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Stillness Speaks presents

Lojong: How To Be Kind When Wronged: Heroic Heart – Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo

Sep 14, 2022

“…The Tibetan word lojong literally means “mind training,” but the practice really has more to do with training our attitude, training us out of the habitual ways that we respond to situations that happen to us, especially adverse circumstances …” ~ Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo

All experiences are preceded by mind, have mind as their master, are created by mind ~ The Buddha

lojong all experience mind palmo

“Mind training” may have been made cliche due to its somewhat shallow understanding, application, and practice in the self help and new age segment of society … but upon a deeper investigation, one easily finds that not only does it have real value with profoundly beneficial implications but has also been practiced for centuries in one of the world’s oldest traditions – Tibetan Buddhism.

Atisha Dipankara Srijnana, a tenth century Buddhist master (his exact birth & death is widely disputed) is considered to have “… spread these teachings on mind training (lojong) in Tibet in the eleventh century …” … which were further formalized in the fourteenth century by a remarkable monk named Gyalse Thogme Sangpo as the book The Thirty-Seven Verses on the Practice of a Bodhisattva.

So, what is lojong or mind training as per Tibetan Buddhism? … and why is it useful?

Jetsunma Tenzin PalmoBefore answering, it’s worth considering the words of Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo – the first Westerner to be ordained a Buddhist nun : “… the true heart of Buddhism—the liberation of all sentient beings from all forms of suffering … nothing is more important or higher than the selfless expression of boundless compassion, or bodhichitta. Training and taming the mind is the way we give rise to this boundless compassion, and the way we are ultimately able to express our true nature …”

And, lojong “… provides just such a way to tame and calm the mind …” … and its essence is ” … to use everything that happens to us as a means of inwardly maturing and becoming spiritually strong …”

Her words, above, are excerpted from the Introduction of her newly published book, The Heroic Heart: Awakening Unbound Compassion … where she adds:

“… Atisha gave teachings on how to take the vicissitudes of life onto the path, how to approach everything through the lens of cherishing others, of bodhichitta. His followers likewise carried on this tradition, which we now refer to as the lojong tradition, or mind-training tradition. …”

We recommend you read the entire Introduction by clicking here …

Jetsunma Palmo’s book is immensely valuable as it shows how lojong can be used to navigate life’s real thorny issues: from broad ones (e.g., Making Life Meaningful, Valuing Virtue, Embracing Adversity, Benefiting from Solitude) to more specific ones (e.g., Not Retaliating When We Are Harmed, Respecting Those Who Disrespect Us, Dropping Greed, Practicing Patience, Abandoning Criticizing Others, Giving Up Harsh Speech) … and she devotes a full chapter towards each.

So, we begin a substantive preview of The Heroic Heart via this multipart series … and, in this part 1, we explore an everyday real life issue that plagues most of humanity: how to be kind when wronged. Jetsunma Tenzin opens the chapter Showing Kindness When We Have Been Wronged with the pertinent verse (from The Thirty-Seven Verses …) that anchors (and guides) the requisite practice … and using a personal story, she digs deeper into the “why/what” about showing kindness under such circumstances …

This post is part of our ongoing Shambhala Publications series that offers substantive previews of selections from Shambhala Publications new and classic titles …

Shambhala Publications

All italicized text in this post (except as noted) is adapted from The Heroic Heart: Awakening Unbound Compassion © 2022 by Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo. Reprinted in arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. Shambhala Publications has also generously offered a free downloadable PDF of the Table of Contents (link is at the bottom of the post).

You can purchase the book at Shambhala Publications or Amazon.

Lojong: Showing Kindness When We Are Wronged

Heroic Heart Jetsunma Tenzin PalmoEven if one I’ve lovingly cared for like my own child
Regards me as an enemy,
To love him even more,
As a mother loves a sick child,
is the practice of a bodhisattva.

One of the most painful things to accept is when we have helped and done favors for other people, and they turn around and treat us like an enemy. For instance, consider parents who have done so much for their child—lovingly raised them and given them an education—and then the child reaches teenage years and turns against the parents, blaming all their problems on the parents and being totally ungrateful. At such times there is a double pain because, first, the parents are worried about what the child will do and, second, they are hurt by their child’s behavior.

This situation often happens with siblings. There are so many brothers and sisters who are taking each other to court, usually over money and property disputes. Like the case I mentioned earlier where the parent died and then there was a fight over who got what. So often these siblings end up as enemies, even though when they were children perhaps they loved and took care of each other. Another example is friends who go into business together and trust each other, and then one of them embezzles funds or does something equally hurtful and damaging.

My mother owned a fish shop left to her by my late father and she used to work there, but my uncle, my father’s brother, was actually doing the buying and selling of the fish. From time to time my mother would remark that business was good, yet we seemed to be making little profit. Then one day my uncle was sick, and my mother had to go to the fish market to buy the fish herself. At the market they refused to sell her any fish because they said our shop was already over £2,000 in debt! That was a huge amount of money in those days. It turned out that my uncle was an inveterate gambler and had gambled away all our money on horse races. Instead of making a nice profit, which we had actually done, we were deeply in debt. Because he was her brother-in-law, my mother had trusted him implicitly while all those years he had been cheating us and keeping us short of money. But my mother just felt sorry for him and for his wife. Eventually, he retired from the shop and had to work elsewhere to repay the debt.

Beyond that, she didn’t do anything. She didn’t take him to court and didn’t speak badly of him. She just accepted that it was sad that he had this addiction to gambling and that he should try to get himself healed from it. She never talked about it much, and she didn’t hold a grudge in her heart. She just went on with her life. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche suggests:

To meet someone who really hurts you is to meet a rare and precious treasure. Hold that person in high esteem, and make full use of the opportunity to eradicate your defects and make progress on the path. If you cannot yet feel love and compassion for those who treat you badly, it is a sign that your mind has not been fully transformed and that you need to keep working on it with increased application.

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

Of course my mother didn’t know anything about treating my uncle as a rare and precious treasure, but she certainly didn’t carry him as a great big lump of resentment and anger in the center of her heart. She just felt sorry for him and that compassion transformed the situation.

This practice is something useful. If a child is throwing up and bad tempered because they are sick, the mother doesn’t hate the child. In fact, she loves her child all the more because they are suffering.

Likewise if people treat us badly even though we have been kind to them, in a way it is because they are sick. A person who is inwardly balanced and healthy would not act like that, so obviously they have a lot of problems inside themselves and that’s how they are reacting. Instead of getting upset and angry, we can treat them like a mother treats a sick child, giving them even more sympathy and understanding.

Eight Verses for Training the MindThe following verse from Eight Verses for Training the Mind suggests that even if people who we have treated well treat us badly, our compassion should be no weaker than the compassion we feel for a person we love who needs our help:

Even if someone whom I have helped
And in whom I have placed my hopes
Does great wrong by harming me,
May I see them as an excellent spiritual friend.

Even if somebody whom we trust and in the past we have helped turns against us and tries to harm us through their speech or their actions, instead of feeling upset and self-pitying or wanting to get our own revenge, we can see them as our most precious spiritual friend. Why? Because they are teaching us the most dicult of qualities: patient endurance or forbearance, which is one of the six paramitas or perfections of virtues needed on the bodhisattva path toward awakening, or Buddhahood.

We absolutely have to practice tolerance or patient endurance, and we cannot do that unless somebody or something really upsets us. When somebody we care for turns around and harms us, and this makes us feel hurt and angry, instead of wanting to get back at them or feeling full of bewildered self-pity, we can think,

Oh, thank you, you’re so kind. You have acted despicably, but I’m so grateful! Without you, how could I practice this most precious quality? So really, you are like my teacher. You are mirroring to me my own shortcomings because if you say something I don’t like, I get all upset and angry. The problem is not you. Here, the problem is me. I’m going to learn how to cultivate loving-kindness, compassion, and patience in the face of your abuse and your hurtful actions.

This is not totally idealistic. Prime examples of applying this practice are the Tibetan lamas and teachers, monks and nuns I mentioned in chapter 13 who were put in prison, interrogated, and often horribly tortured even though they hadn’t done anything wrong. When they were finally released from these prisons after twenty to thirty years, many of them, rather than being embittered and broken, were radiant and brimming with love and compassion. They hadn’t spent their time resenting their captors, planning revenge, or even beating themselves up thinking what bad karma they had made to be in such a situation. Instead, they used those circumstances to cultivate qualities like love, compassion, patience, and tolerance, which up until then they had just been studying and debating. They were grateful to their tormentors for giving them an opportunity to practice these qualities: “Without them, how would I have learned?” they said. “They were so helpful on the path.”

These are present-day, real-life examples not some kind of fantasy world. In order to take the most difficult circumstances onto the path and transform them, we need conditions in which to practice.

All of these verses are about not getting upset, not making a double wound. To harbor resentment in our hearts and regurgitate it over and over again, what does it do? It doesn’t make us happy, it doesn’t help or harm the other person, and it creates negative karma for us. We do to ourselves what only our worst enemies would wish for us. It is better to practice patience and tolerance and move on.

~ Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo 

In the next post we will delve into a more general behavior that can benefit from lojong practice: {the chapter} Embracing Adversity

So stay tuned …


Shambhala Publications

All italicized text in this post (except as noted) is adapted from The Heroic Heart: Awakening Unbound Compassion © 2022 by Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo. Reprinted in arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. And, click here for the free, downloadable PDF of the Table of Contents.

You can purchase the book at Shambhala Publications or Amazon.



The lojong practice helps us show kindness regardless of harm or not… and in that spirit let us minimize (& hopefully dissolve) the current humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ukraine … by helping in whatever way we can … and to that end here are some options:

1) NPR: Want to support the people in Ukraine? Here’s how you can help

2) Washington PostHere’s how Americans can donate to help people in Ukraine.

3) Go Fund Me: How to Help: Donate to Ukraine Relief Efforts.

4) USA Today: Want to support the people of Ukraine? These apps and websites can help you send money.

— — — —

We are all facing financial challenges but IF your situation allows you to donate and help then please do so …


May you embrace the practice of …  lojong  … and realize its enduring gifts …

Images (edited & Logo added): Header: Annapurna mountains by saiko3p,1 & Featured) Composite of a) Illusions of Intellect by agsandrew and b) Dark Narrow Streets by woodkern, 2) Jetsunma Tenzin’s image by Rédacteur Tibet from Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain, 3 & 6) Shambhala Publications logo, 4) Cover page of The Heroic Heart book, 5) Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche by Jlpinkme from Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain, 6) Cover image of Eight Verses for Training the Mind from its Amazon page. All purchased from depositphotos or 123rtf. All for use only on our website/social channels (these images are not permitted to be shared separate from this post). 3, 4, & 6) generously provided by Shambhala Publications with permission to be used on our website and other digital assets.

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