coming to a bar mitzvah near you | (rabbi-to-be)
As our Sages taught, acts of loving-kindness are greater than charity since: (a) while charity is performed with property, such acts are performed with both our possessions and ourselves; (b) charity is given only to the poor, whereas such acts are extended to the poor as well as the rich; and (c) charity relates only to the living, whereas such acts can be practiced towards both the living and dead.
HUMOR AND OPENNESS
Learning how to be kind to ourselves is important. When we look into our own hearts and begin to discover what is confused and what is brilliant, what is bitter and what is sweet, it isn’t just ourselves that we’re discovering. We’re discovering the universe. When we discover the buddha that we are, we realize that everything and everyone is Buddha. We discover that everything is awake, and everyone is awake. Everything and everyone is precious and whole and good. When we regard thoughts and emotions with humor and openness, that’s how we perceive the universe.
I’ve become obsessed with the idea of reconciliation, particularly reconciliation with nature but with people too, of course. I think that travel has been a kind of search for that, a pursuit for unity and even an attempt to contribute to a sense of unity.
Yet it is precisely from those two sectors that there now emerges a new generation of cantors, reviving hazzanut in much the same way that Wynton Marsalis and his coteries of young jazz turks brought bebop back from the dead a few decades earlier.
The poet of our time could not turn his back on his own age, he went on to say. I thought for a while and asked if he truly felt himself a brother to everyone — to all funeral directors, for example, to all postmen, to all deep-sea divers, to all those who lived on the even-numbered side of the street, to all those who were aphonic, and so on.
DISSOLVING OUR SELF-IMPORTANCE
The fixed idea that we have about ourselves as solid and separate from each other is painfully limiting. It is possible to move through the drama of our lives without believing so earnestly in the character that we play. That we take ourselves so seriously, that we are so absurdly important in our own minds, is a problem for us. We feel justified in being annoyed with everything. We feel justified in denigrating ourselves or in feeling that we are more clever than other people. Self-importance hurts us, limiting us to the narrow world of our likes and dislikes. We end up bored to death with ourselves and our world. We end up never satisfied.
We have two alternatives: either we question our beliefs—or we don’t. Either we accept our fixed versions of reality, or we begin to challenge them. In Buddha’s opinion, to train in staying open and curious—to train in dissolving our assumptions and beliefs—is the best use of our human lives.
The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her own faults.
TRAINING WITH UNCERTAINTY
Many of us prefer practices that will not cause discomfort, yet at the same time we want to be healed. But bodhichitta training doesn’t work that way. A warrior accepts that we can never know what will happen to us next. We can try to control the uncontrollable by looking for security and predictability, always hoping to be comfortable and safe. But the truth is that we can never avoid uncertainty. This not knowing is part of the adventure, and it’s also what makes us afraid.