autotelic, autistic, assonance-hole©.

Advice from the Heart

A very wise one (a teacher, actually) by name of Atisha, shared a series of advice with another, as a spiritual friend. The advice, given with sincerity and care, ‘from the heart’, has kept its title ever since. The interesting thing about the helpful teachers in the world is the manner in which they never claim to know anything. In fact, they almost always insist they are inferior, childish, and flawed… but that, if you are willing to accept this to be the case, because they have care of you, they will try to answer you as best they can.

Of course, to western thought, it almost seems calculated. Of course, that is because we are raised to suspect all such utterings and treat them with cynicism and skepticism. These pieces of advice, however, are deep wisdom and even if the one who gave them won’t say so for fear of impeding another’s ability to hear them, I’m humbled every time I read them, meditate on them, and consider the amount of clarity required to generate them.

Over the next days, I’ll be posting one piece of the many contained as ‘Advice From The Heart’ and talking about what it has meant to me or allowed me to accomplish.

Today’s piece of advice is:

Friends, until you attain enlightenment the Spiritual Teacher is indispensable, therefore rely upon the holy Spiritual Guide. Until you realize ultimate truth, listening is indispensable, therefore listen to the instructions of the Spiritual Guide.

The first thing I had to understand in this was that when Atisha said ‘holy Spiritual Guide’, he wasn’t referring to a concept of which I had any understanding at all. Most of all, I had to understand that he wasn’t referring to ‘a person’ at all, but to any possible number of people who or things that, by their presence, could bring to me the lessons needed for my practice and progress.

Sometimes, that holy Spiritual Guide has been a lineage holder within the tradition in which I have taken refuge.

Sometimes, that holy Spiritual Guide has been a friend in whom I have trust and for whom I have care.

Sometimes, that holy Spiritual Guide has been a stranger or someone I consider ‘an enemy’ who, at the right moment, has delivered by word or deed the circumstances through which a lesson might reach me.

Sometimes, that holy Spiritual Guide has been a sunrise, a growl of thunder, a stubbed toe, a particularly good meal… the list is much longer than I can set forth here. The point is that once we embrace and surrender to the holy Spiritual Guide, we discover that learning is everywhere we are willing to seek it, and if we are diligent in our willingness to accept that instruction, no matter where it comes from, we have gained an indispensible and precious treasure, indeed.

It is entirely possible that I am deluded, of course. It may be that I’m off in the weeds and what I really should be doing is sitting by my Lama’s feet and focusing only upon the words and instructions given there. I suppose if I were ever foolish enough to try and give advice from the heart, it would most likely be, “Don’t pay attention to what I say. Think about it and decide for yourself.”

If so, then surely you should not take “my” interpretation and experience as anything other than a cautionary tale of what not to do and, if this post or any that follow offend you, please accept my apologies.