury of space—/ This yoga is the unsurpassed protection. See also Jinpa 2006: 106.  ↩

  8. As Thupten Jinpa points out, these slogans are not part of the Seven Points. Two of them are drawn from the Bodhicaryāvatāra and the source of the third is unknown. See Jinpa 2006: 109 and 593 n.220–222.  ↩

  9. Reading rtag pa rtsal chen as rta pa rtsal can.  ↩

  10. There appears to be a word or two missing in the Tibetan here.  ↩

  11. The precise meaning of this sentence is unclear. It could also be read as: There are two examples, each with their own significance.  ↩

  12. Reading skye ba gzhan dag as an error for rkyen gzhan dag. This correction is based not only on the other versions of the Seven Points but also on the explanation that follows.  ↩

  13. Reading snon pa as rngom pa.  ↩

  14. Reading rnal 'byor as rnam 'gyur.  ↩

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