In the past two weeks, we’ve talked a lot about meditation and compassion, and how the meditative mind opens up the heart of compassion. This week we’ll continue on this topic by reflecting on a comment made by Sogyal Rinpoche, meditation master and author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.
In a teaching that Sogyal Rinpoche presented on July 6, 1999, at the retreat center in Lerab Ling, France, he stated that, “…without an open heart, the practice of your mind [meditation] won’t work…The true nature of your mind is wisdom and compassion…”
I had to think about this for a while after first hearing it. Is it true that if I don’t open my heart, my meditation practice won’t work?
When I first began to meditate, this didn’t seem right. I’d experienced a number of very deep meditation practices where compassion didn’t seem to be at the center of my mind, at the “heart of the awakened mind.” And then, it occurred to me…
…when I really started to “get it” about meditation and started to get glimpses of my meditative or non-distracted mind, I began to realize that everyone else also has a “meditative mind” or “true nature” as well.
In different religious or spiritual traditions, this nature is known as Divine nature (Christianity), Buddha nature (Buddhism), Nafs Mutma’inna (Islam), Paramatma (Hinduism) and Anochi (Judaism). But even without any spiritual or religious association, this nature is inherent in all of us and when we get glimpses of it through our meditation practice, we can begin to feel a sense of compassion for those who have not experienced this free and open state of mind.
What I’ve seen time and again and what the meditative traditions point out is that most of human suffering comes from the fact that we don’t know about this nature and that we don’t recognize this nature in ourselves and in others. We see others as separate, and feel isolated in a claustrophobic self.
As we begin to connect to this nature through the practice of meditation and as we decrease our sense of isolation from others, we begin to see others as “another me.” We begin to realize that when others are able to recognize this deeper nature, they’ll also suffer less. They’ll also find the peace and contentment that resideswithin the nature of their “true” mind. It’s this realization, that we can all be free from the suffering of our mind, that is the basis of compassion and really at the heart of meditation.
I know that for me, even when I’m hard-hearted or am holding too tightly to believing that my meditation is all about me, if I can just remember that we all have within ourselves this nature, then I can feel compassion arising and let go of my claustrophobic meditation. I can feel an openness, lightness and peace in my practice.
I know that this works. It’s not easy. But it’s worth it, for me and for others. And there’s a bonus here too! By remembering that others also have this true nature of mind, and by feeling compassion for those who suffer because they haven’t realized it yet, I can naturally experience compassion while meditating. I can work for my behalf (by learning how to train my mind) and help others at the same time, by learning how to have more compassion for them. It’s a kind of a “wise” selfishness, working for my own benefit while benefiting others.
Please feel free to share your comments. Is this post helpful? Does it work? Doesn’t it work? Let me and others know whether you find this post helpful. And, as always, please feel free to contact me if you’d like to see additional content or other discussions on this site. For more information on how to meditate, exercises in working with the breath, and other nifty stuff, please see the Related Posts below.
Also, don’t forget to download the free ebook, Can Meditation Change the Way that You View Your World?, for help with getting started in you meditation practice. Also, you can download the ebook, How to Work with the Four Distractions to Meditation.
Also, please check out the blog drop-down menu for compassion in the navigation bar at the top of this page.