The process of Awakening relies on the fact that we already have within ourselves the power to Awaken and that power is none other than the power of the truth.
The more open and honest we are, the more that truth reveals itself and the more we experience its inherent wisdom and compassion.
What we do not realise is that all that wisdom and compassion is emanating from the nature of reality itself, the reality to which the Buddha Awakened. He did not awaken to a reality that was other than the Awakened Heart itself, the essence of his being.
This is also the essence of our heart and being and it is this that we are seeking to link into as the basis, the path and the final fruition of the process of Enlightenment. In order for that process to develop properly, various aspects of the Indestructible Heart Essence have to be discovered within our being and brought into focus.
All these aspects are intrinsic to the heart of our being or experience and this is why the Indestructible Heart Essence is the core theme of the Living the Awakened Heart training programme.
Many of us are attracted to Buddhism because it is so precise and appealing to the rational mind; it is not vague, woolly and sentimental. Unfortunately, for many of us, this reflects a bias towards having a greater respect for the mind than for the heart, as if the heart must always be associated with imprecision and sentimentality.
For this reason, the first sections of the course are deliberately focussed on the heart/mind split that we have inherited in our culture and language and seek to start the process of healing that rift through greater awareness on various levels.
We start by focusing on the heart and gradually, as the course unfolds, the profound significance of the words ‘indestructible’ and ‘essence’ begin to emerge. The whole Buddhist tradition is based on the belief that we have within our being, within our heart, an awake quality, an inner wisdom, which expresses itself as warmth and gentleness.
When completely awakened, this is the boundless kindness of the Buddha acting forever for the benefit of all beings without bias or partiality. This awake quality is very tender, but because our vision is so narrow, we dare not allow it to be too tender.
Our sense of being weak and limited creates the fear of being overwhelmed by too strong emotions such as deep compassion or anger, so somehow we manage to cut ourselves off from them. Strangely, this effort to cut ourselves off from the depths of our emotions, is at the same time an effort to protect ourselves from the overwhelming power of awakening.
It is this, our natural and yet misguided attempt to protect ourselves from reality, that in Buddhism is called the obscuring process. It is like dense clouds obscuring the sun. The training consists of getting glimpses of that sun behind the clouds and learning to open out to it.
This requires careful preparation. That essence of the heart is very tender, and if we just go blundering in, as it were, without properly preparing ourselves, we could just get very hurt, or get a very negative feeling about the whole thing, and want to close up again— perhaps even more than before. So it is very important to approach the essence of the heart in a very balanced, steady, gentle, persistent, determined way, not rushing at it, nor giving up as soon as there is any set-back or difficulty.
The first essential thing is to have an open enquiring mind that really wants to know the truth about what it is experiencing. After a while it becomes obvious that this alone is not enough. Persistence is also required. This involves resolve and a sense of commitment. Commitment here means primarily an inner commitment to the pursuance of truth and the process of Awakening. That commitment expresses itself as a kind of determination not to give up, whatever happens, however badly or however many times one falls back into confusion, however many difficulties seem to block one’s path to Awakening.”
Lama Shenpen Hookham
This is an extract from the Living the Awakened Heart Training course companion book, introducing the core theme the ‘Indestructible Heart Essence’.
The Living the Awakened Heart Training is a structured, comprehensive, supported, distance learning programme in Buddhist meditation, reflection and insight. The training, which is open to all, brings the profound Dzogchen and Mahamudra teachings to a Western audience in an experiential, accessible way, through spiral learning. Find out more and how to join at www.ahs.org.uk/training
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