The Warm Heart
by Ven. Thubten Gyatso
When old friends meet and exchange stories, they delight in each other's happiness and commiserate with their misfortunes. Such delight, with its associated feeling of warmth in the heart, is the meaning of love. Love precedes compassion: when the person we love is unhappy, we want their troubles to cease. According to Buddhist teaching, loving kindness, the combination of love and compassion, is the source of all happiness in the universe.
Loving kindness is an essential component of life; just as mothers nourish their babies bodies with milk from their breasts, they nourish their babies minds with the warmth of loving kindness. Medical science recognises that babies deprived of loving attention become emotionally retarded and even the development of their nervous system is impaired. It is not only babies, throughout life we all depend upon loving kindness for our happiness and mental and physical security.
In the mid-seventies, before I became a Buddhist, my interest in Tibetan medicine took me to northern India where I met Dr Drolma, a Tibetan woman practising at Dharamsala where His Holiness the Dalai Lama lives with a community of Tibetan refugees. I could not help but compare her medical office with the out-patients department of the hospital in Australia where I had been recently working. There was no comparison. Not to mention her diagnostic techniques of taking the pulse and observing the bubbles on urine, the great difference was in her relationship with her patients. She loved them and they loved her, the room was filled with the warmth of loving kindness, so different to the impersonal attitude in my out-patients department where the patients were more often seen as diseases rather than as human beings. Whatever the merits of her diagnostic method and her fascinating herbal remedies, I became convinced that the renowned therapeutic efficiency of Dr Drolma was due to her power of loving kindness.
I felt embarrassed. With the attitude of arrogant superiority of being a Western doctor, I had asked Dr Drolma to teach me about Tibetan medicine. She explained to me the method of pulse diagnosis and urinalysis, but she did not say a word about loving kindness, she simply demonstrated it. Later, I was to study Tibetan medicine in more detail, the chapter on ethics in the medical text is only about loving kindness. In medical school, the only ethics we had been taught was how to avoid being sued in court, there was nothing about loving kindness.
A Buddha is simply a person who has overcome the obstacles to pure, unconditional, loving kindness. These obstacles are rooted in the confused, mistaken idea of self that is innate in us all and manifests in our disturbing emotions of selfishness, anger, greed, pride, and so on. The wisdom that understands the true nature of the self is the antidote to all these obstacles. Thus the inner attainments of wisdom and loving kindness are the actual objects of Buddhist worship and aspiration.
To gain the inspiration and courage needed to overcome selfishness and train their minds in wisdom and loving kindness, Buddhists use external symbols such as the magnificent twenty-six metre statue of Chenrezig at Ganden Monastery here in Ulaan Baatar, just as a Christian is inspired by the crucifix, a symbol of loving kindness and self-sacrifice for others. From the Buddhist point of view, the self that is sacrificed is not the person who exists, it is the self that we mistakenly believe we are. The meaning of self-sacrifice is, in fact, the destruction of an illusion.
In Chenrezig's right hand is a vase containing the elixir of life - loving kindness. In his left hand is a perfect mirror that reflects things as they are without distortion, symbolising the wisdom seeing reality. These two ideals are also contained in Chenrezig's mantra: OM MANI PADME HUM. OM encapsulates all the qualities of Buddhahood. MANI is the jewel of loving kindness and PADME is the lotus flower of wisdom. When people recite this mantra, they should be thinking "I shall attain Buddhahood, the jewel of loving kindness in the lotus of wisdom."
Buddhists worship the inner attainment of wisdom and compassion, they are not idol-worshippers in the sense of those who seek protection and happiness from material objects such as a golden calf, or a fat bank balance. Accusations that Buddhism is a manifestation of such human folly are the height of ignorance and prejudice, and a terrible condemnation of the truth of wisdom and compassion that is a universal reality and not the sole possession of Buddhism or any other religion.
It is so sad, however, that the Mongolian people today are in danger of losing their magnificent heritage; instead of the elixir of life in Chenrezig's right hand, some see a bottle of Russian vodka.
This teaching is by the Venerable Thubten Gyatso (previously Dr Adrian Feldmann), an Australian monk and old friend now working in Mongolia. One of the senior students of Lama Yeshe, Lama Zopa Rinpoche (and also Geshe Roach) he is currently teaching at the FPMT centre in Ulaan Baatar. These teachings originally appeared in his local English language newspaper in Ulaan Baatar and arereproduced with his permission.
Diane Olander (email@example.com),
these teachings first appeared on
the Internet on the website (http://www.gepeling.org/) of
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