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Lions Roar : September 2017
zeal for social change if I am not in touch with my anger?” and “Doesn’t all this meditation lead to quietism and indifference?” Maha Ghosananda’s simple and concrete response made the answer breathtakingly clear— training the mind in kind- ness and compassion is what supports activism. He’d been in Cambodian displaced persons camps, and Auschwitz and Hiro- shima, and maintained a mind that blesses. He was an old man, and still he carried an activist petition literally “up his sleeve.” His commitment to maintaining a mind of loving-kindness is what supported his ability to act. I once heard His Holiness the Dalai Lama respond to a ques- tion about anger by saying, “Of course anger arises in me. When something happens and it isn’t what I wanted, anger arises.” He paused, giggled, and then said, “But it does not need to be a problem.” Then he paused, and giggled again. He went on to explain that not making anger a problem did not mean ignoring it. It meant addressing the issue through helpful action. My favorite line in the traditional loving-kindness chant is, “May I be free of enmity and danger.” When I first heard that line, thirty years ago, it was explained as a protection mantra the Buddha offered to monks to help them cope with their fears as they went their solitary ways. I thought it meant, “May I not be endangered by enemies coming after me.” But eventually I understood it to mean, “May I not endanger my clarity of vision by allowing my mind to be confused by anger.” Another translation might be, “May my mind stay clear enough for me to make sound judgments about what to do.” The words “clear enough” allow for anger to arise, as it does, when the mind is startled by something that evokes alarm. Then, understanding the momentary arising of anger as a sign that we have been frightened, we can pause long enough to understand what’s happening and choose a wise response. These days, the Metta Sutta is the only printed material I hand out at teachings. The fundamental message of the sutta is to take this wish to heart: “May all beings be at ease, omitting none. Let none, through anger or ill will, wish harm upon another. Just as a mother would give her life to support her one and only child, so should we boundlessly open our hearts.” It is the “omitting none” instruction that people find most radical. When I introduce it, people often mention that it doesn’t explicitly say how to accomplish transforming one’s mind to such benevolence. It can sound, as it did to me at first, as “Just do it!” Their understanding usually unfolds as mine has—over years of practice. When my own mind is clear and steady and peaceful, it naturally feels, “Why not wish well?” It becomes expansive and therefore more tolerant. I don’t need to like everyone. I can even dislike, or disapprove, or feel moved to try to stop people from doing harmful things. I just need not to wish them ill. I can see people as adversaries, but not as enemies. Perhaps the most important part of cultivating and main- taining impartial loving-kindness is that one’s own mind and body feel glad and protected. With a mind of loving-kindness, I can be an active, engaged person in the world without the pain and fear that arises from having enemies. SYLVIA BOORSTEIN is a psychologist, leading teacher of Insight Meditation, and author of many bestselling books, including Pay Atten- tion, for Goodness’ Sake. Open Your Heart Further PEMA KHANDRO RINPOCHE on a bodhisattva’s love DON’T GIVE UP ON LOVE. When love is hard or painful, open your heart even further. That’s the advice given by the great nineteenth-century Bud- dhist master Patrul Rinpoche. He tells the story of a golden bee who lived happily with his lover in a lotus garden. From the moment these two bees met, they had an immediate connec- tion. They laughed and smiled together and shared their deepest thoughts. But then a storm came. The golden bee’s lover passed away. In an instant, his bliss turned to suffering. Despite his con- sort’s virtue and how much he loved her, her life had ended. Overcome with sorrow, the golden bee requested advice. This is what he was told: “Sentient beings were your kind mothers and fathers in previous lives. They are now wandering in con- ditioned existence. Even though they too want bliss, they expe- rience suffering. They too may have no friend. Bring to mind great love and compassion while remembering others in this way. Remembering them will awaken your courage. With great love, cultivate the wish to clear the suffering of all beings away.” This advice to cultivate boundless love for all sentient beings when we are parted from those we love is a teaching for us all. When our love is tired or has hit its limits, Buddhism suggests we open our hearts further and tap into a more expansive love. This opening is the first step toward awakening our natural heroism known as the bodhisattva’s love. We can open up to greater love in moments of sorrow because our vulnerability and our compassion are intertwined. Like the golden bee, we can begin to open our hearts by feeling compassion toward ourselves, and then bring to mind others who are in the same situation. This practice goes against our usual self-protective instinct. Yet it turns out that when we contemplate the suffering of others and open our hearts fur- ther, it actually gives us more strength. It gives us purpose and endurance. Opening our hearts awakens our intrinsic courage because our compassion and natural heroism are connected. PHOTOBYARLENEGEE Right: Guanyin, bodhisattva of compassion LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2017 44