Blog by Jack Kornfield. Author, Buddhist Practitioner and one of the key teachers to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practice to the West. As the Buddha teaches…A Generous Heart Is The Source of Happiness. It tears down walls. It connects you to others. May the blessings of all your generosity spread goodness to you and all beings.
How can we cultivate the qualities of mindful loving awareness? How do we listen to the pulse of the world? How do we listen to one another? Mindfulness becomes a gateway for our healing and liberation. This is a radical act. The Buddha said there is a healing that takes place when you bring loving awareness to the body. To that which is painful and also that which is joyful and beautiful.
In this podcast I’m joined by Chade-Meng Tan for an exploration of how spiritual practice and the search inside ourselves can guide us through our human predicament.
Chade-Meng Tan (Meng) is an award-winning engineer, international bestselling author, thought leader, movie producer, and philanthropist. Meng led the creation of a groundbreaking mindfulness-based emotional intelligence course at Google called Search Inside Yourself and is work has received eight nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Buddha recognized something very important about what happens when we practice the teachings of the Dharma. The closer to the Dharma we get, the more our inherent suffering will diminish. We look at how we can begin searching for our suffering by searching inside ourselves.
“Once you are able to quiet the mind, you have a highly sustainable source of happiness. My friends, that is a life-changing insight. That suggests that happiness is not something we pursue, happiness is already there. Happiness is something we access, something we allow. Once you understand that, it changes everything in life. This is only the first step of practice – and it gets better.” – Chade-Meng Tan
As you practice in Dharma you get a sense that the allowing of things is what brings freedom. In this episode, we begin with a reflection on the paradoxical course of awakening laid out by The Buddha in the Satipatthana Sutta. We look at the path of liberation offered in The Buddha’s teachings and the process of purification that comes with mindfulness practice.
As my teacher Ajahn Chah said, “People come here looking for The Buddha. They bow, they take refuge in The Buddha – but what is The Buddha? When we see with the eye of wisdom, we know that The Buddha is timeless, unborn, unrelated to any physical body or history or image. The Buddha is the ground of all being, the realization of the truth of the unmoving mind.”
One of the important qualities of a meditative life, or opening one’s self to a spiritual dimension, is that it is an opening to beauty, an opening to some sense of rhythm and happiness in the world. To the extent that we can tend all of the parts of ourselves, to that extent can we tend the Earth and the community around us.
Even in the most difficult times, it is possible to see something much bigger. We need to be able to envision another world—a world that is not ruled as much by greed or hatred or fear. It won’t change until we envision this. What level do you want to dance on? As Ram Dass says, “You need to remember your Buddha Nature and your social security number.” You have to hold them both in your heart at the same time.
In a psychology of liberation, selflessness is a therapeutic necessity. Even though the whole concept may seem initially frightening and confusing, it is really quite simple. It is only the small self, the self-centered “ego” that cannot imagine how we will function without it. Ram Dass used to say, “The ego wants to be present at its own funeral.” But it turns out that in releasing the sense of self, everything functions quite well without Identification. We begin to recognize that the less tightly we identify with our experience, the more gracious we become. There is a grace, a responsiveness, a flow and natural connections with all things.
We have all had the experience of being with people who are selfless, who belong to life in an easy and flexible way. They don’t take things personally. They are gracious, receptive, present, yet not rigid. There is not a lot of clinging to their point of view, not a strong attachment to the way things should be, not a rigid grasping of me or mine.
Dipama Barua of Calcutta, one of my teachers and a revered Buddhist elder, exemplified this spirit for me. She was both a meditation master at the highest level and a loving grandmother. When I visited her apartment she would teach in a practical and modest way. Around her was a palpable sense of stillness and profound well-being. It was not the well-being of outer security—she lived in a tiny apartment in one of Calcutta’s poor neighborhoods. Nor was it the well-being of rank and position—she was mostly uncelebrated and unknown. Though she was a remarkably skillful teacher, her selflessness bloomed in her smile, in her care for others, whatever they needed; in her openness to whatever was present. She was selfless, both empty and alive.
Dipama’s heart seemed to pervade her whole body, the whole room, all who came into her orbit. Her presence had a big impact on others. Those who lived nearby say the whole apartment block became harmonious after she moved in. One day a student complained that ordinarily his mind was filled with thoughts and plans, judgments and regrets. He wondered what it was like to live more selflessly. So he asked Dipama directly about the alternative, “What is in your mind?” She smiled, “In my mind are only three things: loving-kindness, concentration and peace.” These are the fruits of selflessness. With selflessness there is less of us and yet presence, connectedness, and freedom all come alive.
Dipama shows what is possible when we return to our Buddha nature. But let us remember that the shining of the heart is not unique to meditation masters and advanced practitioners. It is here in us all. As we cultivate loving-kindness, eventually we can end up like Dipama, radiating love to all we meet.
Understanding selflessness, we learn not to take things personally. This not a pathologically detached state, disconnected from the world. Nor is it a state where we are caught in a new spiritual identity, “See how selfless I am.” Selflessness is always here.
In any moment we can let go and experience life without calling it me or mine. This is the realization of selflessness. The beloved Tibetan master Kalu Rinpoche described this experience, “When you understand, you will see that you are nothing. And being nothing, you are everything.” When identification with the small sense of self drops away, what remains is the spacious heart that is connected with all things.
If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family. —Ram Dass
In Buddhist monasteries when conflict arises, the monks and nuns are encouraged to undertake a formal practice of reconciliation. They begin with this simple intention: “No matter what the hurt within us, we can seek to be reconciled.” Whether we are spending the holidays with family or not, and even if we cannot or should not speak to the other, we can find the courage to hold reconciliation and goodwill in our own heart. We can do our part toward the healing of the world.
When we reflect on our family we can see that each person holds a measure of struggle and pain, just as each person carries a secret beauty. When we allow our hearts to sense the pain and struggles of the others, and how the suffering they carry causes pain to themselves and others, a natural compassion arises. This doesn’t mean we have to fix or change them—or even stay near them if their actions are harmful. It means we can see them with the eyes of compassion—we can put ourselves in their shoes and listen to them with a more understanding and open heart. We can wish them well. This is the invitation to reconciliation.
Reconciliation may ask us to listen to one another deeply. It may ask us to see each other with more mercy and tenderness. It may mean acknowledging the past and then be willing to start anew.
In the meditation practice below, we begin by reciting the intentions of reconciliation, willingly planting seeds of reconnection and love in our heart. As we repeat each phrase, we turn our intention to the possibility of restoring harmony where suffering has set us apart. We begin to build a bridge of tenderness to those who have been separated by pain and fear.
Let yourself sit in a comfortable posture. Bring your attention gently to your body and breath. Stay with the breath until you feel settled and present. Then bring into awareness the benefits of reconciliation and healing for all those who have been estranged and set apart. We begin with the family because the family is where we are most vulnerable and can most easily be hurt. If we cannot be reconciled here, it will be difficult to find reconciliation with the world.
Picture each person and group named below as you go through this practice. Recite each simple phrase, one category at a time. Feel the distance and pain between them. Hold the tender possibility of restoring love between them. Know that simply expressing the heart’s willingness to seek reconciliation turns our life toward peace.
Breathe gently. Slowly recite the following intentions, allowing time to sense the reconnection of each:
May all mothers and sons be reconciled.
May all mothers and daughters be reconciled.
May all fathers and sons be reconciled.
May all fathers and daughters be reconciled.
May all sisters and brothers be reconciled.
May all husbands and wives be reconciled.
May all partners and lovers be reconciled.
May all family members be reconciled.
May all employers and employees be reconciled.
May all community members be reconciled.
May all friends be reconciled.
May all women be reconciled.
May all men be reconciled.
May all men and women be reconciled.
May all religions be reconciled.
May all races be reconciled.
May all nations be reconciled.
May all peoples be reconciled.
May all creatures be reconciled.
May all beings of every form be reconciled.
Remember, reconciliation and living with compassion does not mean we have to personally repair every difficulty in our extended family and community. Compassion is a state of heart, not co-dependence. In true compassion we do not lose our own self-respect or sacrifice ourselves blindly for others. Compassion is a circle that encompasses all beings, including ourselves. It blossoms only when we ask, “Is this compassionate for ourselves as well as others?” When these two sides are in harmony true reconciliation can happen.
If the liberation of consciousness is the goal of spiritual practice, then why is it such a taboo to talk about actually reaching enlightenment in this life? We can unpack the concept of enlightenment by looking at the many enlightenments written about in Buddhist texts and investigate some of the differences between the various beliefs around liberation, which present many paths to the same end.
Mistakenly, some people think that Buddhism condemns all desire. But there is no getting rid of desire. Instead, Buddhist psychology leads us from desire to abundance.
The Indian sage Nisargadatta, one of my teachers, challenged his students, saying, “The problem with you is not that you have desires, but that you desire so little. Why not desire it all? Why not want complete fulfillment, joy, and freedom?” Nisargadatta did not mean boundless greed. He spoke from the state of consciousness that knows it is not separate from the world. Kabir, the Indian mystic poet, put it this way: “I laugh when I hear a fish in the sea is thirsty.”
We already contain that we most deeply desire. Life, love, inner freedom, connection to all. The more we can realize this, the more we can undertake all things with a sense of abundance. Our inner abundance radiates a sense of worth, value, and ease, of having something to give to the world and enjoying doing so. Without abundance, we can be in the midst of riches and feel like a hungry ghost. Wise parents and teachers bring out abundance in their children by helping them feel that each has much to give, and providing them the opportunity to do so. For each of us, whether raising a healthy child, building a conscious business, planting a garden, or serving our community, a heartfelt dedication is required. Wise dedication springs from our own sense of inner abundance.
The state of abundance is connected with a deep sense of gratitude. When we open to abundance, we can enjoy the fog lifting from the morning’s melting snow, and the steam rising from the hot bowl of tomato soup on our lunch table. We can appreciate the half smile of the tired waitress, the silver crescent of the moon at twilight, the unstoppable laughter of children in the schoolyard, and celebrate the fact that we are here, breathing and alive, on this marvelous earth. This fulfillment is far beyond the “prosperity consciousness” that is promulgated in books and workshops that urge us to visualize fancy cars, sprawling mansions, and burgeoning bank accounts. Unbridled outer seeking can actually reflect an inner limitation, of a sense of insufficiency.
Our true nature is much greater than this. The abundant heart is already whole. We have all touched this at some time. The abundant heart embraces our world, holding all its joy and fear, gain and loss, nobility and selfishness, enveloped in a field of compassion and love.
In this season of Thanksgiving, let’s pause and take time to settle into a quiet and grateful appreciation. With a full heart, sense that you can care for this beautiful and troubled world, receiving its blessings and adding your gifts to the whole.
A conversation with Sylvia Boorstein around taking the Bodhisattva vow and staying in touch with our Buddha nature as we navigate our journey of awakening. As you sit, the unfinished business of your life comes – you start to become mindful of the things that are held in your body as they start to release: the grudges, the sadness and longing, as does the love that has not been expressed. All that we hold in ourselves starts to open up as we sit. It turns out that we have within us the same 10,000 joys and sorrows that the world is composed of – what do we do with that?