• Guest Contributor

Clear Minds and Pure Hearts

I was part of an online meditation, a few weeks ago, in which the presenter, Tommy Rosen, reminded us of a Sutra we need right now. One that I need. 

The verse has an explanation that goes like this:  The opposite of a clear mind is “animosity, cruelty, jealousy, self-righteousness” which lead to violence and pain, and which hurt us and others.  The antidote to those harmful and mind clouding aspects is “friendliness, compassion, happiness, non-judgment in our daily practice” (from The Secret of the Yoga Sutra: Samadhi Pada,  Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, 2014) These qualities, in daily practice, bring us to our best self, a self that does not harm others. 

I am not a Buddhist, and did not know this Sutra or thread. I have high respect for the path of Buddhism and cultivate some of its practices-- like meditation and yoga. The Sutra is a thread in a collection of aphorisms set into chapters.  The Samadhi Pada chapters are said to be directed toward enlightenment of the mind. To restate the idea: the enemy of a transparent mind is animosity, cruelty, jealousy, self-righteousness, whereas the antidote to these are friendliness, compassion, happiness, and non-judgment in our daily practice.  Our daily practice of good things is what keeps our mind clear. 

The idea is not so far from a Christian text that goes like this:  “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). 

In the context of a national presidential election that is proving to be extremely and painfully divisive, it is hard to keep a clear mind of compassion and generosity for those with whom we disagree.  The call to think on what is honorable and true is harder than it sounds.  Animosity is easier.  But the transparent mind, or even faithfulness, does not invite us to judge others.  It invites us to focus on our path, on our practice, on the integrity of our own life and witness.  Faithfulness to our spiritual and ethical traditions, however we define and experience them, invites us to self-awareness, the humility of knowing who we are before God, neither more or less loved than anybody else.   

In the context of the COVID days when we are trying our best to protect others and ourselves, not to do harm, and to keep our spirits up, it is no surprise when we are cranky, tired, annoyed, generally unclear and reactive in our thinking.  The solution is to focus on the roots of our own goodness, to repeat the practices that express who we want to be, individually and as a community—friendliness, compassion, happiness, non-judgment, truth, honor, justice, purity.  You get the picture.

The point is not to be perfect, but as the sutra implies, to make seeking the good every day in our own practice, in our prayers, in our reflections and work, compassion in our interactions with others, in the way we think of others and act toward them.  In this way, we govern ourselves, focusing on what matters most to us, taking responsibility for things for which we are accountable.  And in this way, we grow together, moving from isolation to community, and from darkness to light.

Jan Fuller has been the University Chaplain at Elon since 2011. She is an Episcopal priest and deeply invested in helping students to find their own spiritual paths while interacting with others in differing paths with appreciation and respect.Raised in Beirut Lebanon for the first half of her life, Jan is the daughter of Southern Baptist missionaries to the Arab peoples of the Middle East. Jan’s education includes a Doctor of Ministry from Wesley Theological Seminary,a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School, and a B.A. in English and French from Hollins University. Jan describes herself as a “war-zone survivor,” who retains a sense of humor and love of gentleness. She loves Arab art and food, and all kinds of music. She intends to find the gift in every day and to live her life as a way of giving thanks.

Contact: jfuller3@elon.edu

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