The Eight Verses of Thought Transformation is an important text from Tibetan spiritual writings known as lojong (mind training). The root text was written by the eleventh-century meditator Langri Tangpa Dorje Senghe.
These verses explain how we can see life through the eyes of compassion, and not through our self-cherishing ego. The more we meditate on thought transformation, the more compassionate we become.
You meditate on these verses by reciting each verse and then pausing to contemplate its meaning. Then try to apply it to situations in your life. This will help you to truly transform your way of thinking and acting. Remember, these verses are to be practiced, not just recited.
Over the next few blog post, I will go through the eight verses and explain their mean. Here are verses one and two:
1. With the thought of becoming awakened
For the welfare of all beings,
Who are more precious than a wishfulfilling jewel,
I will constantly practice holding them dear.
“With the thought of becoming awakened for the welfare of all beings” refers to becoming awakened for the betterment of all beings and not just for our own self benefit. “Who are more precious than a wishfulfilling
jewel.” A wishfulfilling jewel is a mythical gem that grants your every wish.
So, all beings are more important than this jewel, because without them we cannot become awakened. The jewel may give you any material thing your heart desires, but they will be impermanent and so will soon fade away. However, having compassion for all beings, and taking them on your journey to awakening, will give you the ultimate state of mind – the awakened mind.
When we are motivated by compassion, our actions are formidable because they are carried out for the benefit of all beings. Of course, to help one person is a great thing to do, but to help every being is a billion times more powerful.
Whatever action we do out of compassion will leave an imprint on our mind-stream. This helps accumulate positive potential within us because we are not being selfish and we wish happiness for all beings. Our awakening depends on every single being, so those beings become more important to us than a wish-fulfilling jewel. If we leave just one being out of our circle of compassion, we will not be able to attain an awakened mind.
This includes beings we wouldn’t usually include in our circle of compassion, such as mosquitoes, cockroaches, people we dislike or terrorists. We have to train our minds to think, “My awakening depends on that mosquito or cockroach or person I dislike or terrorist.” If we do not include these beings in our circle of compassion, then we do not have true compassion, and we will never obtain the awakened mind. So, all beings are that precious to us.
If we take the time to look closely at our lives, we will understand that the only reason we are alive is due to the kindness of other beings. We do not live in a bubble. We are all interconnected, so everything we enjoy is dependent on other beings.
Therefore, the final line reads, “I will constantly practice holding them dear.” Instead of trying to be better than others, jealous of them, arrogant towards them, discriminating against them or criticising them, we learn to hold them dear, because to us they are more precious than a wish-fulfilling jewel.
2. Whenever I am with others
I will practice seeing myself as the lowest of all,
And from the very depth of my heart
I will respectfully hold others as supreme.
When people first read this verse they usually react negatively, but it isn’t about feeling worthless, having low self-esteem or putting ourselves down. It’s about putting others first. Usually we put ourselves first by thinking, “I want all the good things to happen to me. I want to be first and I want to be appreciated. I want to be acknowledged for all that I do. I want everyone to love me, listen to me and approve of me.” It is all about me! I am the centre of the universe.
So, by mentally putting ourselves lower than others, we are giving ourselves room to include others in our way of thinking and acting. We start to burst our self-cherishing bubble and become more compassionate and connected to others.
When we’re totally preoccupied with ourselves, we start to over-react to everything and everyone. We take everything personally. If someone looks at us in a funny way, or doesn’t respond to us, or says something we do not like, we take offence. We tell ourselves stories about how they don’t like us, appreciate us, love us or know who we really are. We become paranoid and feel we have to fight for our rights during every interaction with others. We project on them all sorts of negative qualities and then hate them for
being what we’ve projected.
But when we mentally see ourselves as lower than others, we understand that we are not the centre of the universe and realise there are other beings in this world who are just as important as us. We start to let go of our self-centredness and our minds become so much more calm, open, peaceful and clear. We truly become compassionate and caring for all beings, and not just ourselves.
When we stop thinking of ourselves and start including others in our thinking, we will be able to better connect with them. None of us want to be isolated by our own self-centred, self-cherishing thoughts. So, by mentally thinking of ourselves as lower than others we don’t need to look for respect, approval or acknowledgement.
Having said this, it doesn’t mean we put ourselves in a position to be walked all over. We are not trying to become a door mat. It just means that we stop our ego driven needs to be loved, respected, acknowledged and appreciated. This is so liberating. We finally have room to breathe and drop this pre-occupation with ourselves.
I will discuss verses three to eight in future blog posts.
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