Dharma Journal | February 2018 | Opening the Loving Heart to the Pain of the World

Recorded in Barbara Brodsky’s office. Aaron discusses impermanence.

Video and Transcript, the video is also closed captioned.

Aaron: My blessings and love to you. I am Aaron. When you are watching this, it will be Febru-ary, the month of your celebration of St. Valentine’s Day, a festival of love. I hope that you ex-tend love to yourself and to others all year round. But let’s just focus on this one day, the day of the heart, the day of love.

Last month i spoke about impermanence, and that while on the relative level everything is im-permanent – that it arises out of conditions, and then passes away – on the ultimate level nothing ever passes away. The affairs of the moment— the itch, the worry, the planning mind, all of these things come and are gone. What remains is the loving heart; presence and loving kind-ness. When you move into the place where you and everything are not separate, then you can begin truly to love.

I spoke last month about the tree that grows out of the conditions of rich soil, sunshine, rain, and a seed, and grows into a tree. The tree is cut down. The sculptor shapes the tree. I used this (holding a wood Buddha) last month as an example, and we’ll use it again, a heavy piece of wood. This is a tree you’re looking at. This is clouds and sunshine, rivers and oceans, and the rich earth. You are like this piece of wood. Even more like it, as you are also a Buddha, an awakened one. But you are part of everything.

However, the human has the habitual tendency to close itself in and separate from everything else. It’s really part of the reflex of being a mammal. You understand that the body can be harmed, and so you armor yourself. The more armored you are, the less you can interconnect. It is only when you open the armor that you can truly mesh with everything and be everything.

A lot of you have been worrying about political affairs in the past few months, concerned be-cause there are certain policies of the governing bodies that you do not like, and that leads you to anger at them and closing your heart to them. As soon as you create that separation, whether it’s with your president or your Congress, your local officials, or your neighbors, people who create discomfort for you because they have different views, as soon as you separate yourself the en-ergy can no longer flow. This person has this stance, and that person has that stance, and they clash. When you begin to know yourself as energy and light, as the essence of pure awareness and the loving heart, you begin to recognize that everything else has the same essence. Two trees don’t fight with each other; the branches and roots grow through each other. They may even come to support each other. Does a tree have more wisdom than you do?

Last month I spoke about impermanence, the impermanence of the mundane aspects of your being. It’s so helpful when you begin to contemplate that which continues within you— not the mundane aspects but awareness, love, presence, wisdom. Not to create a new self-identity but to let go of “self-identity”, and to truly know, I am “That”. I am connected with everything. If noth-ing is separate, then I do not have to be afraid of anything. Then I can truly move into a space of unconditional love. Love and compassion come together, and they are strong.

The wisdom arises that knows how to balance the ultimate level of unconditional love and the relative level that knows how to say no to something that’s abusive, that’s dangerous, that’s harmful.

You probably realize I’m recording this not now in February but it’s actually December, and we’ve been watching the forest fires sweeping through California. People have come to me, say-ing, “Aaron, I hate these forest fires!” Well, I understand you dislike the destruction. I understand that you feel grief about the loss of life, human and animal and natural forest. But as soon as you say, “I hate this!” you create separation.

You are beings of energy, and fire is an elemental energy. You interrelate to everything. The same elements are in you and in the world out there. Hate is a contractive emotion. It’s a fiery emotion, ungrounded and devoid of water element, hard with a thick crust. Do you think hate helps to extinguish fires?

Of course I’m talking about the actual forest fire, but let’s look at the fire of anger; the fire of strong antithetical feelings toward another human being. Does hate help to shift them? You do not have to hate something to say no to it. I would guess that many of those who are out there on the front lines with huge equipment, trying to put out the forest fires, have much more a respect than hatred of the fire. There is the intention to control the fire so as not to allow it to do harm. But this is not hate.

What happens when you know the fire in yourself, as you’re fighting the figurative or literal forest fire? Since most of you are not out there with hoses fighting the literal forest fire, let’s go to the figurative. Here is a neighbor or a spouse or parent or child who’s angry. They’re always pushing you. It’s very uncomfortable, and the thought starts to come, “I hate this person.” Hate. Is that going to put out the fire? Let’s look at what you think of as the other alternative. “Oh, push me around! Do whatever you want.” And they’ll keep pushing and pushing. Is that going to put out the fire?

The option takes going into your heart and knowing that hate, as emotion, has arisen out of con-ditions and is impermanent. You can begin to uncover that within yourself which is connected, which has compassion for the pain of the other, and still is able to say, “No, you may not do harm because of your pain.” You begin a shift that says it is not your pain, it is our pain. And I am able to stay connected to our pain with my heart open. I say no, you may not do harm. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a forest fire or an internal forest fire of heavy feelings between yourself and others. Or nations threatening each other with nuclear arms. Or “hate-mongering” amongst polit-ical figures. You have the power to say no to all this because of the essence of what you are, which is loving, pure awareness that can hold it all when you release the armoring and allow yourself to be touched by the pain that is creating this world of emotions, this hatred, this anger, this confusion. Whenever you armor yourself it creates separation.

What is asked of you is the courage to allow yourself to be touched by the pain of this moment, and right there with the pain, to find the love in this moment, the spaciousness in this moment, the possibilities for growth in this moment. For communication, for learning.

I’m coming back to my initial thought: everything in the conditioned realm is impermanent. For some of you, that is a ground for fear. “I want something to hold onto.” You have something to hold onto, but it is not what you think. It does not belong to you. It simply is, and therefore it can never be lost. It is love, it is light, spaciousness and presence. When you know yourself as this, everything becomes possible.

So this month as you celebrate love and St. Valentine flying up there with his bow and arrow, let his arrow touch your heart. Let it awaken you to the truth of unconditional love that is your es-sence. Let it allow you to open yourself to the pain of the world, the enormous suffering of the world, because only as that hard shell of armor falls away can you begin to be the love of the world and invite others to be that with you. It doesn’t mean you won’t have to talk out disagree-ments, but there is no longer merely conflict but merging, understanding, and love.

I am coming back here as I close to a very favorite Buddhist sutra. “Abandon the unwholesome. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it.” And it goes on, then, to, “Cultivate the whole-some. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it.” You do not abandon the unwholesome by armoring yourself but by opening yourself so that you can release that tension of separation, of fear, of hatred, and find your true being. In that true being, you cultivate the wholesome. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it.

Thank you.