Lojong Practice Journal: Always maintain only a joyful mind
The 59 slogans through a social justice lens
‘Always maintain only a joyful mind’ is quite the slogan and one I found easier to contemplate when I looked at a few other translations. In Traleg Kyabgon’s book, The Practice of Lojong, this slogan is translated as ‘Always have the support of a joyful mind’, which definitely has a different feeling to the translation overseen by Chögyam Trungpa, and closer to my own sense of what this slogan is instructing.
‘Always maintain only a joyful mind’ can too easily sound like we are being told that we should always try to be happy, in all situations. This is, of course, an absurd notion, and counter to the four noble truths, which instruct us to acknowledge that suffering is simply a part of life, and a part of life only made worse by trying to ignore it.
‘Always have the support of a joyful mind’, however, aims our attention towards what we are trying to cultivate. It’s not that we need to always be happy, but that a mind that is oriented towards joy is going to be more supportive than one oriented towards misery, despondency, or pessimism.
While I definitely think this translation is an improvement to the first, it’s the Padmakara’s translation that I like best: ‘Always be sustained by cheerfulness’.
Regardless of the translation, this slogan is about understanding that the most effective attitude to cultivate, regardless of our circumstances or emotions, is one that uplifts us. It’s not about being happy all the time or finding the silver lining to every single difficulty. It’s about seeing how every situation, no matter how difficult or uncomfortable or painful, is an opportunity to wake up. If everything we experience is an opportunity, no matter what, we can always, even when we are in the midst of grief or rage or fear, find a way to practice.
It’s not even so much a difference between optimism and pessimism as it is seeing the potential in being alive and having the ability to contemplate, to learn, to grow, to cultivate wisdom and compassion. I don’t always look at the difficult things in my life as opportunities. It’s not easy to do. I also don’t believe that ‘everything happens for a reason’ so much as we get to give meaning to everything that happens. We get to choose the point of our own lives, which means we get to decide what to do with the circumstances of that life.
I’ve chosen the point of my life to be love. Love seems to be a pretty great purpose for living. And when I pause to consider even the more challenging or painful parts of my life, I see how living through adversity helps me to show up better for others. I have more compassion for others for having stayed present with myself in some incredibly difficult times. I can’t go so far as to say I now look forward to difficulties, but I no longer see them as something to resist or dread, so much as I see them for the opportunity they have for me to connect even deeper with my own humanity, and therefore the humanity of others — and that is something I can always be joyful about.
This blog was originally published on Medium.
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