I spent a Saturday morning in late June with my son-in-law’s father, who had died just a couple of hours before. I sat in his bedroom and did the prayers and aspirations and practices that Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche has given us for the Open Heart practice. Jim did not die of COVID-19; it was liver cancer that wore his body down.
As I sat with him and did tonglen (the practice of sending and taking), my heart opened so wide. I ached from the suffering and illness and deaths that have arisen from COVID and other diseases. I deeply experienced my own pain about Jim’s death and the pain of all who loved him. Although no tears fell, all of that suffering melted into kindness, a deep smiling kindness, that brought joy and tenderness to my heart.
I finished the Open Heart practice and sat with Jim a little while longer. I made aspirations, speaking to him softly: may you have a fortunate rebirth, may we meet again, may you meet again your son and the others who loved you and whom you loved.
In the days after Jim’s death, the lojong cards we keep on a stand near the kitchen took on new meaning. (Lojong is a practice of training your mind so that your natural bodhichitta arises.) Each time we moved a card to the back of the deck, the newly revealed slogan spoke directly to what was happening. The card already there at the time of his death—“Be grateful to everyone”—came first into my morning practice as an aspiration. The next slogan, “Whatever you meet unexpectedly, join with meditation,” reinforced my daily practice. The slogan after that, “Practice the five strengths, the condensed heart instructions,” became another aspiration.
Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche’s words spoke to me in their entirety as the days went by, especially “bodhichitta, precise and sublime.” The awakened heart of bodhichitta is exactly what I feel today. I have come to know my open heart.
In these times of trial, doing the Nalandabodhi Open Heart practice, starting with those you know, can be of great benefit. If you also introduce the lojong slogans one by one into your daily practice, you may open your heart, make it tender, and perhaps even experience the sublime, which always makes me smile.
To Learn More
An excellent book on the lojong slogans is Kongtrul Rinpoche’s The Intelligent Heart. As noted on the back cover, “He shows how to train the mind in a way that infuses every moment of life with uncontrived kindness to all.”