Lojong Cards and Booklet

Lojong Cards and Booklet
This self-published deck and booklet are the intellectual property of Beverly King. Please do not copy or reproduce any photos or blog posts without permission.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Slogan Twenty-six

Don’t ponder others.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet: 
            Focusing on the affairs of other people can be an entertaining way to distract ourselves from our own shortcomings. We become obsessed with their lives, often enjoying their small misfortunes and failures while forgetting our own practice. Highlighting the faults of others, we compare them to ourselves. We use what we imagine we find as a way to make ourselves feel superior and virtuous. This slogan reminds us to mind our own business. We can barely understand ourselves - how could we know what is in the heart and mind of another person? As soon as we notice ourselves becoming preoccupied with another person, we redirect our attention to something else. When we are not afraid to uncover our own flaws, we'll have no need to compare ourselves to someone else.
Photo: A variety of maple leaves and one sweetgum leaf.

            I looked up the word “ponder” on dictionary.com and found that it means “to weigh carefully in the mind; consider thoughtfully.” Now that doesn't sound like anything you shouldn't do, right? And even if I’m thinking, “That haircut really doesn't do her any favors” or “I can’t believe he’s checking his texts during meditation,” I’m not saying it out loud. So where’s the harm? Let me explain by telling you about our old, metal outdoor swing. Having been exposed to the weather over the years, it showed severe signs of rust. Yet I didn't want to put much effort into making it look better, so I bought some outdoor spray paint and gave it a coat. It looked good for a week or so, but then the rust started showing through the paint again. I should have first used a wire brush to scrub off the flaking paint and rust. Then I could have applied primer and a few coats of paint. “Pondering” other people means I’m pointing out their faults while I spray a coat of paint over mine. But trying to hide my own faults this way just creates more rust instead of getting rid of it. The only way to transform my life is to be concerned with my own behavior.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Slogan Twenty-five

Don’t talk about injured limbs.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
          Imagine a soldier who recently returned from combat with a missing a leg – would we even consider looking down on him because of his injury? Likewise there is an injury behind every fault or shortcoming. Our focused attention on the faults of another person is not an effective tool of healing. Exposing his or her weakness only discloses our own deficiencies. Such thoughts also produce worry about what others think of us, and we become wary instead of open. Though we don’t need to pretend everything is okay, we can meet and accept the “injured” as they are with kindness and warmth. Instead of making derogatory comments, we can approach them as equals (as we are imperfect too) and offer encouragement.
Photo: Round holes in a redbud leaf made by leafcutter bees.

            Several years ago I was reading a book called Stone Age Wisdom by Tom Crockett. One of the exercises he suggested was finding a large stone, about the size of a flattened grapefruit, and using it as a reminder not to speak negatively for three days. Specifically, it was to be carried everywhere and used as a touchstone to remind me not to talk in a disparaging, judgmental or critical way about anyone. Now I was a little embarrassed about carrying my stone around at first, because I thought people would think I was some kind of nut who had a pet rock. But it turned out I was going to be more embarrassed about something else – all the negative talk that wanted to come out of my mouth. I was shocked at how much I wanted to join in gossip, make “funny” comments about someone, or prove how much “better” I was than another person. I also noticed a tendency to label people in unattractive ways to distinguish them from another person, such as “Crazy Tony” versus another acquaintance with the same name, “Nurse Tony.” Regardless of whether it was done purposefully or ignorantly, it was a wake-up call that showed me just how unkind I can be.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Slogan Twenty-four

Change your attitude, but remain natural.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet: 
            The “attitude” part of this slogan has to so with our tendency to put ourselves, our stuff and our views before those of everyone else. We may attempt to manipulate other people to do what we can do ourselves. But lojong practice encourages us to consider others first and realize we are not more important. We may first try to care for others as much as ourselves, and eventually shift to putting the welfare of another before our own desires. Remaining natural means we don’t need to make any grand gestures (spiritual posturing), nor do we need to punish ourselves for slip-ups. Instead we relax and take Mother Teresa’s advice: “do small things with great love.”
Photo: Stack of river stones next to a single stone.

            When my daughter was in elementary school, I helped start a Girl Scout “Brownie” troop for the girls there. I remember going downtown to buy her uniform and my Girl Scout leader book at the office. I wasn't prepared for all the items for sale there besides the basics we needed – stuffed animals, necklaces, journals, t-shirts and various knickknacks for her, as well as coffee mugs and key rings for me. Excited about doing something new, there was a great temptation to purchase these things that advertised we were a part of Girl Scouts. I can be enticed to do the same thing when I start a spiritual path or practice. But slogan twenty-four reminds me that it is the inner part of me where I should concentrate my efforts of transformation. All the decorative paraphernalia that makes me stand out is only a distraction that feeds my ego. In his book Buddhism with an Attitude, B. Alan Wallace relates a Tibetan adage that emphasizes this teaching: “If you shake a pot with a little water in it, it makes a loud noise. But if you shake a pot filled with water, it remains silent.”

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Slogan Twenty-three

Always abide by the three basic principles.
From the Lojong for the Layperson booklet:
  • Commitment – Regardless of whether our lives are running smoothly, we can keep our pledge to use all opportunities to practice. We can reaffirm our determination to do something meaningful and beneficial with our lives.
  • Unpretentiousness – We can refrain from an overly zealous attempt to prove our selflessness to the extent that it manifests as exhibitionism. Pushing our spirituality to the extremes is just another form of egoism.
  • Impartiality – We tend to find some people easier to love and are apt to feel more kindly toward those who agree with our opinions. Tonglen allows us to cultivate patient impartiality and an open heart for difficult people.
Photo: Cherries, shelled pecans and a black and white woodpecker feather.

A Fabricated Fable:
            Ego decided to go car shopping and asked Dharma to come along for company. In the car lot, she found a sporty, red model and was ready to buy it on the spot. Dharma, reading the fine print on the “As Is” price sticker, pointed out that the steering wheel seemed to be missing. “Yes, but think of how fast I can go with this kind of horsepower,” Ego replied. Dharma read aloud from the itemized list, “Speaking of speed, it says the gas pedal has a tendency to stick, causing unwanted acceleration.” Ego, whose attention was fixed on the shiny, spinning rims, ignored Dharma and excitedly announced, “I am going to be the center of attention in this baby!” Dharma made one last attempt to dissuade Ego’s purchase by mentioning the list also stated the car pulled powerfully to the left due to an alignment problem. But Ego, already taking out her credit card, was too busy dreaming of her “new and improved” group of friends she was sure to gain.
Lessons from the Three Basic Principles:
1) Wanting fast or instant results will ultimately slow my progress down. Dedication to practice can help me steer clear of obstacles and on stay on the spiritual path.
2) Genuine spirituality doesn't rely on showy behavior or flashy accessories.
3) Compassionate practice means being evenhanded to all people, not just the ones I like.