Altruistic Joy, by Howard Cohn:
The heart of the Buddha’s teachings is liberation, is the, sometimes called the sure-heart-release. And I’m always curious for people who’ve been practicing or hearing teachings for a long time, and those even for a short time, how you’re doing in the practice of liberation.
To really make my wondering is my invitation for you to inquire, for all of us to inquire into how much of the, of our practice is, about finding our either material or spiritual comfort zone, how much of it is really about stepping out of our comfort zone, to discover, maybe sometimes even through a little bit of hardship, to discover a wider perspective, a wider view, in other words, to see beyond the narrow gravitational field of our own personal individual drama to see, to actually directly experience into understand intimately the boundless nature of our being, the interdependent nature of our being, the fact that none of us really exist independently apart from all of the things that influence us, all the causes and conditions of these entire world is you, is impinging you right where it’s touching you right now. That not one of us really exist independently in the way that we imagine ourselves to.
It doesn’t take anything away from personal responsibility to realize this, but how you are doing in that. Are you remembering? Are you realizing? Moment by moment, your place in the family of things as I think one of the, who was the poet. Mary Oliver put it. Because I think of the practice of awakening even though it has different streams, it’s all about liberation, it’s all about freedom. It’s all about releasing the tightness in our heart, cutting through illusion and unleashing our passion, our love, our understanding, and then ultimately being without any prompting at all, caring for the most difficult person as I talked about last week, the most difficult person as though they were your only child. Having that wideness of heart.
I guess tonight, part of why I was thinking of this is because I think a lot about the streams of awakening. It’s all about awakening, and the streams that we’ve been attending to a little bit more during this last month has been the stream of practice that leads to liberation through the opening of our heart, through the training of our heart, to incline towards loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. And the practice of extending loving kindness first to ourselves, to, we talked about forgiveness a little bit last week, to extend our loving kindness to those who are suffering, and letting our hearts quiver with compassion. All of these. All of these extending of our hearts reveals to us where we are bound. Where there is a limit to our love. And tonight, I was going to introduce. I’m not sure I’ll get to it, but I’ll just, I’ll speak about it a little bit. I’m not sure we’ll do any practice with it.
But tonight, I was going to introduce the third, what’s called the third—immeasurable quality. The third divine ___. The third quality that is the nature expression of an awakened heart, which is the quality of altruistic or appreciative or sympathetic joy. That capacity to join in the good fortune in happiness of others. And this is a, this is another way of extending our heart of melting away the sense of isolation and separation, the illusion of separation and unleashing the love that flows when that self-illusion has been melted.
And of all the, there are, remember these four immeasurable qualities—love, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. Of all the four so-called Brahma Vihara’s, heavenly abodes, the home of the awakened. That’s what’s heavenly abode, or Brahma Vihara, Brahma means heavenly, Vihara is home. Of all of the immeasurable quality, the Brahma Vihara’s, these quality of extending ones happiness for the good fortune of others, love for the good fortune of others is the most difficult. Believe it or not. You’d think it would be easy to say “I’m happy you’re happy,” which is one of those shorthand versions of what you would reflect on when you do this practice, or may you be happy, or may your happiness continue, may it increase, may it never ___. That’s another version. You would think that this would be really fun, or easy to do, because this is the most difficult, because our egoic structure are illusionary self-view, is, has constantly reinforced to sense that we’re in competition with others. And we easily fall into judgement, that’s one thing that limits our sympathetic joy, we fall into comparing, a lot of envy, a lot of jealousy. Any of you recognize that in your minds?
Okay, this is why this practice, as one grows in this practice, it liberates the heart. It shows where its limitations are. And once are limitations are brought to the light of attention, there is the opportunity for it to melt away. And that is true for all the kinds of delusion, all the kinds of constriction, all the places in us that gives us the illusion that we are bound, because there really isn’t an illusion. There’s not one person here that has ever been truly bound, because whoever it is that we imagine ourselves to be, that idea of our separate individuality is nothing more than an idea. That self.
So, when I ask you the question how are you doing in the process of liberation? It’s like a question, who is it that’s bound? Who is it that wants to get enlightened? Who is it that hears? Who is it that sees? Who is it that smells? We say, I’m selling, I’m hearing, but what is that? What is it that thinks? Who is it that thinks? Or who is it that feels? We say, I feel, but has anyone ever seen that I? Who is this I? And it’s precisely the lack of inquiry into this deepest question that there is a human being.
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