Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The 37 harmonies with awakening

The 37 harmonies with awakening

The text turns to training the mind on the stages of the path shared with intermediate level practitioners. Part of a series of teachings on the Gomchen Lamrim by Gomchen Ngawang Drakpa. Visit Gomchen Lamrim Study Guide for a full list of contemplation points for the series.

  • Monastic ordination in the west
  • The 37 harmonies to awakening
    • The four establishments of mindfulness and the distorted conceptions they overcome
    • The four supreme strivings
    • The four bases of supernormal powers
    • The five faculties and the five powers
  • What it means to have faith

Gomchen lamrim 55: The 37 harmonies (download)

Contemplation points

We started looking at the 37 Harmonies this week, which are included in the middle scope teachings (things we practice in common with those whose goal is to attain liberation from cyclic existence). There is probably a lifetime (or many lifetimes) of meditation materials in just this one week, so please feel free to explore the rest of this site for more in depth meditations and teachings on each of these. These points are painted with a fairly broad brush, as they were taught in this particular week.

Four Establishments of Mindfulness

Consider how each of these leads to liberation in addition to meditating on the following:

  1. Mindfulness of body:
    • Cultivating mindfulness of body counteracts the strong feeling we have that the self resides in the body. Where is the self in you? Do you feel it is behind the eyes? In the chest? Use reasoning to refute why this kind of self cannot exist.
    • Meditating on the mindfulness of body also counteracts the distortion of perceiving things that are foul to be clean or beautiful. It’s pretty common in society to see the body as something magnificent. Is that realistic?
    • In what way is the body foul?
    • Consider that this mediation is not meant to generate a feeling of hatred or distain for the body, but to counteract the insatiable pampering of and attachment to our own and others’ bodies. What kinds of negative karma have you created in your life because of these misperceptions about the body? What is a realistic and healthy way to see the body?
  2. Mindfulness of feelings:
    • Cultivating mindfulness of feelings counteracts the conception that there is an independent self that enjoys and experiences feelings. Use reasoning to refute why this kind of self cannot exist.
    • Mindfulness of feelings can also counter the distortion that our feelings are pleasurable when they are actually in the nature of dukkha. Look at your own experience. What do you find when you examine your feelings of pleasant, unpleasant and neutral. Are they stable? Do they bring lasting happiness?
  3. Mindfulness of mind:
    • This refutes the conception that we are our mind, that there is a real self that controls everything else. Use reasoning to refute why this kind of self cannot exist.
    • Mindfulness of mind also counteracts the distortion that the mind is permanent. As you sit quietly and observe the mind, what about it can possibly be permanent? What does ignorance apprehend that just cannot be?
  4. Mindfulness of phenomena:
    • Venerable Chodron said that mindfulness of phenomena is about investigating our attitudes and emotions, how we make ourselves worthy or worthless, stupid or wonderful, because of a misconception that there is a real self. In what ways do you judge yourself (bad because of this and good because of that)? Why is this not a valid or realistic form of self-esteem?
    • Consider your buddha nature as a realistic and valid source of self-esteem.
    • What does cultivating these different forms of self esteem (realistic ones vs. unrealistic ones) do for your mind? Which one leads to virtue and which to non-virtue? Do you see how the one can only lead to suffering and the other to happiness?

Four Supreme Strivings

Consider how each of these leads to liberation in addition to meditating on the following:

  1. Apply effort into preventing non-virtue: What kinds of non-virtue do you see in the world that you want to avoid doing? What is it about restraining the senses that helps in preventing non-virtue? What things have you done in your life to restrain the senses that has led to refraining from non-virtue?
  2. Arouse aspiration and apply effort to abandon non-virtue already generated by applying antidotes: What kinds of non-virtue do you struggle with most? What are the benefits of applying antidotes and what can you do to increase your use of them?
  3. Arouse aspiration and apply effort to generate new virtues not already generated: What virtues do you see in the world that you would like to increase in your own life? What can you do to cultivate them?
  4. Arouse aspiration and apply effort to maintain and enhance the virtues that have already arisen in our mind: What kinds of virtue have you participated in in your own life that you would like to strengthen?

Four Bases of Supernormal Powers

How do each of these facilitate the attainment of supernormal powers? For someone on the spiritual path, what is the purpose of attaining supernormal powers? How do they lead to liberation?

  1. Aspiration
  2. Effort
  3. Intention
  4. Investigation

Five Faculties and Five Powers

Consider how each of these five leads to opposing the non-virtuous states of mind listed with it. How do each of these lead to attaining liberation?

  1. Faith opposes non-faith
  2. Effort opposes laziness
  3. Mindfulness opposes forgetfulness
  4. Concentration opposes the five hindrances to concentration
  5. Wisdom opposes the wrong conception about the four truths
Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.