'A Sunday Morning Walk... Deerfield, MA'
A virtuous mind is the source of happiness. An unvirtuous mind is the source of pain. It's as simple as that.
*Dudjom Rinpoche. Counsels from My Heart.
Samuel L. Lewis -
In the physical world the human mind has divided and analyzed the sunlight and other forms of light, perceiving many aspects or forms of phenomena in them. But just as physically light rays and X-rays are strained through gratings, so mentally light rays, qualities and universals are strained, so to speak, by the human mind. This straining or filtering seems to produce many out of one—the one being fundamental, the many being psychological as well as material.
*Neil Douglas-Klotz. Gardens of Vision and Initiation: The Life Journey of Samuel L. Lewis.
In my childhood, we lived on dirt roads in a rural county in South Georgia, USA. We often drove between the family home and the paternal grandparent's home. The latter was where we did most of our farm work. Also, we would often visit the grandparents. So, this trek of about three miles we often crossed. And where we lived, we often would see trash thrown out among the roads, including litter on this one. Beer cans, for example, were often seen along the routes. I wondered what relationship drinking beer had with thinking it was okay to dump the cans like this. For although many drank soda from cans, one would see these cans much less frequently. My conclusion was not favorable to the beer-can dumpers.
Even after over 40 years, I recall vividly a day in which I disputed with my father. After he threw some trash out the window of our vehicle, I immediately, and with a frustrated tone, argued he needed to stop throwing litter out along the road. My view was trash belonged in our trash can, not on Earth.
My contesting with my father was before I learned of sensitivity to the environment. The words "recycling" and "ecology" and "global warming" were long ahead to be in my knowledge and vocabulary. I innately knew trashing Earth was wrong. My contestation was possibly influenced by being taught God created Earth and Sky and All therein, which included my body - this latter is a reason I avoided mind-altering drugs and alcohol popular in my youth - the 70s. When a friend came to me laughing about how fantastic was his first introduction to marijuana and saying enthusiastically, "You've gotta try it!," I resolutely said, "No." And I felt this way about the body we live on: Earth. In fact, this human body is made of the same matter that composes Earth. After all, at many funerals, we hear, "Dust to dust."
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Now, while the reader might see this writing as on the Earth-as-environment, it is and is not. Let me explain.
When contemplating this about littering in my childhood, what arose is what I had been listening to from the eminent, late Tibetan Buddhist, Dudjom Rinpoche. Listening to his words on the mind and virtue, I relished instruction in Bodhichitta again. Bodhichitta I call, faithful to Buddhist teaching, The Altruistic Heart. Tibetan Buddhists often refer to the Mind of Bodhichitta. A good rendering of Bodhichitta is "altruistic, kind, well-wishing, benevolent."
So, while we stress much now the environment, most persons mean the outer one. Yet, we humans often do not reasonably care for Earth, for we do not care for our minds, so our hearts also. We are more concerned about putting on makeup, trimming or muscling our body, or brushing our teeth than good-care of our minds and hearts. We might wish to live in a clean home, well-adorned, where we feel comfortable and free to welcome others to relax with us. We may take much pride in our home looking pleasant to others. We would not want our house littered with trash and stinking with a foul smell.
Yet, how about the within of us? Now, Buddhism speaks much of the mind. Mind, as we use it in English, is only a capacity for thought. And thought is a flowing of energy. Thought is never static. If I note a thought moving in consciousness, I can say, "There is the mind." Without a thought, there is no mind. Yet, consciousness remains present as the energetic-field allowing awareness of thought. So, it seems the Buddhist use of mind refers to consciousness and its contents. Awareness of thought requires consciousness. When thought dissolves, that energy returns into consciousness, folding back into its source - consciousness.
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Consciousness is overlapped by energetic-veils, for thought is energy from subtle to gross, from dense to light. Hence, we can veil the heart with negative thought or unveil it with positive thought - clear, light, kind, gentle, and edifying. For example, some persons - look at them - you can see their heart-state is downcast, is cloudy. Other persons, you see they live with a brilliance of heart. Yet, we can only speak this way rightly by remembering no thought can touch or alter the heart. The most unkind thought cannot touch the heart. However, thoughts influence the inner environment through which the heart seeks to express.
When you become perceptive enough, you notice how the face and eyes tell you about others' heart-condition. You are not judging the other, merely seeing what shows, what cannot be hidden. This is as natural as walking out and looking up and saying, "This is an overcast day," or, "This is a sunny afternoon." We cannot hide how we do or do not care for our inner environment, even as Earth shows us how we do or do not care for it. Likewise, we can grow in sensitivity to the current state of our own inner life and, thereby, make adjustments to better care for it.
In some cultures, the "downcastness" perceived in appearance in some persons refers to a person someone might say regarding, "He has lost his soul." Such means, not a loss of the soul, or heart, but a covering-over of it - possibly to an extent the person has lost all sensitivity to seek healing. This insensitivity speaks of persons whom one might say, "She has sold her soul to the devil," "He has lost his soul," "She is soulless," or "He is heartless." So, we do not need to judge anyone, one himself or herself declares, with or without knowing, the internal environment. Do I trash my inner self? If so, others will see trash.
Now, this leads us to the need to care well for our inner life. This nurture is central to all spirituality: care of the heart. We care for the heart partly by caring for the mind. What we give attention to affects the spiritual heart-condition as much as what we eat affects our physical heart-condition.
To have a healthy, altruistic heart, we attend to good heart-care. One way of this is asking, "What do I want to enter into my awareness?" In other words, "What do I want to think about?" Remember, every thought has energy - helpful or otherwise. There are no neutral thoughts. Likewise, specific words, in interaction with our prior value of them, communicate energy. By mindfully speaking, we can create a better inner ecology by choosing wisely words that resonate positively in the inner self. Words affect us physically, for words evoke energy that affects our central nervous system. This is not metaphysical, this is biological.
From the Christian Scriptures, a wise instruction corresponds to how Buddhists speak of caring for the mind. Hence, we read in Philippians 4.8 (NLT) -
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Hence, as we draw closer to the Light, we become more sensitive to what is and is not of the Light. We will need to adjust to what we give attention to, welcoming new thoughts and saying "Goodbye" to others. This change includes what entertainment we watch and listen to and what conversations we participate in with others. Remember, too, we cannot be a positive-energy being, spreading brilliance of heart, while indulging in negativity even when the negative is true. We need exposure to the negative to an extent, for we live among others and are all affected by the good and bad news. Yet, to become aware does not mean coddling negativity.
Years ago, I heard a conservative Christian on radio - on a broadcast by a far-right-wing man, always talking against the so-called liberals and Democrats. This woman spoke of being a Christian. She told, rather proudly, to her radio-guru how she was always listening to the political news. Such absorption in the news, of whatever political persuasion, that rants on and on, encouraging dislike and fear, gloating in demeaning others, is not human - it is an efficient means to become the negativity one gives such incessant attention to.
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So, to have the Mind of Bodhichitta, the natural light of the heart must shine out effulgently. This heart will be a heart of kindness and compassion, for it is. If we live the trash dump, we will stink like a trash dump. If we breathe in the Light, we will beam with the Light.
In these times, with so much uncertainty and spreading of negativity, let us remember the Light is most seen to be the Light when shining in the darkness. The darker the sky, the brighter the moon appears. We need purity of life, not to be better than others but to shine brightly. We cannot run from the darkness, and we cannot hide from it. We can devote ourselves to shining, and brilliantly. We can be lighthouses. And in doing this, we will bring blessings for both others and ourselves. As says Dudgom Rinpoche, "A virtuous mind is the source of happiness. An unvirtuous mind is the source of pain. It's as simple as that." There is much pain around us, always. Let us be joyful and spread joy. Let us brighten another's life by shining our light upon them. Amen.
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*(C) Brian K. Wilcox, 2020
*Brian's book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, can be ordered through major online booksellers or the publisher AuthorHouse. The book is a collection of poems based on mystical traditions, especially Christian and Sufi, with extensive notes on the teachings and imagery in the poetry.
*Spiritual paths give teachings in transforming the mind through direct spiritual practices. Some of these practices apply more to the early stage of meditation, in which purification is focused on. Later, one is likely not to work as directly with purification of mind and life in meditation, as passive receptivity comes to the fore.