This is the twenty-first of the series of reflections arising from a month in silence and solitude; the musings invite the reader to explore the Truth for himself or herself. May the writer's reflections be windows to look in, or out, onto the vista of our one Beloved, our deepest, truest Self. Peace! Brian K
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The first option is the way of conventional modern life—the pursuit of external happiness, which never lasts or fulfills. The second option is the way of the great sages—the total reliance on tsewa [Tibetan,"open, warm heart"]. In its simplest form, we can state our choice in this way: Do we want to have an open heart or a closed heart?
*Dzigar Kongtrul. Training in Tenderness.
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Jan Willis, a Tibetan Buddhist, tells of visiting India, and there Banaras. She enjoyed being among the ghats alongside the Ganges, or Ganga Matagi. The River of the Goddess Ganga. Here, persons would have ritual baths, pray, send their dead onto the waters after the burning of the corpses. In her book, Dreaming Me, she shares two scenes there leaving what Willis identifies as an "indelible impression" on her. This is one, which I read during solitude and remains impressed in heart...
[E]arly one morning near Asi Ghat, I sat on a flagstone near the water. I was marveling at the thought of this murky and polluted river being venerated as the purest water on earth. Every Hindu wanted to be cremated along these ghats so that his ashes might be sprinkled into this purifying source. My eyes focused on a certain Brahmin [member of priestly class] wearing his sacred thread. He was perhaps in his mid-fifties, white-haired, and big-bellied. Standing waist-deep in the water, he turned as he prayed to face the four directions. Occasionally, he squatted down completely so that his body and head disappeared momentarily into the brownish water. He was clearly a devout Hindu. Suddenly, he, and as a consequence, I, noticed a form floating in the water. It was a small body, wrapped in white cloth and tied around the neck, waist, and feet. It bobbled and moved, untethered from its rock-mooring. The man interrupted his prayers, spat in disgust at the corpse, and then continued praying.
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In Buddhism, the Mahayana Vehicle, or Greater Vehicle, presents the Bodhisattva as the ideal of spiritual life. The Bodhisattva, one with heart of clarity, or wakeful insight, is compassionate. This one has aspiration not to enter Nirvana until all sentient beings are free of suffering. This would be alike a Christian praying, "Dear Lord, may I not go to heaven, not until I assist so all go to heaven. So, upon the death of this present body, send me where you will, but not to heaven, only where I can serve suffering beings."
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The corpse represents the suffering of the world, the pain we all share. No one is above emotional suffering and pain of other sorts. The first Noble Truth the Buddha taught is "Life is Suffering." No amount of religion or ritual can lead to escape from Suffering, only Truth can, and, finally, a Truth that embraces both suffering and bliss in a Grace of union. In Christian terms, when you fully experience the resurrection, you are right then equally in the cross, the empty tomb and the tree filled with the body of Christ are one. Then, with the Christ, you say, "Come to me, all laboring and heavy burdened, I will give you rest...." You want persons to find rest from suffering simply by being in your presence, for your presence is the Presence of Christ, of Buddha, of Universal Grace. You have no interest in preaching religion at them. You want them to be relieved and enjoy peace, love, and joy. Behind their show of strength, at times cruelty, you see a suffering being.
What the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, while he was in prison for sharing of Christ, "Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering on the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am joyful and rejoice with you all" ~ this you wish to feel and say. One may not see how he or she could demonstrate this degree of Love. That is the status of most of us. We begin by aspiring to become one gladly willing to pour out our lives for others. For some this will be a more active, more public life, some more passive and private. Some, I believe, have been, and are, called to a life of solitude to meditate and pray with and for others, all beings. We need not see them as of less value than those who serve in a public way. There are many quiet saints, reclusive sages, in our world, I am confidant. We need them, very much! One of the foremost Christian clergy of the past, Charles Spurgeon, spoke before thousands, and he attributed the inspiration he shared to the prayers of those who remained below the podium where he would be speaking, there praying for him and all present. You do not have to be seen, to make a huge difference.
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We need a practice, spiritually, a life practice, that leads us to open heart, feel deeply and warmly, the suffering and pain of all beings, not just human. Our path may be religious, or not. There is only one Heart, from that we live, breathe, and have being ~ all of us. We can choose heartlessnes or heartfulness, we choose. One may say, "But if I allow that tender heartfulness to arise, would I not be unhappy?" No, one finds immense, deep joy in embracing suffering; in that embrace is Love. Both the Buddha and the Christ teach us this.
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*All material, unless another source is cited, is authored by the presenter of Lotus of Heart, Brian Kenneth Wilcox, Florida USA. Use of the material is permitted; Brian only requests that credit be given and to be notified at firstname.lastname@example.org .
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union, is available through major booksellers.
*Move cursor over pictures for photographer and title.