Chapter 2: Reflection 28 – As Though Finding a Treasure of Precious Jewels

The Lord gave it to me, Brother Francis, this way to begin doing penance. Because, when I was in sins, it seemed very bitter to me to see lepers. And the Lord himself brought me amongst them and I made mercy with them. And when I withdrew from them, what had seemed bitter to me changed to sweetness of body and soul to me. And after this, I stayed a little while and left the world1

In his fourth verse, Langri Thangpa writes: “When I encounter beings of unpleasant character, / And those oppressed by intense negative karma and suffering, / As though finding a treasure of precious jewels, / I will train myself to cherish them, for they are so rarely found.” 2 Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo states that this verse “is the essence of the lojong approach: to take situations that are normally regarded as obstacles and transform them into spiritual opportunities.” 3 And she is clear that this is not an ethereal or naive approach that would deny the raw and visceral challenges of everyday existence:

We need to develop compassion, loving-kindness, patience and generosity with the behavior of others. We need to cultivate an open, flexible heart-mind. How can we learn these qualities if everyone only does and says everything we want them to say and do …. To encourage us on the path there is the carrot and the stick. The carrot is the assurance that with practice we will feel better, more calm and clear, and we will feel more at ease within ourselves. We will genuinely be able to be of more benefit to other sentient beings … The stick, or whip, is the difficulty of our daily life. These are the things that drive us on to develop a wholly different relationship with adverse circumstances and difficult people, which is going to help us cultivate compassion and patient endurance and kindness and generosity. 4  

Chekawa also invites such a reorientation in understanding and responding to “those oppressed by intense suffering” which he explains refers to “those who are afflicted by leprosy, other serious illnesses, and so on.” The Kadam master continues:  

We should not treat them as enemies by saying, ‘We cannot even look at them, and we must never allow them to come near us.’ Rather we should feel compassion toward them as though they were being led away by the king’s executioners … [W]e should feel, ‘What can I do to help them?’ until our tears flow freely. This means that we should first console them with words, and if this proves ineffective, we should provide for their materials needs and render help to cure their illness. If this, too, is unsuccessful, we should sustain them in our thoughts, and in action we should protect them with shelter. Some people, thinking, ‘This will not benefit the other, but it could harm me,’ cover their noses and walk away from those oppressed by acute suffering. Even so, there is no certainty that such suffering will never befall us. Therefore, in our actions, we should provide others with food, medicine, and the life, while with our thoughts we should contemplate the following and train the mind: ‘Whatever sufferings beings have, / May they all ripen upon me.’ 5    

In a 13th century “life” [vita] of Francis of Assisi, Chekawa’s words seem to find their incarnation:

What spread his good name in the first place was his patience, / In virtue of which he is given care of lepers; no one / Was more zealous than he in looking after them, even if / At one time he could not bear to watch their houses even / At a distance, Now he makes beds, wipes away venom, soothes ulcers, / Touches mouths, washes feet, strokes corroding rotten limbs, /And forces to the task his fugitive feelings. 6


  1. The English translation of Francis’ words is that of Bernard McGinn in his The Flowering of Mysticism: Men and Women in the New Mysticism – 1200-1350. Volume III of The Presence of God: A History of Western Christian Mysticism. New York: A Crossroad Herder Book, 1998, page 43. And in note # 71 on page 340, Professor McGinn also provides the original Latin text: “Dominus ita dedit mihi fratri Francisco incipere faciendi poenitentiam: quia cum essem in peccatis nimis mihi videbatur amarum videre leprosos. Et ipse Dominus conduxit me inter illos et feci misericordiam cum illis. Et recedente me ab ipsis, id quod videbatur mihi amarum, conversum fuit mihi in dulcedinem animi et corporis; et postea parum steti et exivi de saeculo.” I am very grateful for his revealing translation of “feci misericordiam cum” as “made mercy with.” In a comment on his translation, the Professor states: “I translate as literally as possible to try to give some flavor of Francis’ own voice.” (Ibid. note # 71 on page 340.)
  2. Langri Thangpa, “Eight Verses of Mind Training,” Mind Training: The Great Collection. Compiled by Shonu Gyalchok and Konchok Gyaltsen. Translated and edited by Thupten Jinpa. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2006, page 275. Another translation: “When I see ill-natured people, / Overwhelmed by wrongdoing and pain, / May I cherish them as something rare, / As though I had found a treasure-trove.” (Eight Verses for Training the Mind: An Oral Teaching by Geshe Sonam Rinchen. Translated and edited by Ruth Sonam. Boulder: Snow Lion, 2001, page 53.)
  3. Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, The Heroic Heart: Awakening Unbound Compassion. Boulder, Colorado: Shambhala Publications, 2022, page 81.  
  4. Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, The Heroic Heart: Awakening Unbound Compassion. Boulder, Colorado: Shambhala Publications, 2022, page 82.  
  5. Chekawa, “A Commentary on ‘Eight Verses on Mind Training,” Mind Training: The Great Collection. Compiled by Shonu Gyalchok and Konchok Gyaltsen. Translated and edited by Thupten Jinpa. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2006, pages 283. The quotation that Chekawa uses at the end of this passage is taken from the 10th chapter of Shantideva’s The Way of the Bodhisattva: “The pains and sorrows of all wandering beings – / May they ripen wholly on myself. / And may the virtuous company of Bodhisattvas / Always bring about the happiness of beings.” (Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva: A Translation of the Bodhicharyavatara. Translated from the Tibetan by the Padmakara Translation Group. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1996/2007, chapter 10, verse 55, page 171.)
  6. Henri D’Avranches, “The Versified Life of Saint Francis,” (1232-1239). Francis of Assisi: Early DocumentsVolume 1 – The Saint. Edited by Regis J. Armstrong, O.F.M, Cap.; J.A. Wayne Hellmann, O.F.M. Conv.; and William J. Short, O.F.M. New York: New City Press, 1999, page 456. Extended Latin quotation: (Veste nova veteris, quo possit honestius ire / Commodiusque pati quodcumque minabitur aura. / Passus egestates pro Christi nominec tantas, / Semper et assidue vultu persistit eodem, / Quanto pauperior extra, robustior intus. / Primaque dilatat eius patientia famam, / Intuitu cuius primum committitur illi / Cura leprosorum, quos sollicitudine tanta / Nemo procuravit, et quorum tecta videre / Vix tulerat quamcumque procul distantia …” Retrieved from the website of the Commission on the Franciscan Intellectual-Spiritual Tradition: The Versified Life of Saint Francis : FA:ED, vol. 1, p. 456 (

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