Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Along our spiritual journey in Buddhism, there are two aspects of our path that reflect two distinct kinds of practice we must engage in. Though the Buddha taught both, they were passed along over the centuries from teacher to student in two separate lineages. However, like the two wings of a bird, they are both necessary as we embark upon our journey of enlightenment, be it a state free of suffering for ourselves alone or the ultimate enlightened state of Buddhahood we seek in order to benefit all sentient beings.

Clearly the first of these is the opening of one's heart. The Dalai Lama describes the opening of one's heart; "What does it mean to open the heart? First of all, we understand that the idea of of the heart is a metaphorical one. The heart is perceived in most cultures to be the wellspring of compassion, love, sympathy, righteousness, and intuition rather than merely the muscle responsible for circulating blood through the body."

"In the Buddhist worldview, both aspects of the path, however, are understood to take place in the mind. Ironically, the Buddhist view is that the mind is located in the middle of the chest. An open heart is an open mind. A change of heart is a change of mind. Still, our conception of the heart provides a useful, if temporary, tool when trying to understand the distinction between the "vast" and "profound" aspects of the path."

In response to the tragedy and disaster in New Orleans Americans have "opened their hearts" to embrace the victims with offers of food, water, shelter, jobs, and education. Americans by nature are a generous lot, especially went it comes to a national calamity.

If we look at the Buddhist view of an open heart being an "open mind" The quetion is will this perceived generosity, change the mind of those who are helping.

The poverty level amongst blacks is self evident, as is the governments' view of poor blacks with no money, no jobs, no education being prime candidates to be recruited to fight America's wars abroad. This is an interesting turning point; Will it change the mind and perceptions of the broad stroke American populace that still views them as looters, gang members, drug addicts, pimps, and welfare bums. I would encourage you to see a movie called "Crash" which paints a true picture of America's "mind"set.

As you and I journey towards a new sense of enlightenment, I would hope that we begin to "open our mind by opening our hearts" to looking at things a little differently in our lives. Over this past weekend, I had many occasions to test my response to people and events. I failed miserably in one case, by allowiing anger to ruin my evening. I succeeded in another case , by opening my heart to my partner in life and by changing my mind as to how I would share my deepest fears with her. I had no problem "opening my heart" to my grandchild. We never have a problem being open minded with children.

Whether it's your wife, yur husband, your boss, your business partner, your clients, or your friends, the opportunity you have now is to "test" your "open mindeness". Can you view them in a different way that enriches your experience with them. Making that fundamental shift requires a new way of thinking. Be patient with yourself as I have had to be with myself. Are you making these subtle changes in your life?

Buddha says; "Train yourself in this way: from higher to higher, from strength to strength we will strive, and we will come to realize unsurpassed freedom."

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