Three Blessings And A Challenge

Posted by Rahul Brown on Nov 9, 2016
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Six weeks ago, we were blessed to host Christine and Mathew for an inspiring talk about their 4,600 mile walking pilgrimage across India. What struck me most about this couple was the clarity and courage they have for their deepest values, and the rare vigor with which they pursue the highest version of themselves. Christine was raised as a strict Catholic, and Mathew in the Keralite Orthodox church that landed Christianity in India almost 400 years before it arrived in Rome. That strong traditional background didn’t blind them from recognizing the universal goodness expressed in the mission of the Walk of Hope, even when it came from a very different tradition like that of the Himalayan-trained Sufi Muslim who was organizing it. Another test came when Christine was offered a game-changing job promotion after her first month or so on the pilgrimage. It didn’t take her long to realize that responsibilities that came with that job took away her freedom to align with the call of her heart. Instead of taking the much fatter paycheck and upgrade in lifestyle, the couple sold most of their assets and packed up for a 500 day journey into the unknown to build bridges of understanding and hope across a vast and diverse subcontinent. To me, that sounded like a rare victory of values over cash in our materialistic culture which worships money. To hear the other insightful tidbits from Christine & Mathew’s journey, check out the full audio here.

Four weeks ago, that very same mystic who organized the Walk for Hope joined us for an inspiring and enlightening talk at home. While those who follow this blog will have already read Sri M’s heart-opening talk on The Kindness and Humility of Sages given at Awakin Santa Clara that same week, the Q&A for the talk in Berkeley was particularly fascinating and starts at 41:55 in the video below.

While it is certainly a blessing when a person like this graces your home, what felt like deeper blessings were the relationship that were strengthened that day. Not only were many small communities (and some estranged friends) converging in our home and connecting with others, but it was also the first time I was unreservedly exposing my father to the communities and values that I resonate with so deeply. Through what seemed to be blessings and assistance from all sides and many friends, I felt that my father and I began to Sri M with my Fatherunderstand one another in a way that had not happened for a long time. Even Sri M seemed to be spontaneously responding to the prayers of my heart with the special attention he gave my father. Through much grace, I felt that I succeeded in making a small downpayment against the immeasurable debt owed to my parents for the opportunity to be alive. While there is still work to be done, I felt supported by all the friends and circumstances that were a part of that week, not the least of whom was Sri M.

The final blessing came last weekend, when we were humbly honored to receive a private audience with the State Oracle of Tibet, Ven. Thupten Ngodup. Not widely known outside the Tibetan community, he’s charged with the responsibility of protecting the Dalai Lama and is one of his closest personal advisors. As a result of that high association and singularly focused mission, we were told that he is virtually impossible to meet, especially in India. So when we got the call to show up for a meeting, we figured we’d have perhaps five minutes of his time. Yet when we entered the small room where he was seated, time itself seemed to melt away. The Oracle had a vibe of unusually rooted presence that felt palpably warm-hearted. One of the many blessings he bestowed came from an image of the Buddha carved in the 8th century that was previously in the possession of Padmasambhava, one of the founders of Tibetan Buddhism. I’m told that the case around it contained the bodily relics of the prior Dalai Lamas. The sensations that arose when he placed that sacred object on the crown of my head is unforgettable, and I can still feel it now as I write this days later. After many other blessings, he asked me if I had any questions. I told him that it is my aspiration to purify my heart and mind so I may directly experience the whole Truth, but that I also wish to be of service to tangible and real problems in the world-- starting with my family but also serving larger issues like conflict and climate change. The Oracle responded by saying that the world needs many more people who share my values. That the family is the right place to begin practicing, for what we create in our families is what ultimately goes out to touch the world. The guiding principle is to put others before self, as selfishness is the root of all inharmonious deeds in the world. To truly put others before self, we must cultivate compassion and loving kindness. The basis for why we must adopt this attitude is that all living beings have supported our journeys in one way or another, at one time or another, and kindness is a way to repay that debt. As Buddhists, they practice this first through the Four Immeasurable Prayers:

-May all beings have the causes and conditions for happiness.
-May all beings be free from the causes and conditions of suffering.
-May beings never be separated from the supreme joy that is free of suffering.
-May all beings dwell in boundless equanimity, free of craving and aversion.

He went on at length specifically on the 4th prayer, saying that a proper understanding of impermanence is the basis for freeing ourselves from craving and aversion. That those who are our friends now may be enemies in the future, and those who are enemies now may be friends in the future. Given that all things and circumstances are subject to change, it is only the mind that is equanimous that holds the proper perspective and allows us to practice what is in the best interest of others and ourselves.

Rahul, Asha, Uma & Kabir Brown with State Oracle of Tibet

The Oracle’s generosity further overflowed when he gave us several sacred and sanctified gifts as we parted ways. I later realized that something like 30 minutes had passed, and that to have such a long encounter full of rare blessings and sanctity was simply unprecedented, especially for ordinary folks like us.

Now the challenge comes in being worthy recipients of the blessings and insights that have come into our lives. There are certain to be dark days ahead of us, and the question will be whether we will rise up to be greater instruments of truth, love, and generosity in times when lies, hatred, and selfishness seem to dominate. Recent events remind me of the Buddha’s Fire Sermon where he says that the world is burning in the fires of lust, hatred, and delusion. Yet the humbling reality I’ve witnessed through self observation is that there is only a quantitative difference between me and those who I tend to vilify, not a qualitative difference. Can I step up to my responsibility not just in the heartland, but in the heart itself?

May the reality of the burning fires of our world cause us all to step into the highest versions of ourselves. May we all rise to be noble friends together on the long journey of realizing immeasurable prayers.     

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Comments (8)

  • Jyoti wrote ...

    Your challenge is my challenge too. I will pray for your prayers to be answered. Thank you for articulating and sharing.

  • Dinesh wrote ...

    Good reflections and articulation. Very helpful in current circumstances!

  • arathi wrote ...

    beautiful :-). thank you for sharing such inspiring words

  • Nandini wrote ...

    Thanks for sharing these Rahul. Really resonated with what you said about whether my heart and being are qualitatively different different from those we vilify. Looking forward to this journey together, as we more urgently and consciously, need to step into the roles of keepers of each other's highest potentials, and support inner and outer cultivation.

  • Sojun Mel Weitsman wrote ...

    Dear Rahul,
    I want to thank you for your inspiring account of your meeting with these wonderful sages. We are so happy to have you and your family as a neighbor. My wish is that the spirit of our pure practice pervade to all corners as a vehicle for peace in the world.

  • Sojun Mel Weitsman wrote ...

    Dear Rahul,
    I want to thank you for your inspiring account of your meeting with these wonderful sages. We are so happy to have you and your family as a neighbor. My wish is that the spirit of our pure practice pervade to all corners as a vehicle for peace in the world.

  • Kinjal wrote ...

    Thanks for sharing. Sadly I missed both events but grateful for your post.

  • Kinjal wrote ...

    Thanks for sharing. Sadly I missed both events but grateful for your post.