Customer Reviews: Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong
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on January 8, 2013
Western philosophy frequently holds that a person is either compassionate, or not. That they can be encouraged to grow, but those who lack compassion ... well, they're simply lacking.

"Lojong is the Tibetan Buddhist practice that involves working with short phrases (called "slogans") as a way of generating bodhichitta, the heart and mind of enlightened compassion. Shambala Publications"

I could never, in a million years, begin to explain the contents of this book. Mainly, because I am still struggling to adopt and adapt, and learn. I can, however, share the very beginning - "[t]he first point of Zen mind training": Train in the preliminaries.

It was as though the sentences which follow were written for me. I would imagine many people feel the same way. To train in the preliminaries is to resolve to let go of everything that came before the moment where one begins to train. To learn that "... this is your life and you are the only one equipped to deal with it."

Powerful idea, isn't it? Let go of all that came before and find the courage to continue in a different way. To break old habits and patterns - what a freeing concept.

In Tibetan and Mahayana Buddhism, there are traditional reflections used in meditation as a way of training in the preliminaries.
The rarity and preciousness of human life:
When one considers the number of other creatures on the planet, the odds of molecules and DNA combining in such a way as to become human beings is pretty much a million to one - against. As such, each human life is precious.
The inevitability of death:
This is a concept that is difficult for much of Western society, or so it seems. If you live your life, knowing that eventually it will end, how much less significant are the issues of today, or worries about tomorrow?
The awesome and indelible power of our actions:
We've all heard of karma, the concept that every action produces a result. Our thoughts, actions, and words have consequences. Whether we know it or not, we are affecting the world around us. So, we ask ourselves if we wish to be a force for good or do nothing and make things worse. (Are we part of the solution or part of the problem?)
The inescapability of suffering:
It is inevitable, like death, that there will be loss, sorrow, and suffering in our lives. People we love die or leave us. We become ill, grow old, lose jobs, get divorced. There is no life without suffering. Doesn't it make sense that we strengthen our minds and hearts for the suffering that will someday come?

This (Train in the preliminaries) is the first of 59 'slogans' that are part of the Buddhist practice of lojong. It can take weeks or months of meditation / contemplation to grasp, to internalize, this slogan and the 4 reflections. And they are some of the most straight-forward, easily understood slogans.

Lojong is not difficult and it is not simple. It is a thousand-year-old method by which we can teach ourselves to let go of behaviors and attitudes that are damaging to ourselves and those around us. To embrace thoughts and actions and beliefs that free our hearts and our minds to love and value life, ourselves, and all living creatures.


I do not pretend to understand half of what Zoketsu Fischer is sharing in this book. Much of it flies in the face of everything I've learned in 56 years on this planet. However, I do know that, as I add slogans to my meditative practices and attempt to embrace the teachings of lojong, I am changing in powerful ways.

Those looking for a step-by-step instruction guide to enlightenment (insert tab A into slot B) might be disappointed. One reflects, meditates, works on a specific slogan for days or weeks, only to find that the next slogan contradicts what came before. Or, worse yet, instructs the student to completely ignore the previous slogan.

As with any new skill, it takes time to break old patterns; to undo old habits. Muscles long idle must be taught the motions of the new dance. Such is the nature of learning new ideas - the muscles of the mind are resistant to new steps.

I may not get it all the first time through, but I trust Zoketsu Fischer to lead me where I need to be.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary electronic galley of this book from the publisher through [...] professional readers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
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on June 12, 2013
Norman Fischer (no relation, as far as I know) brings the refreshing simplicity and clarity of the Japanese Zen Buddhist tradition to the passionate inner world of Tibetan Buddhist teachings. He does it with disarming humor, down-to-earth practicality and a poet's delight in language. Whether you're a long-time student of the Dharma or simply curious about what this stuff is all about, anyway, this book has endless gifts waiting for you.
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on September 4, 2013
I found this book really helpful. I have worked with some of the other books available about the Lojong practice, and I found this one to be very accessible. Many of the slogans are given in their traditional translations but the author has modified a few of them in ways that make them easier to recall in day to day activities. The explanations and examples for each of the various slogans are very clear and the author gives excellent advice for working with the slogans. He advises learning each slogan and working with it for a while but the text was so interesting and enjoyable that could not resist reading through entire book. I plan to keep working with the slogans and returning to this book for its wonderful guidance and inspiration.
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on June 22, 2016
I've looked into the lojong training technique to train one's mind and ultimately to be more compassionate. I was first exposed to this method through reading Pema Chondron and her explanation of the seven-point mind training technique. I have also perused B. Alan Wallace's book on the subject with a decided Tibetan approach. I am sorry to say that I had not come across Norman Fischer until getting this jewel of a book. Fischer is an excellent and brilliant writer and long-practitioner of this technique. He brings to it his own special slant of Zen and infuses it with personal experiences he's had with implementing and living with this lifelong commitment to this training. He has aroused in me my old fascination with Zen. I did not understand it or its approach until Fischer opened Zen's door for me. I am diving into Zen now, having traversed the many roads that Buddhist thought and practice brought forth, including the pre-Buddhist The Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. I think my attraction to this is partially due to the fact that I was brought up in Japan and subconsciously absorbed some of the Zeitgeist of this world view. Read Fischer and have you eyes opened and your heart warmed.
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on December 17, 2013
I bought this book because when I run, I listen to podcasts from Spirit Rock and the Insight Meditation Center. Norman FIscher's talks are always my favorites. He has a sense of humor and way of speaking clearly and pragmatically and uplifts the human language to a new degree of thinking. His 59 slogans can be used easily and I find myself going back to this book as a reference guide when I feel like Im getting off the path of compassion. I work in an emergency room where people are constantly abusing the health care system in so many ways and just coming in with fear and often anger. Using Fischer's techniques for choosing compassion, I have found my work is so much better when I use this slogans.
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on March 29, 2016
Lots of great lessons in a simple easy to understand format. Good references and explanations to the original works and sayings of Zen Masters.
I have the Kindle edition and the Audible edition and I keep switching between them. Both are great. A lifetime of training in a single volume.
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on April 17, 2013
I believe Norman Fischer represents the very best in the Zen tradition, i.e. an orthopraxis which is not locked down to dogmatic rigidity. This look at the use of Lojong as a preliminary practice for disciplining one's mental practice is an important and useful book which points to an area which is lacking in many American Buddhist practitioners, i.e. sila or moral foundation. Too many of us approach the Dharma without examining our own moral practice and moral foundation. As a result, we often deal with serious crises in our practice, and, sometimes, with serious moral breakdowns. This has been particularly true in the Zen world where many teachers have had to deal with sexual malpractice and/or substance abuse. The one fault of this book is not taking a direct and systematic look at this problem. Fischer doesn't avoid it altogether, but he does not raise the question of how the manner in which Zen is being taught in this country, and, for that matter, in Japan and Korea, avoids the problem of morality and the Dharma. Thus, though I seriously applaud the comprehensive and brilliant exegesis of the Lojong preliminary practice in this book, I do raise the question of Lojong's relationship to moral formation and the Dharma. I wish Norman Fischer had done more to help us with this problem. He has the wisdom and knowledge to have done so.
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on July 7, 2013
What I like about this "training manual" is that it clearly points me to actions I can take to help have a better life by being a more compassionate person. It also teaches me what it means to be compassionate and how to build this skill.

Lojong is a Tibetan system of mind training that lives across time. The training is laid out using 59 slogans which are organized under 7 main points. Slogans are "short, punchy phrases that make an immediate impression." He also states "working with phrases is an ancient technique for mind training in almost all literate cultures" and goes on to show examples.

It's not a long book to read, but one you can reference for a lifetime.
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on January 6, 2014
Although both Zen and Tibetan Buddhism are from the Mahayana branch of Buddhism, the two schools differ in many respects. This provides for a very interesting presentation by Fischer, who is a Zen priest in San Francisco. Fischer is able to take the Lojong, mind training practices which date from about 900 A.D. , and provide readers with a commentary that is modern, along with suggestions for work that are modest in conception, workable, and possibly productive of benefit (I say possibly, because who knows? I hope to put some into my sometime practice!).

By benefit neither Fischer nor I would claim that enlightenment is possible and promised. But perhaps some more equanimity, resilience, and compassion might find their way into your life if you take this work seriously. It comprises of 59 slogans that Fischer puts his twist on. His interpretation may help make these slogans more available to you.

Time will tell, particularly if you take up the work. If not his, you might look at books by Kornfield Boorstin, Goldstein or Salzberg, all espousers/explainers/popularizers of vipassana and meta (insight and loving-kindness) practices. Good luck!
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on May 20, 2013
Though I love having Buddhist principles explained to me
I love even more this way of being remindeded in daily
life of how to practice in a common sense way with these
brief and memorable teachings. Helpful.
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