The religions of the world are the most captivating institutions that speak to the souls of human beings. Practically all humans pay homage to a God of their own choice. The Good Heart is a book that shares the dialogue between the Dalai Lama and members of the Christain faith concerning how our souls are represented by these two faiths.
A most remarakable aspect of The Good Heart is the expressed thanks by members of the World Community for Christian Meditation, founded by John Main, to the Dalai Lama. The Christian leaders where very appreciative of the way in which the Dalai Lama interpreted the Christian scriptures.
For those who have never been exposed to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John of the Christian bible the beliefs concerning how these scriptures are interpreted from a Buddhist perspective is what Good Heart is all about. The Good Heart makes available a new understanding of the very close relationship these two religions offer us as a metaphorically driven people.
In a sense the Good Heart shows how it is possible to integrate all faiths based on an understanding and appreciation of how the grand mover and maker of the cosomos is portrayed uniquely by these distinctly two different faiths.
Throughout the millennia there have been many spiritual teachers who have left behind words that express humankinds devotion to the grand mystery of the universe. Below is an example from St. Diodochos of Photiki, c. 400-486 A.D.
"....Spiritual discourse fully satisfies our intellectual perception, because it comes from God through the energy of love. It is on account of this that the intellect continues undisturbed in its concentration on theology. It does not suffer then from the emptiness which produces a state of anxiety, since in its contemplation it is filled to the degree that the energy of love desires. So it is right always to wait, with a faith energized by love, for the illumination which will enable us to speak. For nothing is so destitute as a mind philosophizing about God when it is without Him.The unilluminated should not embark on spiritual speculations nor, on the other hand, should anyone try to speak while the light of the Holy Spirit is shinning richly upon Him. For where there is emptiness, ignorance is also to be found, but where there is richness of the Spirit, no speech is possible. At such a time the soul is drunk with the love of God and, with voice silent, delights in His glory. We should therefore watch for the middle point between these two extremes before we begin to speak of God. This balance confers a certain harmony on our words glorifing God; as we speak and teach, our faith is nourished by the richness of the illuminated and so, because of our love, we are the first to taste the fruits of knowledge...."
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Today the Dalai Lama is perhaps one of humankinds most beloved spokspersons, not only for the Buddhist perspective, but also for all spiritually minded people seeking a pathway and a refuge to their own inner dialogue with the divine source of knowledge.
The dalai Lama has the unique gift of combing both simplicity and profound philosophical understanding concerning our spiritual life. His teachings are direct as well as rooted in parables and metaphors.
The Dalai Lama states in simple terms his advice for meditation;
"....in your life, unless you make specific time for something that you feel commited to, you will always have other obligations and you will always be too busy".
In philosophical terms the Dala Lama states;
"In Buddhism it is thought that there is a special relationship between the emanation and the emanating force, and that an emanation comes to an end when it has fulfilled its destiny"
With parables the Dali Lama quotes from the Buddha as saying;
"....when you are looking into the ocean trying to locate a fish, you will not be able to find one while the ocean is still and the fish are under the water. But when a wave comes, you will occasionally be able to glimpse the fish.
The Dalai Lama offers great insight on the uniqueness of the diversity of religions, and does not subscribe to one world religion, but encourages the interdependence of all things. Every issue we could possibly confront in our spiritual quest is elaborated on in the Good Heart. Whether it be mystical visions, or how consciousness and reality are related we find in the Good Heart the corner stones or the philosophical positions that both Buddhists and Christians share.
For me, as a reviewer of a book that has been claimed by Houston Smith to be... "in a very real sense a holy book"... has provided me a unique level of insight into the very foundation of my own beliefs. What the dialogue does is to afford the reader the opportunity to hear an interpretation of Christian scriptures from a Buddhist perspective. Each level of Christianity has its counterpart in Buddhist teachings, and one comes away from the book knowing that our divine mission in life is to return to source, to honor source, and to know source.
The Dalai Lama makes distinctions between the two religions of Buddhism and Christianity. Destiny and free will are also very much a part of the discussion. The entire book moves the inquisitive mind into realms of respect for all religious faiths, and gives the reader an opportunity to see how both the Buddha and Jesus, as historical figures, as well as spiritual teachers, fulfill the quest of the divine in all things.
For in fact who is the creator? How do we choose a religion? The answers given to these questions, and so many more by the Dalai lama, is to find a single point of refuge inside one's inner self, and from that refuge all understanding follows.
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When the selections from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are interpreted by the Dalai Lama a new sense of the meaning of the scriptures is opened up to encompass so much more. In Luke 9:16 there is mention of healing the sick. The Dalai Lama sees healing the sick as sharing ones spiritual experiences. He points out the difference between scriptual and realizational healings. The Dalai Lama is extremely sensitive to the spiritual disposition of who ever is receiving a teaching. For the Dalai Lama being insensitive to the needs of another person could result in accumulating negativity.
The constant dialogue that occurs between the Christian participants and the Dalai Lama provides a way to enter into our own sense of the divine. Stilling of the mind, meditative practices, and the nature of such values as simplicity, love, modesty, goodness, compassion, are all discussed as if it were the very first time we encountered these basic truths. And even truth itself is brought to our attention.
The Dalai Lama points out that the central point of Buddhist thinking is the principle of interdependence. From this position an absolute truth is untenable as is the concept of a divine creator. Likewise Christians who believe in divine creation, the idea that all things arise out of interactions have no place in their world view. However, there are still many parallels which open the mind to many more possibilities for securing an understanding of ones own faith.
The book is full of intriguing questions such as what would you ask Jesus if you met him, or is there life after death? What is the mind in the universe? The Dalai Lama provides the answer to this last question as "Luminous Cognizance".
Speaking from a place of spiritual depth is something the Dalai Lama encourages. Truly, for those of us who have had a divine experience we are encouraged to share that experience. Reading the book several times is helpful to finding a new sense of what our own spirituality is all about. For me it was surviving the clutches of cancer, and feeling the life force slowly leaving my body. But once a strong sense of will and faith were found I attained a personal resurrection, and it was as if the source of all energy was directly experienced. A new physical awakening was experienced by myself, and my body became a window to the sun, and being alive was more than just walking or talking, but was as if my body was made manifest by an invisible energy that gave me something to ride on. Perhaps my own sense of a divine gift of renewed life has allowed me to hear these words spoken by both Buddhist and Christians in the Good Heart.
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As the interpreter to the Dalai Lama Thupten Jinpa says,.."insight is the key to liberation. We must comprehend the way things are to such a depth as to affect the very core of our being". In this context the Dalai Lama encourages that we make specific time for meditating on our unique divinity. By so doing we get in touch with the subtle nature of our souls. Every day in our busy life we should find the time to just sit and be quiet. Still the active mind. Elliminate the mental scattering if only for 5 minutes. In this way we honor ourselves as divine creations of the greater master of the universe. It is our duty and our essential obligation to recognize this gift of life. And if by chance we have aquired a deep spiritual lesson then we can share that unique message with a felt sense of conviction and complete compassion for other people.
For me to have experienced my own personal resurrection I have a knowing that my words are gifts from a source far greater than any self identity, and it is my ability and responsibility to artfully express that gift that will affect others. The Good Heart offers these precious gifts of understanding of the divinity of the soul, and the universality of these gifts can be experienced in many different ways with many different religions. There is no one way to the source, there are many, and the Dalai Lama encourages diversity of religious expression.
The Good Heart also has a complete summary of Buddhist thinking in the appendix along with the rationale for selecting the various scriptures from the Christian bible as well as a Christian glossary of terms.
There is no question in my mind that one can return to this book over and over again for understanding the meaning of spirituality in ones personal life.
November 1, 1997