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Regard all Dharmas as Dreams

First, Train - Gordon ShotwellCOLUMN: Good Practice
by Gordon Shotwell, Toronto, ON

As long as I can remember my family had a set of lojong cards on our mantelpiece. I remember reading “Don’t transfer the ox’s load to the cow” and “Regard all dharmas as dreams” as I walked by without the faintest idea of what they meant. A few years ago when I was working to set up my own Shambhala household the first thing I did was look for a set of lojong cards.

For whatever reason I failed to find a set that I liked, and as I’d always aspired to improve my penmanship I decided to letter my own lojong cards. Thus was born the lojong calligraphy project, which ended up being an extremely rewarding way to study lojong. Some people have told me they’d be interested in giving the project a try, so here’s the way I did it:

Materials
1. A commentary on the Lojong slogans such as Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving Kindness
2. 59 blank white cards
3. A calligraphy pen
4. Many notebooks

The process for this practice is simple. Each week you pick one slogan to contemplate, and practice writing that slogan out in a notebook. Then, at the end of the week, you execute the calligraphy and move on to the next slogan. The daily practice looks something like this:

Four Practices by Gordon ShotwellDaily Practice
1. Sit for ten minutes
2. Read commentary on the week’s lojong slogan
3. Silently contemplate the slogan
4. As you continue to contemplate the slogan, practice writing it out over and over again in a notebook. It is best to approach this with the goal of simply and clearly expressing the slogan, rather than trying to add an illustration or style to the card.

When you are ready to execute the slogan, take out one of the 59 cards and rest in openness for a moment. Try to let go of any preconception you might have about what the card should look like, or what the slogan means. Execute the calligraphy, sit for a minute, and move onto the next slogan.

I found three main benefits to studying the lojong slogans in this way. The first is that I spent a long period of time with the material. Completing all 59 cards took more than a year, which provided enough space to bring the practice into my life. The second benefit is that by the end of the year I memorized the slogans. Writing is a great way to learn something by heart, and by practicing the calligraphy over the course of the week you learn each slogans without really trying. Finally, the set of lojong cards reminds me not only of the slogan, but of the part of my practice which was connected to that particular card. The way each slogan looks brings me back to the week I spent with it.

"Mistakes were made."

“Mistakes were made.”

~~
Have Good Practice tips for us? We would love to hear from you about your tips for good practice! Please send any tips you would like to share to Ani Dawa Chotso, our Good Practice column editor.

Gordon Shotwell is a second generation buddhist and cheerful member of the Shambhala community in Halifax, but currently residing in Toronto.

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5 responses to “ Regard all Dharmas as Dreams ”
  1. Thank you for this wonderful suggestion! I will do it too!

  2. Kristine McCutcheon
    Apr 10, 2014
    Reply

    Nice one Gordon,

    I have done the same practice with the slogans of the Dorje Kasung and some of the lines of other texts. It certainly gave me greater insights when writing things out over and over again. The internal logics come to the surface. Thank you for this clear and expressive presentation.

  3. David Brown
    Apr 10, 2014
    Reply

    Gordon,

    Your inspiring article reminded me of how helpful it is to have the teachings in a few words easy to bring to mind during the day. An acharya recently reminded me of the path laid out in 9 words by the Sakyong:

    Do not cause harm.
    Benefit others.
    Enjoy your life.

    Cheers,

    David S. Brown

  4. Jigme Urbonas
    Apr 11, 2014
    Reply

    I love the closing photo. Too funny by half…
    And the article was great.
    Thank you, Mr. Shotwell.

  5. Caroline Moore
    Apr 16, 2014
    Reply

    Did you study calligraphy first, or follow a guide, or just use a calligraphy pen and try to write nicely?


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