“It could be said that The Eight Verses for
Training the Mind contains the entire essence
of the Buddha’s teachings in a distinct form.”
–H.H. the Dalai Lama
Sometimes the Universe offers a sweet and amusing surprise in bestowing upon us unexpected gifts and precious treasures.
I was visiting a severely paranoid client in his new apartment. I was his psychotherapist, part of a team whose mission was to help homeless, substance-abusing, mentally ill individuals, I knew to work with his strengths, skills and resources, as a way to ease the pain that drove him into acting out his paranoia.
Recently released from a prison psychiatric setting, and grateful for our help in getting him off the street and into decent housing, his face lit up when he showed me his proudest possessions since becoming established in his very modest digs: an array of fishtanks covering one wall, and a growing collection of books on Buddhism that he delighted in and lovingly fondled.
Glowing with the pride of ownership, he selected one of his buddhist paperbacks: “Here’s a beauty, Neil!”
“I didn’t know you were interested in Buddhism.”
He caressed the book and put it into my hands: “I haven’t read any of them, but they speak to me.”
The pages of the book furrowed open in my grasp, and my eye fell upon The Eight Verses of Thought Training, a seventh century Tibetan text, and it was as if I was swallowing whole and holy the essence of living a happy and meditative life.
Instantly I knew, as if I was encountering the closest possible friend, that the eight verses would be part of me for as long as I live and breathe, and indeed that first impression has proved accurate. At least two months of daily practice enabled me to memorize the verses, and they continue to enliven my daily meditation practices.
In future writings I hope to illuminate for the reader and for myself each of the verses, as powerful aids in meditation and in choosing my thoughts, speech and actions.
For me, currently, the least accessible of the verses, one which has affected me deeply, but which remains somewhat deliciously mysterious, invites many questions about how to think and act and behave when I am in the presence of other created beings, including all manner of trees, flowers, birds, fish, mammals and stars and human children: “When I am with others, I will see myself as the lowest of all, and from the very depths of my heart I will recognize others as supreme.” WOW!
(COMING ATTRACTIONS: The First and Second Verses)