Garden of the Heart

The heart is like a garden.
It can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love.
What seed would you plant in it?

I observed with interest that when varieties of emotions are asked to be spelled out in a workshop, the list of negative emotions named by the participants usually outnumber the positive; it is as if there are limited positive emotions compare to its opposites. It is a common occurrence and I am not surprised. And if I were to seek cooperation from the participants to share with me on what scale of emotions do they think they experience throughout each day, having a scale of 0 as negative to 10 as positive, majority of the answers that come back would be above 5. It is a wide contrast to the first feedback during the initial period of a workshop.

I wish to make two valid conclusions from an observation based on my own personal experience of the mind. First, if I was not a practitioner of self-inquiry, I may not have truly recognized what is within my scope of emotions throughout the day. I may not have realized that a major part of the actions I take are motivated by negative thoughts or emotions. That there was some form of stress underlying my daily activities. That restlessness was the cause of my continuous seeking and doing. In other words, my actions were not motivated by inspiration, by love or joy but rather a dread commitment of chores I “had” to do. And usually these statements were returned with replies of “what choice do I have” mentality. I can’t say this is not a valid retort as there is much commitment as an individual, and also as a society, to address and undertake in day to day issues at hand, to live a life of decency. But the question again is not about the work or activities we undertake but rather the attitude that is accompanying it. It is these attitudes that determine our emotions and also thoughts.

Secondly, I observed that it is the mentality of not “right” to admit that we have more negative emotions than positive. There is an ingrained societal mentality that we have to hide or suppress our emotions; mostly negative; for us to be efficient in our deals. We were told that expressing our feelings is inappropriate and that we are only expressing our weaknesses if we were to do so. Burying our feelings underneath our actions is one of the main causes of misery. In truth, feelings can’t be buried except to mask over, hence the word, personality or persona to mean a mask. Ironically, it is feelings that we are all seeking in life and yet we are told not to feel. How could it be possible to experience happiness if what be at the bottom are all unresolved negative emotions? It is not unusual that when happiness finally arrive at the doorstep, there is a feeling of incompleteness in it, that there is a better happiness somewhere else than what is here in front of me to savor – it is the result of the hidden unresolved feelings.

Could it be this that there is no true “happiness”? That there is so much “look good” factors running in our society, or more true, running in the mind that we are not true to ourselves any longer? That we have ingrained mentality of blame and accusation hidden in our hearts but not spoken? Not that we have to express or burst it out to hurt others but rather the suppression which is what causes us to put the responsibility of our pain onto others; which we did not take the responsibility to investigate what is going through the mind and to take appropriate steps to address it, either through right understanding or right perception. That true happiness is found whenever we recognize, understand and accept what is within us, and not through the contrary or ignoring it.

My meditation teacher once reminded me that it is because of our firsthand experience of what our mind is, that inclines us to purify it. When we are ignorant to our own mind, cultivation is impossible. Thus we have to admit that the mind is predominantly filled with negative emotions before the actual journey of love and wisdom begins.

The Wisdom of all Wisdom – Ignorance

To recognize ignorance is the beginning of your journey “Home”. To be precise, it is the beginning, the middle and also the end of the entire journey towards freedom. What block us from total freedom is just the one and only thing – which in reality is not in existence, except our ignorance over it. Ignorance is just a definition of non-wisdom – the inability to reflect or see the block that we have created for ourselves. It is like focusing on the prison walls, lamenting the pain of being trap, unknowing that freedom is just a breath away; if only the person realized that the prison door was never locked in the first place.

And that is what ignorance does to us. It is ignorance that blocks us from realizing the Truth – not that the Truth has left or forsaken us but rather the Truth is always in its pristine present – awaiting us to realize. It is also ignorance that makes us repeat umpteen times the unnecessary lessons to finally learn from it. And it is ignorance that makes us go round and round a wild goose chase, making us bark at the wrong tree all the time. Isn’t it ignorance that makes us not realize the true nature of things as they truly are? The question is not about making ignorance the bad guy or seeing ignorance as wrong but the wiser question would be, what caused the arising of ignorance?

There is no true linear answer to that except a chicken and egg scenario. Either one cannot be called the beginning or end except that they are interdependent of each other. Anything that arises has to pass and because of the passing, arising has to begin again. Where there is no arising, passing is out of the question. Where there is no passing, arising could not exist at all. The question thus is neither about arising nor passing, but the understanding of the dynamics of this nature. Recognizing and fully realizing this dynamic through direct experience disentangles the entire web of these processes from perpetuating further.

Hence, the arising of ignorance is due to ignorance and the ceasing of ignorance is the presence of wisdom. And for wisdom to arise, there must be wisdom as its initiator. Wisdom can undo ignorance but not the other way around as ignorance is a temporal state of make believe arising from an unawakened state. It is like watching a movie, temporary suspending our reality for a moment so as to allow ourselves to enjoy the unreality of the movie as reality. It is a make believe, so to speak.

Thus to say that all of us have the Buddha nature or Christ consciousness within, is to an extent, true. What only separate the masters from us is that they are awakened and we, are still asleep in our own make believe dream. Thus it is interesting when Jesus mentioned that all are given, but few are chosen is to mean that all of us are given the ticket to Kingdom or Liberation, whichever fits your view, but few chose to listen to it. Few took the step to journey the path to awakening as the make believe reality seems too real to be forsaken. Isn’t that ignorance of the highest order?

Many move around on this shore, few choose to cross over the shore.

Progressing or Regressing?

Despite our personal intimacy with our mind – the only space we feel at least private about, we seldom give time to ourselves to explore this domain to understand how it works. Many a times the experience we want to achieve is either random, flip shot, or a wild goose chase. Rarely are we able to ascertain a constant joy by working on its cause. Like an undeveloped land seen as potentials for developers to cultivate, the mind too is a potential goldmine for joy and peace to be cultivated. An undeveloped mind is equivalently similar to an unattended land with overgrown wild weeds.

The purpose of developing the mind is not for any reason other than for our own wellbeing. If wellbeing is our destination, or our aim, it is obvious that the journey too must be geared towards wellbeing. It is rather odd to think that we have to suffer to reap goodness. It is not consistent with the law of nature – as the journey at any and every one point is the destination itself and that the final destination is the culmination of all the points of destination. Thus it is obvious that if Peace is what I am aiming to achieve, I must first develop little peace in my journey. And that is exactly in consistent with the law of nature – the law of causal relationship – what we sow is what we reap.

Thus it is utmost important to know what our aim is when we come into the field of developing the mind so that what we sow along the journey is exactly what we wish to achieve at the ultimate end. What is it that we really wish for? And with all that chase of material possessions, what is the underlying need that we are ultimately looking for? I always find it amusing that we begin the journey of life seeking happiness and we do not know where happiness is, except to follow the pathways carved by past travelers having similar desires. We seldom question whether that pathway finally leads them to their quest. Do we follow the flocks blindly or question the rationality of those paths?

Observe the nature of the world. Everyone is seeking money as pathway for happiness but is there happiness in the end? Ironically, those who seek happiness finally end up seeking for money instead. They forget their main purpose along the journey and fall into the ideas of what happiness is. There is nothing unwise or wrong about money except that we need to get our priorities right, so that we don’t end up wasting precious time on a wild goose chase, seeking for things that are not what we desire or worst, having the opposite of what we were seeking for in the first place.

Similarly with wisdom. If wisdom is ultimately what we wish to achieve, the journey we take on must be inclined towards wisdom. Wisdom is born from understanding, and understanding can only arise through self-inquiry, questioning or introspection – inquiring into the nature of things as they truly are. Wisdom and Truth are related, if not synonymous. With major appliances automated in our lives, we seldom put intelligence to use, not to mention self-inquiry. Ironically it is intelligence that made our lives easier and comfortable. But in return of comfort, the mind inclines towards stupor and inactivity.  The world is supported by convenience and with it comes the bane of complacency. Our muscles are not as active, our brain cells less activated, and our mind tranquilized away from intelligence. Thus it is not incorrect to conclude that comparing to the past, it is obvious that more effort is needed to develop active inquiry, to develop wisdom.

The world seems to progress, and yet the mind seems to regress on the opposite direction towards ignorance. Weird isn’t it?