Author Topic: What is the heart?  (Read 687 times)

Offline malco23

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What is the heart?
« on: July 03, 2016, 08:32:15 am »
Hello,

My name is Malcolm and I'm new to FreeSangha. I been around Buddhism for 20 years or so, but I am a beginner always. Recently I have come to realize that I have no idea what is meant by "the heart" in Buddhism. I've just been going with the flow when that word arises, and I now honestly admit that I don't know what the heart is. Some examples: "Buddhism is the religion of heart," "One who practices to develop the heart is one who practices Buddhism," and "These Truths are living experiences to be explored individually in the heart of the sincere spiritual seeker." Can someone point me in the direction of an answer to my question? Or can you offer me your own understanding? I have Googled this question, I have searched this forum and others, but I cannot find any answers to this simple question. There seems to be an assumption that one already knows what the "heart" is.

Thank you, Malcolm

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: What is the heart?
« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2016, 02:36:34 pm »
In this context it is probably emphasizing the difference between an intellectual understanding of reality, and one found when you let go of all ideas in meditation. When this happens there is a large emotional dimension to the experience- hence the reference to the heart.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline malco23

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Re: What is the heart?
« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2016, 09:19:13 pm »
Thanks stillpointdancer ... that helps. But I am still somewhat confused. Here is an example that is a little more specific: In a guided meditation that I did recently, the leader said "Breathe as if you could breathe in and out of the heart... as if the breath came in and touched the heart and went out...with this in mind, continue to breathe gently in the area of the heart." It seems that I'm being asked to imagine a specific area in the body in which to focus my breathing; or a place imagined by the mind. This seems vague, and I'm still struggling with it. Can you elaborate your answer using above example? Many thanks, Malcolm.

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: What is the heart?
« Reply #3 on: July 04, 2016, 03:21:16 am »
Ah, yes. I see now. The guided meditation was probably a bit different, in that it included visualization of the breath. If you haven't done it before, no wonder you are confused. Over the years I've tried lots of meditations, always returning to the basic mindfulness of breathing and metta meditations afterwards. One that I return to frequently is a chakra meditation, where I visualize the breath circulating inside the body, as if it could freely move around.
 
There are seven chakras along an axis of the body, from the base of your spine to the top of your head, each a different color (part of the visualization process). You breath as if you could breath through these chakras, each then lighting up that part of your body with their own colored light. The colored light now shines out of your body through each chakra, as the air circulates, leaving through the mouth. Of course, there are lots of variations, and I've oversimplified the process to give you an idea of what happens. There's a lot of information here or just google it.

To get back to your question, I'm guessing the guided meditation was something like this. You use the breath to visualize what is happening to your heart, to bring it to mind during the meditation. An alternative could be to include it in your body check at the start of a meditation- where you relax into the meditation by scanning how your body is at the moment, from toes to the top of your head. It helps to both relax the body and to be aware of any problems you may not have noticed during the day. For me, I often include all parts of the inside of my body, to make sure I'm including all of my body and mind in the meditation.

From my earlier answer, the heart is a visualization of the emotional response you have to Buddhism, and bringing it into the meditation using the breath in this way brings awareness to the heart and the emotion (or not if it didn't work for you!). You didn't describe the rest of the meditation, so I don't know if I'm on the right track. Does it make sense to you?
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Offline francis

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Re: What is the heart?
« Reply #4 on: July 04, 2016, 06:26:18 am »
Hi Malcolm, good question. I agree with stillpointdancer, it depends on the context.

Though not mutually exclusive, finding your heat in a guided meditation might be different to finding the spiritual heart of Buddhism, as a sincere spiritual seeker.

To find the key to understanding Buddhism, I would suggest studying the Heart Sutra.

Then there are the rest of the Perfection of (Transcendent) Wisdom (Prajñāpāramitā) sutras including the Diamond Sutra, to consider.

"Enlightenment, for a wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realises it is water." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Offline malco23

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Re: What is the heart?
« Reply #5 on: July 04, 2016, 09:12:02 am »
stillpointdancer: Thank you! It all helped. In particular, I think this is what I'm looking for: You said, "...the heart is a visualization of the emotional response you have to Buddhism, and bringing it into the meditation using the breath in this way brings awareness to the heart and the emotion."  :)

francis: Thank you for your reply! I actually memorized the Heart Sutra many years ago -- and here I am years afterward struggling with the basics. I will definitely re-read it. I have a couple of excellent commentaries on the Heart Sutra that I need to revisit. At one point I studied the Perfection of Wisdom sutras, although I am not as well-versed on the Diamond Sutra. Thanks for that suggestion as well! :)

Offline francis

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Re: What is the heart?
« Reply #6 on: July 05, 2016, 05:33:42 am »
Hi Malcolm, I was thinking more about the Buddhist heart. Some would suggest it starts by developing great compassion for all sentient beings. This is sometimes described as Bodhicitta.
"Enlightenment, for a wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realises it is water." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Offline malco23

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Re: What is the heart?
« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2016, 06:59:12 am »
Hi Francis,

Thank you for your comment about Bodhicitta. That helps. I am slowly developing an awareness of "heart," mainly through guided meditations on loving kindness, and various readings about the subject. I will revisit Bodhicitta, as well. Thanks again,

Malcolm

 


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