Seven Steps to Train Your Mind
Gomo Tulko
Joan Nicell, Translator

This is a summary of many of the high points of Buddhism, specifically the do's and don'ts of the Tibetan practice. The seven steps include "Foundational Practices," "Training the Mind," "Using Adversity," and "Measures of a Trained Mind."

It is a to-the-point manual, even, unlike many books of the masters, one that makes good sense. There are the usual caveats: don't be lazy; do the practice day and night; and stop claiming whatever problems you have came about through "their" fault (friends, cousins, enemies, spouses, bad old lovers, new bad lovers, etc). Under the title "Don't be fickle," Gomo Tulko writes

    Do not exhibit a demeanor of being and disliking trifling things. Such behavior would thoroughly annoy your companions.

We did find a few precepts that some of us may find troublesome, sounding like an offshoot of old Western Christian Bugaboos. Under "Using Adversity," we are advised to tell the bad spirits,

    Thank you for the harm you have given me, because thereby you have helped me to develop the enlightened attitude of bodhicitta. Please continue to cause me even more problems and suffering in the future so that I will have many more occasions to train my mind.

We pause here to set this one aside, perhaps because of the plea to the Divines, "please continue to cause me even more problems and suffering!" We find suffering decidedly disinteresting, so we might quickly slip over this injunction since it proclaims, à la Job, that the gods are welcome to torture us as much as they want, so that we can become even more perfect as devotees.

Gomo Tulko carries this blissful whip even further when speaking of the cost of our possible lack of respect for teachers,

    as a result of improper devotion to the guru one will be reborn a hundred times as a dog and then as a human being of low class.

We've always been fond of dogs, especially one mutt named Doggie who stayed with us for almost thirteen years, dying in our arms, his eyes filled with devotion despite all the times we had abused him loudly for crapping on our favorite oriental rug (and once in our waterbed). Even so, to come back as Doggie, or even as a dog: perhaps we could opt for another reincarnation. As a panther, perhaps. Or a peacock. Or a petunia.

Or a pot-bellied piglet, given a home in some high-class apartment with a rich dowager, on the Upper East Side, say.

Despite these ugly admonitions of punishing rebirths, we still favor the Buddhist mind-set, and suspect we may never stop doing so, as we're a fan of the Dalai Lama who continues to put up with those pushy, ill-mannered Chinese taking over his homeland.

Unlike others in his position, he does not call in the missiles. Which might be a lesson to certain unnamed countries over there to the West, so fond of shipping off drones to far-off lands to do all their dirty work, killing off a few innocents in the name of civilization. And the divine.

§   §   §

Gomo Tulko says that there are three ways we can show respect for our gurus: "by taking exceptional care of their belongings, never gossiping about other people with them, and avoiding even stepping on their shadows." We can live with this, and hereby assure the Dalai Lama should never have to fear our gossip or shadow dancing, much less our doing damage to his belongings, ever-packed (we would imagine) in hopes of one day returning to the lovely mountains of his gentle homeland.

--- A. W. Allworthy
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