The Value of a Good Heart
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The Value of a Good Heart
– Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Buddhist practice involves great compassion for all living beings. If we have compassion in our heart and our actions come from that compassion, it is impossible for us to harm other living beings. Since we have compassion for others, our actions benefit rather than harm them.
First of all, remember that there is not one living being who wants to receive harm—not even one. Because of this, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, trained his mind in compassion for all living beings and completed this training. This was the main practice accomplished by Buddha. With himself as an example, out of his great compassion, Buddha then advised us to have compassion for all other living beings, and not to harm them.
Even if we cannot benefit others, at least we should not harm them. On the basis of not harming others, we then develop the capacity to benefit them. This is Buddha’s essential advice to us, which he himself accomplished. From the 84,000 teachings of sutra and tantra, this is the essential practice. If we do not do this practice of abandoning harm to others, there is no spiritual practice in our life.
No matter how much people claim to be meditating or doing profound, secret practices, if they cannot abandon giving harm to others, they are not doing the fundamental practice of Buddhism. I think the fundamental practice of all religions, not only Buddhism, is to abandon harming others and practice compassion. This is the essence of all the various religions. Whether we are Moslem, Christian, Hindu or Buddhist, the essential point is not to harm others and to generate compassion for them.
If we act in this way, our religious practice will bring happiness to others. We will give happiness to others, and we will also certainly obtain happiness for ourselves. Even if we cannot bring happiness to others, our religious practice at least will become beneficial in terms of our own happiness and will not harm us. This is a very important point to analyze and understand. Our practice of religion should at least benefit us with happiness now, and in the future.
It is very important to have a generous, compassionate mind. Without a generous mind, a compassionate heart, no matter how wealthy we are, there is no mental peace in our daily life. Our problems become even greater than before we became wealthy. Our mind becomes more dissatisfied, with more worry and fear. We have more enemies and tend to harm others.
If our heart is empty of compassion, no matter how educated we are—even if we know everything taught in all the universities, have every single degree!—again we have the same problem: we have no peace of mind. We have more pride than when we were uneducated and so many more problems. Our life passes full of problems and finishes while we are experiencing big problems, such as disharmony, worry, and fear.
Even if we are a Buddhist and know by heart all the sutra and tantra teachings of Buddha, and all the commentaries written by the pandits, even if we can explain them all well, if our heart is empty of compassion, if we do not have a generous mind towards other living beings in our daily life, there is still no peace of mind. Even extensive, intellectual understanding of Buddhism does not guarantee mind-peace. This can apply to any religion.
Even if we own diamonds or dollars equal to the number of atoms of the earth, if our heart is empty of compassion for others, our life is empty. Even with that much wealth, our life is empty; there is no happiness. However, even if we do not own one atom of diamond or one dollar, if we have compassion for all beings, there is great peace and happiness in our everyday life.
We can see that none of these alone—wealth, education, or religious knowledge—offers peace of mind. What provides peace of mind and happiness is having a good heart, a generous mind.
Nothing in life is more important than this good heart. Mountains of gold or diamonds cannot compare with the value of this good heart. Without compassion there is no peace or happiness in day-to-day life, so that wealth becomes worthless. Compared to the value of one generous mind, it is nothing. Compassion is incredibly precious and important. It is of the utmost need in each hour, each minute, each second, for the happiness of oneself, and especially for the happiness of all other living beings.
This good heart should be our prime concern in life. Among all our activities, our enjoyment of food, clothing and places, this good heart is the first thing we have to consider. We have to take care to generate compassion within our heart. Among all our everyday activities, we can see that this is the most important to practice from morning until night.
If we have a good heart, we experience much happiness and relaxation. We have no reason to feel angry or jealous and we have a very happy mind. When we speak, sweet words come out. Even our face is happy and smiling. At night we go to bed with a happy mind and have a very comfortable sleep, without any worries.
Otherwise, if we live our life with a very selfish, ungenerous mind, we think about nothing else except me, me, me: “When will I be happy? When will I be free from these problems?” If our attitude is like this, jealousy and anger arise easily, strongly and repeatedly, so we experience much unhappiness in our life, many ups-and-downs. During the day we have a cold heart and at night we even go to bed with a cold heart and unhappy mind.
No matter how hard one tries, a person with a very selfish attitude finds it difficult to make friends. Even when one does manage to make friends, the friendships don’t last. Sooner or later, after a few days, after a few hours, his friend becomes his enemy. Anyone with a very strongly selfish attitude has few friends and many enemies. Wherever they go, they always have problems. People always complain about them and warn others, “Don’t let him stay at your house!” Even though this person wants only a good reputation, does not want the slightest bad reputation, his or her selfish mind naturally brings about a bad reputation. When they visit other people, people are not happy to see them.
However, people who have a good heart, who care more about others than themselves, always have a good reputation. Wherever they go, they have many friends and they find that other people are happy to help them. When this someone with a good heart goes to visit other people, they are happy to see him and have him stay in their house. People are always very happy to meet and help such a person—crowds of people want to help him.
The other selfish, impatient person, even if he has a very miserable time, has difficulty finding people to help him. Nobody wants to help him. Other people are even glad to hear that he is sick; they may even wish him to die.
It is the complete opposite for the person with a good heart. There is much happiness in his life. Even if he has nothing but water to drink, he is very happy and can enjoy it. If our attitude is very selfish, very impatient, very cruel, even if we eat food costing many thousands of dollars or drink very expensive drinks, we find no enjoyment. We cannot even taste the food because our mind is filled with problems and worries. We cannot even enjoy eating expensive food in a luxurious place.
Even though physically we may be able to go to the moon or other planets, if from birth until death we do not have a good heart towards those with whom we live, there is no happiness. Our life becomes empty—an empty human life. A good heart is priceless, more precious than anything else in the world.
The Generous Heart
– Buddha (Iti 1.26; Iti 18)
“If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of selfishness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared, if there were someone to receive their gift.
– Buddha (Iti 1.27; Iti 19)
“Just as the radiance of the stars does not equal one-sixteenth of the radiance of the moon,
as the moon — surpassing stars — shines, blazes, & dazzles, similarly,
all the grounds for making merit leading to spontaneously arising in heaven do not equal
one-sixteenth of the awareness-release through good will.
Good will — surpassing them — shines, blazes, & dazzles.”
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