Sevenfold Mind Training

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Longchen Rabjam

Longchen Rabjam

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The Essential Instruction on the Preliminary, Sevenfold Mind Training

by Longchen Rabjam

With intense devotion of body, speech, and mind,
I pay homage to the guru, yidam, and hosts of ḍākinīs.
I shall now explain the sevenfold mind training,
The method for accessing the manifest essential meaning.

Here, in order for fortunate beginners to gain gradual access to the reality of manifest awareness, there are seven aspects of mind training taught in the Precious Copper Letters, which are practised in the following way.

1. Contemplation of Impermanence

Training the mind by reflecting on impermanence involves a consideration of the outer changes that occur with the passing of the months and seasons, and how nothing remains static for even a moment during the day or night; a consideration of the inner changes within the aggregates, which are composed of the four elements and do not endure but are rapidly disintegrating and insubstantial, like bubbles on water; and a consideration of the secret—the fact that parents, friends and relatives die, and we can’t be sure when this will befall us too. We have no guarantee that we will not die today or tomorrow.

Reflect sincerely and undistractedly: "Will I die tonight? Will I die tomorrow?" And whenever you see other beings consider that no one is beyond death. Meditate with the thought, "When will they die?"

The measure of proficiency is to realize how all conditioned things have the nature of impermanence. See them as examples of transience, and, as a result, curtail useless plans and speculations. The purpose of the meditation is to turn the mind away from saṃsāra.

2. Contemplation of Temporary and Lasting Happiness

Training the mind by reflecting on temporary happiness and lasting bliss involves the following. Consider how non-virtuous actions give rise to all the various forms of suffering and the lower realms, while virtues bring about all the various forms of happiness and the higher realms. Higher and lower states of saṃsāra alternate like the revolving rim of a water wheel. How terrible are the shifts of fortune and the inability to remain! Aside from the awakening of liberation, which is the best method to avoid involvement in saṃsāra, all is unreliable and deceptive.

When you set out on the path of liberation, you will experience the temporary happiness of the higher realms and gain positive qualities. In addition, just like the bodhisattvas, who are heirs to the victorious ones, you will attain the lasting happiness of unsurpassable awakening as the Buddhas do. Think to yourself, therefore, "I shall attain abundant happiness, temporary and ultimate."

The measure of proficiency here is thus to develop heartfelt understanding that unless you embark on the path of liberation, non-virtuous deeds will lead to the lower realms, whereas although virtues might lead to rebirth in the higher realms, this will be followed by a return to lower states, and everything you do will therefore become a cause of suffering. The purpose of the contemplation is to feel revulsion for the sufferings of saṃsāra and develop intense disenchantment.

3. Contemplating Manifold Conditions

Training the mind by reflecting on manifold conditions involves consideration of the following. Once we are born in saṃsāra, there is nothing we can fully trust or rely upon. Even if we help others we might be harmed in return. Eating and drinking may lead to illness or death. Accumulating possessions might serve only our enemies and robbers. Those we count as friends and from whom we expect assistance may become enemies who do us harm; or, even if they do not harm us directly, speak ill of or criticize us for no reason. No matter what we might do, we cannot please others. And there is no end to it all. How terrible!

If we think sincerely about the attitudes and actions of beings, we can see that even when we try to help them, we might please some but not others. No matter what we might think, there is nothing that is exclusively beneficial. Everything we do has the nature of suffering. Since these innumerable potential contributors to sickness and potentially lethal circumstances are not wholly beneficial, the only infallible objects of trust are the guru and Three Jewels. To have devotion for and make offerings to them will be a cause of happiness in this and future lives, and we must therefore turn our minds exclusively toward virtue. With this understanding, we should consider the positive and negative circumstances we have created in the past, those we are now creating, and those we will create in future. At the same time, we must feel disenchantment and curtail useless plans and speculations.

The measure of proficiency here is to feel compassion for sentient beings of the six classes, and understand how appropriate it is to make offerings to the Three Jewels and the guru. The purpose of the contemplation is that it is a preliminary to faith.

4. Contemplating the Futility of Ordinary Enterprises

Training the mind by reflecting on the futility of every ordinary enterprise involves consideration of the following. Our dealings of this life include protecting friends, overcoming enemies, cultivating fields, profiting from trade, pursuing influence, indulging in attachment and aversion, receiving others’ counsel, seeking influence and acclaim, as well as spending time with friends and relatives, or working to repair our homes, and so on. Nothing we gain in such ways will accompany us beyond the threshold of death, so it is all to no avail.

All that we have done up to now is no more than a memory, like last night’s dream. Our experiences today are like tonight’s dream, and everything we do from tomorrow onwards will be like tomorrow night’s dream. How misguided it is to have spent all our time caught up in all this pointless attachment and aversion, conflict, pursuit of pleasure and fame, avoidance of pain and disrepute, accumulation and hoarding, and the like. Worldly appearances are deceptive and illusory. From today, since we have not realized this, we must renounce them, and practise only the noble guru’s instructions.

The measure of proficiency here is not to trust any appearance but to think, "I must receive only the guru’s instructions!" The purpose of the contemplation is to engage with the guru’s instructions.

5. The Qualities of Buddhahood

Training the mind by reflecting on the qualities of buddhahood involves the following. Buddhahood is the transcendence of all the faults of saṃsāra, with a body that is ablaze with the signs and marks, speech that turns the Wheel of Dharma, and a mind that never wavers from primordial wisdom. It is to be a refuge and support, the only true leader and guide for all the beings of this world, including the devas. It is therefore something to be attained. There is no real benefit without buddhahood, but buddhahood will not be attained without cultivating the path, so we must do all that we can to meditate.

We must emulate the wonderful siddhas of the past and apply ourselves single-pointedly to the practice. Just as they underwent hardships and meditated in isolated retreat, we must also renounce the affairs of this life and practise by ourselves in solitude.

The measure of proficiency here is to develop the attitude that since you will not attain buddhahood without meditation practice, you must do all that you can to meditate. The purpose of the contemplation is to develop fortitude in meditation.

6. The Guru’s Instructions

Training the mind by reflecting on the guru’s instructions involves the following. The guru is the captain who can liberate us from the fathomless ocean of saṃsāra. The guru’s instructions are the great ship that provides the means of liberation. So we must practise in accordance with what the guru says. Otherwise, we will be tormented forever by the malady of suffering. The guru, sovereign healer, is immensely kind, and we must persevere in our application of the healing nectar, the instructions, day and night, and take them to heart.

The measure of proficiency here is to think, "What’s the use of the preoccupations of this life? I must practise only the guru’s instructions." Therefore, the purpose of this contemplation is to avoid participating mentally in other tasks and to apply oneself single-pointedly to the teachings.

7. Non-Conceptuality

Training the mind by contemplating non-conceptuality has the following three aspects:

Training the Mind in Non-Conceptual Bliss and Emptiness

Consider that nectar descends from the haṃ (ཧཾ) at the upper end of the central channel, which is heated by fire blazing from a () at the navel; it pervades the four main chakras and all subsidiary channels. This generates bliss-emptiness. Next, draw up the lower wind and push down the upper wind, focusing the mind on the white a () at the heart. Empty wisdom, which is brought about through the method of bliss, will thereby arise.

Training the Mind in Non-Conceptual Clarity and Emptiness

Expel the stale air three times. As you breathe in, visualize that all outer objects of perception, which have fused into light and merged with the blue sky, enter your body. They fill your body with shimmering light. Unite and hold the winds. Through this, clarity and emptiness will dawn.

A key point is that when cold predominates the wind should feel warm, whereas when heat is dominant it should feel cold.

Moreover, in summer the fire-wind circulates; in autumn, it is the wind-wind; in winter, the water-wind; and in spring, the earth-wind. There are ways of visualizing the winds to act as a remedy, in certain colours and with associated sensations, but this is merely elaboration. The space-wind is auspicious at all times and combines two forms of touch, so it is sufficient to practise only this.

Training the Mind in Non-Conceptual Dharmatā

Relax the body and mind. Meditate without moving the eyes, in a state free from the proliferation or consolidation of thoughts and ideas.

The measure of proficiency for each of these is the extent to which you can remain in a non-conceptual, sky-like state. The purpose of the contemplation is to increase bodhicitta further and further.

Through the virtue, pure as a snow-capped mountain,
Of having thus set out these seven mind-training instructions,
The key points of the most profound preliminary practices,
May all beings attain the state of perfect peace.

Since I have some residual connection from training in former lives,
In this life I have learned the points of the supreme essential vehicle,
So with a judicious wish to bring benefit to others,
I have clearly set out the profound explicit meaning.

Let fortunate ones keep this excellent point of access
To the essential meaning as an adornment for the crown.
The excellent chariot-way for seekers of liberation
Will be swiftly accomplished by means of this text.

This completes the Essential Instruction on the Preliminary, Sevenfold Mind Training, composed on the slopes of Gangri Thökar by Longchen Rabjam, a yogin of the supreme vehicle.

Since this is entrusted to the glorious protectress of mantra,[1] Za Rāhula, and the Oath-Bound One[2] should any corruption or emendation occur, inflict severe punishment! Conceal this from the unworthy! Transmit it to the fortunate! Sealed! Samaya! Samaya! Let it be virtuous! Virtuous! Virtuous!


| Translated by Adam Pearcey with the generous support of the Tsadra Foundation, 2024.


Bibliography

Tibetan Edition

klong chen rab 'byams pa dri med 'od zer. "sngon 'gro sems sbyong bdun gyi don khrid" In snying thig ya bzhi. 13 vols. Delhi: Sherab Gyaltsen Lama, 1975. Vol. 1: 323–332 (5 folios)

Secondary Sources

Jigme Lingpa. Steps to the Great Perfection: The Mind-Training Tradition of the Dzogchen Masters. Trans. Cortland Dahl. Boulder, CO: Snow Lion, 2018.

Klein, Anne Carolyn. Being Human and a Buddha Too: Longchenpa’s Sevenfold Mind Training for a Sunlit Sky. New York: Wisdom Publications, 2023.


Version: 1.1-20240619


  1. i.e., Ekajaṭī  ↩

  2. Vajrasādhu (Dorje Lekpa).  ↩

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