Touching the Heart with Inspiration
Last Monday, during our Discovering Buddhism: Introduction to Tantra course, we looked at the need for inspiration (a.k.a. blessing, Tib., jin lab) in order for our heart/mind to transform. I would like to share a quote from Lama Yeshe on this matter (and you can wonder what has butter got to do with it).
A common problem for all of us is that our knowledge of so-called spiritual matters is often just in our head, not in our heart. We are proud of how much we have studied and learned about the world’s religions and may even have mastered the vocabulary of their philosophy and meditational practices, yet still we remain basically unsubdued and deluded.
We Tibetans often say: ‘Although butter is used to soften leather, the leather container in which the butter is stored remains stiff and inflexible.’ Despite the fact that spiritual understanding is meant to soften our concrete, limiting preconceptions and subdue our delusions, it is nevertheless possible to contain a lot of intellectual knowledge about religion while remaining unchanged by it. A dry, intellectual approach to spiritual matters leaves our heart untouched and unaffected.
What is lacking is the proper inspiration, or blessing, in our mind. We have to be convinced by some kind of heartfelt, living experience of the existence and effectiveness of a potent spiritual reality both inside and outside ourselves. Otherwise our wisdom eye remains closed and we are incapable of perceiving this profound reality no matter how much we might have studied.
What are some sources of inspiration for us? In Tibetan Buddhism, we speak of the spiritual teacher (Skt., guru; Tib., lama) as the main source of blessing and inspiration. However, it is not necessary to limit ourselves to this because there are many stories, both religious and non-religious, where people are inspired by others who are not in roles of spiritual teachers. We can also be inspired by visiting pilgrimage places, coming into contact with images and objects, being in nature, listening to music, and so on.
When we allow ourselves to be touched by inspiration or blessing, something shifts within us that enable our mind and heart to be empowered, uplifted or brightened for the better. The butter is beginning its work to soften the leather.
Published on September 14, 2011.
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