Article: How can a change of heart change our world?

A Change of Heart

“There is a danger that if we take on board the idea that our intentions and actions are shaping the Universe, we will start to feel completely trapped by our negative tendencies. If our negative actions increase our tendency to act negatively and produce unfortunate circumstances in which the drive to commit even more negative actions is very strong, is there any hope for us?

It would seem that we are doomed to fall further and further into a vicious circle of increasingly intense involvement in negative actions and results. This is true except for the fact that we have the power to uproot negative tendencies and we need to train in exercising that power. You could call that capacity our power to have a change of heart. This involves linking back into our deepest heart wish and finding a deep sense of regret for all that we have done that is negative.

That sense of regret is always there, although the ego mandala dynamic is constantly trying to smooth it over or dull it out. That is why it is constantly coming up with justifications and defences for our actions. A change of heart means to simply let all that go and relax into the intense sensitivity of the sadness that we are feeling. That sadness is our true heart wish, longing for peace and happiness. Giving up the defences and justifications means opening up to a feeling of vulnerability and exposure.

This is actually the sensitivity of your innate Openness. We should look at our negativity in the light of that Openness and allow the sense of regret to well up within our hearts. This is what gives us the power to uproot those negative imprints. We can verbally name the negativity that we regret and verbally resolve not to involve ourselves in it again.

At the same time, by opening ourselves to the adhishtana of Openness, Clarity and Sensitivity, we empower our personal mandala so that our future positive actions reshape the Universe in closer accordance with our heart wish.

This is called the power of repentance and is a fundamental Buddhist practice. It is as if by linking back into the heart wish we are withdrawing the emanation that was created by our distorted actions, at least to some extent. This is what is called a change of heart. Within the tradition there are some beautiful liturgies expressing confession, repentance, remorse and compensatory action.

They are recited with a sense of the adhishtana of the Truth itself emanating from our heart and the hearts of all Awakened beings, who are witnessing our repentance. In this way one can talk of ‘purifying’ karma. It is not so much that it is purified as withdrawn somehow and to some extent withdrawn from the fabric of the Universe. Our change of heart has somehow changed the world.”

Lama Shenpen Hookham

This is an extract from Trusting the Heart of Buddhism – one of the later course books in Lama Shenpen’s Living the Awakened Heart Training – the structured, comprehensive, supported, distance learning programme in Buddhist meditation and insight. The training, which is open to all, brings the profound Dzogchen and Mahamudra Tibetan Buddhist teachings to a western audience in an experiential, accessible way, through spiral learning. Find out more and how to join and become a student of Lama Shenpen at

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