• Karl Thunemann

Neither #1 nor #2, but Definitely #59

BLOGGER’S NOTE: Before you read this post, I suggest you read “A Panoply of Preliminaries,” which can be found in the category of Favorite Meditations.

By Karl Thunemann

Having been a writer for nearly 70 years, I was unprepared for the blogger’s delight in finding apt images to dress up his blog. Fashioning a well-turned sentence is its own reward. But finding an image that prompts me to stop and think—and might do as much for readers—is exhilarating.


I have known this for quite some time, but was not moved to write about it until I searched the internet for an image to illustrate the first Lojong slogan. I did not expect much, as the text is vague. First, Train in the Preliminaries. I started out wondering, what ARE the preliminaries? There are four: I had to read commentary on them before I could even THINK about training in them.


As I examined the boxy illustration I noticed little errors. But who am I to criticize? Sharp-eyed readers find similar errors in this blog with every posting—misspellings and grammatical stumbling. I catch them myself, but not, alas, until they have been posted

Still, hope springs eternal. Expecting little, I searched the internet for images to illustrate the first slogan. I found precious little—but wait, here was the most curious graphic depiction. It is not about the first slogan; it endeavors to represent all 59. Have a look at it nearby. It resembles a 5X8 card carefully carved into rectangles of various dimensions. Each slogan has its own little box! I felt deeply moved, and I am still trying to figure out why.





I had seen lists of the slogans, but they had not ignited my interest. There was something about this, despite all its right angles, that made me think of mind-mapping, and of the flowering lines and sentences my primary reader scrawls when she watches or listens—the better to expedite her invigorating feedback to the reader or performer. Imagine, each slogan with its own little space! But yet, it is not at all like mind-mapping. The presentation appears in an orderly sequence, 1 to 59, left to right and top to bottom. Of necessity, some are truncated. But still, these barriers are not insurmountable. Arranged in this manner, it seems animated. Of course it would not work as an illustration of the first slogan, but …


As I examined the boxy illustration I noticed little errors. But who am I to criticize? Sharp-eyed readers find similar errors in this blog with every posting—misspellings and grammatical stumbling. I catch them myself, but not, alas, until they have been posted and lie beyond correction. And wait—down here in the righthand corner: No. 59, Don’t Expect Publicity. Such an anachronism! It must be a mistranslation. But still, an image springs to life of institutional advertising in far-ago Tibet:




Later as I browsed in my Lojong bible, * I found a translation of Slogan 59 that went straight to my heart. If enough people espy it, #59 may come to be known as the blogger’s admonitory slogan. And in this book, on page, 232 you will not find the official translation posted in Wikipedia: Don't expect applause. No, this translation has more to do with everyday life—in any time period, regardless of its technology. #59: Don’t expect people to make a fuss over what you are doing. And the writer adds an unsettling comment that seems directed at me: “You shouldn’t expect to gain credentials from your spiritual attainments. Even if you’ve made advances in your practice, you shouldn’t expect the trees to bend toward you or celestial firecrackers to light up the sky, for such displays demonstrate nothing.”


But … but … my blogger’s heart, having lain undiscovered for most of my life, stutters to frame a rejoinder. Putting together a record of my experience should be satisfying in itself. The world does not owe me a response.


So I take Slogan #59 as my watchword, and illustrate it with the little cupboard of slogans. Not perfectly appropriate, but good enough. And I chose to illustrate #1 with an image of a starting line. Prosaic but telling. I am, after all, on the first leg of my Lojong studies.





*That bible: The Practice of Lojong: Cultivating Compassion through Training the Mind, by Traleg Kyabgon.

Blogger’s note: This epistle is dedicated to Diana at foggydetails@gmail.com. While designing my blog, she took my words and showed how they could be illustrated.