When we really see, in our mind’s eye, a person we think we don’t like, and instead of solidifying our reasons for hatred we honestly wish them happiness, good health, safety, and as easeful life, we start to forget what we thought we hated and why we felt that way in the first place. A sense of equanimity toward everyone arises as we do this practice—we feel compassion for those who were once invisible to us, and our disregard and apathy morph into concern for their well-being and safety.
I became enamored of Buddhism when I realized its basic tenet began by saying, essentially, “Life sucks and then you die, so what’s that all about?” This was the religion for me. This was a framework I could use to examine my actual experience. Far from the promise of pie-in-a-big-sky afterlife, this was about dealing with the fear that comes when you realize nothing is going to save your ass.
As the English poets who, age after age, revolve about the centrality of Shakespeare, constantly extended themselves toward creation of a perfect circle, our poets, too, revolving around Rabindranath, will do the same.
In the end, just three things matter:
- How well we have lived.
- How well we have loved.
- How well we have learned to let go.
True emptiness is not empty, but contains all things. The mysterious and pregnant void creates and reflects all possibilities. From it arises our individuality, which can be discovered and developed, although never possessed or fixed.
Cicero referred to curiosity as a “passion for learning.” Writing about the outstanding brilliance and peculiarity of his subject, historian extraordinaire Walter Isaacson discusses curiosity in his biography of Leonardo da Vinci,
In addition to his instinct for discerning patterns across disciplines, Leonardo honed two other traits that aided his scientific pursuits: an omnivorous curiosity, which bordered on the fanatical, and an acute power of observation, which was eerily intense. Like much with Leonardo, these were interconnected. Any person who puts “Describe the tongue of the woodpecker” on his to-do list is overendowed with the combination of curiosity and acuity.
His curiosity, like that of Einstein, often was about phenomena that most people over the age of ten no longer puzzle about: Why is the sky blue? How are clouds formed? Why can our eyes see only in a straight line? What is yawning? Einstein said he marveled about questions others found mundane because he was slow in learning to talk as a child. For Leonardo, this talent may have been connected to growing up with a love of nature while not being overly schooled in received wisdom.
…His curiosity was aided by the sharpness of his eye, which focused on things that the rest of us glance over…. The acuteness of his observational skill was not some superpower he possessed. Instead, it was a product of his own effort. That’s important, because it means that we can, if we wish, not just marvel at him but try to learn from him by pushing ourselves to look at things more curiously and intensely.
In his notebook, he described his method—almost like a trick—for closely observing a scene or object: look carefully and separately at each detail. He compared it to looking at the page of a book, which is meaningless when taken in as a whole and instead needs to be looked at word by word. Deep observation must be done in steps: “If you wish to have a sound knowledge of the forms of objects, begin with the details of them, and do not go on to the second step until you have the first well fixed in memory.
Isaacson’s previous biographical subjects include Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Ada Lovelace, and Steve Jobs—all blue-sky thinkers, with insatiable, lifelong appetite for knowledge and the ability “to make connections across the disciplines” and “to marry observation and imagination.”
From Warren Buffett’s 50th annual shareholder letter for Berkshire Hathaway:
Investors, of course, can, by their own behavior, make stock ownership highly risky. And many do. Active trading, attempts to “time” market movements, inadequate diversification, the payment of high and unnecessary fees to managers and advisors, and the use of borrowed money can destroy the decent returns that a life-long owner of equities would otherwise enjoy. Indeed, borrowed money has no place in the investor’s tool kit.
Anything can happen anytime in markets. And no advisor, economist, or TV commentator—and definitely not Charlie nor I—can tell you when chaos will occur. Market forecasters will fill your ear but will never fill your wallet.
Wayne Teasdale writes in The Mystic Hours:
There is no possibility of a mature spiritual life without humility. Nor is it possible to be a successful human being without it. Humility is also, most fundamentally, a relationship of truth with ourselves. Humility begins with self-honesty about our actions, attitudes, and speech. It compels us to accept the fact that we are capable of being wrong, perhaps even when we are convinced we are right. It means that we acknowledge our mistakes, not years from now, but when they are made. We must be willing to own up to these basic mistakes before others and not simply ourselves. Such humility is a basic operating principle of ordinary life. Without it, we can hardly move at all, since the mystical process is based on honesty and humility of heart. Search your experience and examine if humility is at work in you.
Do you not see how everybody works? Nobody can be altogether at rest; ninety-nine per cent of mankind work like slaves, and the result is misery; it is all selfish work. Work through freedom! Work through love! The word “love” is very difficult to understand; love never comes until there is freedom… If you buy a slave and tie him down in chains and make him work for you, he will work like a drudge, but there will be no love in him. So when we ourselves work for the things of the world as slaves, there can be no love in us, and our work is not true work.
Sometimes it seems that it might be better to go back to those simpler days, that one might get more out of a less complex life. But it cannot be done. One changes with prosperity. We all think we should like to lead a simple life, and then we find that we have picked up a thousand little habits which we are quite unconscious of because they are a part of our very being—and these habits are not in the simple life. There is no going back—except as a broken man.