The seven-point mind training is based on the teaching of Atisha on bodhicitta. Encapsulating hundreds of years of experience, it gives us effective methods for practicing wisdom and compassion, in meditation and in daily life. It also shows us how to avoid pitfalls and overcome obstacles in our practice. It is down-to-earth and practical; whatever is happening in your mind or in your life, it can help. If you want to get to the heart of the matter of how to put an end to suffering and benefit others, these teachings are for you.
Vessantara wanted to explore this text in more depth than one retreat will allow, so this is the second of two. To make each retreat satisfying in itself, the teaching includes precepts from several of the seven sections. Recordings of the first retreat are available here.
PLEASE NOTE: Those who attended this retreat live also participated in an additional session each day (Session 1) which was an unlead meditation with the Adhisthana community every morning. This session was not recorded, hence the titles of the YouTube videos from each day do not include Session 1. If there are any errors, please email.
Retreat Resources are at the bottom of the page.
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We begin the retreat with an introduction and overview of the mind training. The session also includes two meditations.
1.3 RELATIVE BODDHICHITTA
Vessantara continues to recap on point 2 of the mind training, which focusses on regarding relative bodhichitta. He closes with a tonglen meditation.
1.4 ULTIMATE bodhichitta
This session consists of a talk recapping the advice on the things being dreamlike and examining the nature of unborn awareness, followed by a meditation.
Vasubandhu’s four factors for arising of the Bodhicitta
Recollection of the Buddhas
Seeing the faults of conditioned existence
Observing the suffering of sentient beings
Contemplation of the qualities of the Tathagathas
2.2 the nature of alaya
Discussion moves on to the next piece of advice, ‘Rest in the nature of alaya, the essence’, explored through a Q&A and two meditations.
2.3 Conjuring illusions
An exhortation between sitting meditations to bear in mind both the subjectivity of our experience, and the insubstantiality of things.
2.4 further reflections
Today’s material is recapped and reflected on through a live Q&A. The day closes with a tonglen meditation.
The Mind from Anguttara Nikaya
No other thing do I know , O monks, That brings so much suffering as an undeveloped and uncultivated mind. An undeveloped and uncultivated mind brings suffering.
No other thing do I know, O monks, that brings so much happiness as a developed and cultivated mind. A developed and cultivated mind truly brings happiness.
No other thing do I know , O monks, that brings so much harm as a mind that is untamed, unguarded, unprotected and uncontrolled. Such a mind truly brings much harm.
No other thing do I know , O monks, that brings so much benefit as a mind that is tamed, guarded, protected and controlled. Such a mind truly brings great benefit.
No other thing do I know, O monks, that changes as quickly as the mind. It is not easy to give a simile for how quickly the mind changes.
The mind, O monks is luminous, but it is defiled by adventitious defilements. The uninstructed worldling does not understand this as it rally is, therefore for them there is no mental development.
The mind, O monks is luminous, but it is freed from adventitious defilements. The instructed noble disciple understands this as it really is, therefore for them there is mental development.
3.2 the four kayas
The teaching moves on to piece of advice 14: ‘Regard confusion as the four kayas, emptiness is the unsurpassed protection.’ This session comprises two meditations and a talk.
How do we call on the refuge? How do we purify the mind? Four forces that help are regret, resolve, refuge and the remedy.
Offerings to Gods and Demons, God-demons, Dakinis and Dharmapalas, what do we offer and how does it nourish?
Ku, Ngok, and Drom asked Atisha, “What is the final goal of the teaching?”
Atisha replied, “The final goal of the teaching is possession of the essence of voidness and compassion (shunyatakarunagarbha). Just as in the world there is a panacea for all sickness called the solitary heroic medicine, there is the realization of voidness which remedies all the fettering passions.”
“But many say they have realized voidness. Why do their anger and attachment remain?”
“They are speaking empty words, for when you fully realize the meaning of voidness, your body, speech and mind react with pleasure, like slipping fresh butter into barley soup. The great sage Aryadeva said:
The nature of existence –
Is it empty or not?
Merely feeling this doubt
Tears samsara asunder.
“Therefore, when you realize the correct meaning of voidness, it is just like the solitary heroic medicine, for all the path is included in that realisation.”
What are the five forces to practice up to the time of death? How do we prepare and what affect does it have on the time of death? This session contains two meditation sessions.
4.3 questions on death
Vessantara addresses questions around practicing at the time of death when circumstances are complex, as well as how to benefit others who are dying. The session closes with a meditation.
All Dharmas boil down to one point. How do we know that Dharma practice is working for us, Indicators of growth and looking into the mirror.
the Door of Liberation Kadamapa Precepts: Geshe Drom on Love, Compassion and Bodhi-mind
An upasaka asked the teacher Drom, “Is it not true that abiding in love compassion, and bodhi-mind is always the cause, whether by direct or indirect means, of accomplishing the purposes of others?”
Geshe Drom answered, “It is, without a doubt, the cause of accomplishing the perfect purpose of others and, thus, becomes the cause of your own perfected purpose. From the moment of abiding in love, compassion, and bodhi-mind, you can call yourself a ‘non-returner,’ for there is small possibility of your being born among the three lower states of being. At this point, it is only by the influence of very strong and sudden circumstances, or very bad former activities that you can enter the lower states of being. Should this happen, by merely remembering for a fraction of an instant love, compassion and bodhi-mind, you will immediately free yourself from the lower states of being and will certainly obtain the high state of a human or god.
“Furthermore, as Shantideva stated in the Bodhicaryavatara:
All happiness in the world, comes from wishing others happiness.
All misery in the world, comes from wishing for your own happiness.
What need to say more?
Children do things for themselves,
Buddha Sakyamuni does things for others.
Look at the difference.
“Therefore, love, compassion, and bodhi-mind are the causes of accomplishing the great purposes of self and others”.
Point six comprises a collection of ‘Commitments of Mind Training’. Vessantara talks, answers some questions and leads two meditations exploring several of these commitments.
5.3 further commitments
This session continues exploring the collection of commitments in point six, discussing the second half of the commitments and closing with a meditation.
Progressing to point seven of the training, we are presented with several of the ‘Guidelines for Mind Training’ before finishing with a tonglen meditation.
The Door of Liberation Kadampa Precepts: Teaching given by Atisha just before leaving West Tibet to return to India
Leave off despising and deprecating others and generate a compassionate mind to those who are your inferiors. Do not have deep attachment to your friends and do not discriminate against your enemies. Without being jealous or envious of others’ good qualities, with humility, take up those good qualities yourself. Do not bother examining the faults of others, but examine your own faults. Purge yourself of them like bad blood. Nor should you concentrate on your own virtues, rather respect them as a servant would. Extend loving kindness to all beings as though they were your own children.
Always have a smiling face and a loving mind. Speak honestly and without anger. If you go about saying many senseless things, your virtuous work will cease; give up actions that are not religious. It is useless to do unessential work.
Because whatever you do comes as a result of your karma from long ago, results never match your present desires. Therefore be calm.
6.2 further guidelines
‘Guidelines for Mind Training’ and a Tonglen Practice marking one year of the COVID pandemic in the UK.
6.3 containing ourselves
Don’t boast. Don’t be touchy. Don’t be moody.
Several questions are answered, the concluding stage of the material is explored, and the retreat closes with a final meditation sit and some thankyous.
Retreat Resources | Click here
The version of the text used throughout the retreat is available here:
The Lo Jong commentary that Vessantara used on the 3-year retreat is The Great Path of Awakening by Jamgon Kongtrul, translated by Ken McLeod.