Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Gomchen Lamrim review: The 37 harmonies

Gomchen Lamrim review: The 37 harmonies

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.

  • Where the 37 harmonies to awakening fit into the larger picture of the spiritual path
  • The 37 harmonies to awakening
    • The four establishments of mindfulness
    • The four supreme strivings
    • The four bases of supernormal powers
    • The five faculties and the five powers
    • The seven awakening factors
    • The noble eightfold path
  • How to practice the harmonies in daily life

Gomchen Lamrim 68 review: The 37 harmonies (download)

Contemplation points

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 does the self seem to reside 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 ways is the body foul? Consider that this meditation is not meant to generate a feeling of hatred or disdain 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 virtue 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

Each of these overpowers a non-virtuous mental state. Using examples from your own life, why do these non-virtuous mental states lead to suffering? Why is it we want to abandon them? How does cultivating the five faculties (and then powers) lead to happiness and 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

Seven Awakening Factors

Practice of the Seven Awakening Factors is for Middle Level Practitioners intent on liberation (and those practicing in common with it). Consider each of the seven and how they build from one to the next, guiding our minds to the state of liberation.

  1. Mindfulness: helps the mind stay on the object of meditation and helps subdue the gross afflictions.
  2. Discrimination of phenomena: a form of wisdom that knows what to practice and what to abandon on the path.
  3. Effort: the energy we put into our practice.
  4. Rapture: a state of supreme joy that floods the body when you have single pointed concentration.
  5. Pliancy: the ability to put the mind on whatever object you wish.
  6. Concentration: the ability to keep the mind on whatever object you wish.
  7. Equanimity: the mind abiding in a neutral feeling.

Noble Eightfold Path

Practice of the Noble Eightfold Path is for Middle Level Practitioners intent on liberation (and those practicing in common with it). Consider each of the eight and how you can practice it in your daily life right now.

  1. Right view: for where WE are on the path, this is about having the right view of conventional reality (karma, rebirth, the Buddhist worldview). Why is it so important to start out with right view and put your energy and time into developing it?
  2. Right intention: Venerable Chodron listed three parts to right intention: 1) renunciation, 2) benevolence, and 3) compassion. With renunciation, it is not giving up happiness, but rather the distraction and misery that is our obsession with sensual desire. What kinds of sensual desire do you get caught up in that distract you from practice? Benevolence makes us look at how we approach the world. Do you look on others with kindness, or do you tend to see them with suspicion, competition/judgment, or how you might be able to get something from them? What can you do to transform these negative attitudes to ones of kindness. Think of situations in your own life and how you might think differently in the moment that might change the experience. With compassion, we really start reaching out to reduce the suffering of others. Where have you made effort in this area? Where do you struggle with this? What can you do to grow your compassion?
  3. Right speech: Our speech is incredibly powerful. Consider your speech with friends, family, strangers… What motivates your speech? In terms of lying, divisive speech, harsh speech, and idle talk, are you aware of what you are saying and how it affects others? What can you do to be more aware of your speech and to focus it on what is beneficial?
  4. Right action: This is about refraining from actions that harm ourselves and others (namely killing, stealing, and unwise and unkind sexual behavior). Consider what you read/see in the news and the drama that affects your own life and the lives of those around you. Do you see how these are the root of so much suffering in our lives? Make a determination to refrain from them.
  5. Right livelihood: For the lay practitioner, this is about being honest in your work and not harming others through it. If you’re a monastic, it’s about refraining from the 5 wrong livelihoods. Think of examples of wrong livelihood that you have performed or witnessed in the world around you. How has this brought harm to yourself or others?
  6. Right effort: This is about putting effort into doing our practices and not keeping ourselves busy doing things of no consequence. Are there things you do regularly that distract you from spiritual practice? Consider the many benefits of spiritual practice and the disadvantages of not practicing as a means to increase your energy for it.
  7. Right mindfulness: This is about being mindful of our precepts and values and living according to them. Think of times where your precepts and values were very clear in your mind and helped you to avert creating non-virtue. Then think of times you created non-virtue because you were not holding them in mind. How did you feel in each situation? What can you do to continually keep your precepts and values in mind so that they influence your daily life?
  8. Right concentration: this is about training the mind to being single pointed. It takes time, effort and a special environment. What can you do to help create the causes for this in your life?
Venerable Thubten Tsultrim

Inspired by Kwan Yin, Chinese expression of the Buddha Compassion, Ven. Thubten Tsultrim began to explore Buddhism in 2009. As she learned that "real people like me" aspired to become awakened like Kwan Yin, she began to explore the potential to becoming a monastic, which led her to Sravasti Abbey. She first visited the Abbey in May, 2011. Ven. Tsultrim took refuge and joined the 2011 Exploring Monastic Life program, which inspired her to remain at Sravasti Abbey where she continues to learn and grow in the Dharma. The future Ven. Tsultrim took anagarika ordination in October of that year. On September 6, 2012, she received both the novice and training ordinations (sramanerika and siksamana) and became Ven. Thubten Tsultrim ("Ethical Conduct of the Buddha's Doctrine"). Ven. Tsultrim was born in New England and spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy. She began her career doing maintenance on aircraft, then worked as an Air Traffic Controller before retiring as a Damage Control Chief Petty Officer. She has also worked as a staff member at a residential treatment center for teenage girls. At the Abbey, she is responsible for maintaining the buildings and provides support for the abundant audio teachings that the Abbey generates and shares.