Buddhism: Cold Heart or Warm Heart?
Clinging to a tradition? Or genuine, human kindness?
I’ve been in spiritual groups for nearly 50 years and have encountered the very same problem in all of them: attachment and fear = insecurity = subtle hostility. There are claims to have an open heart and loving kindness, but does that actually manifest? No. We are emotionally blackmailed into following another’s cultural tradition without question or we are shunned, which means that no one will talk to us.
It’s important to question everything, and not assume anything. I’ve found that we are only free to question outsidethe group. People will say anything and pray for anything, but when it comes to doing something like listening,they are suddenly deaf because of an inability or reluctance to deal with a challenging situation in front of them. When we meet another ‘spiritual’ person, we feel we have to tread carefully, don’t we?
Buddhism (like all religions) is full of methods, traditions and culture that can obscure just being a decent, genuinely warm and friendly human being. The first ‘perfection’ in Buddhism is generosity, but this generosity seems to extend only to those afar(the guru’s current project), rather than to those close at hand.
I have been a spiritual problem child most of my life ;-). I can’t just accept what people say any more; it’s what they actually do – and how much they shine instead of projecting – that counts.
There is a practice called Tonglen which is the inspiration of “taking and sending”, reversing our usual logic of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure. In Tonglen practice, we visualise taking in the pain of others with each in-breath, and sending out whatever will benefit them on the out-breath. In the process, we become liberated from age – old patterns of selfishness and we begin to feel love, being able to take care of others and ourselves.
Does it work?
Tonglen is only a mental exercise!
Tibetan lamas talk about an open heart, but Tibetan Buddhism is so complex that there isn’t time to listen to others’ concerns. In my experience, lamas actually lack practicalcompassion. They will spend hours talking about the Dharma, but not about having genuine love for one another, and the importance of taking time to listen and communicate.
Religion breeds competitiveness, divisiveness and smugness. The inner circle is a closed shop. The true inner circle is where we are now.
My wife and I haven’t been to a retreat or a teaching for six years, and we couldn’t be happier. And retreats and teachings cost a fortune to attend. This is why I write a blog: to make the spiritual process freely available.