Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Introspection is the key to the door of wisdom
We lead a contemplative life, but that does not mean we sit in meditation all day long. A contemplative life means that one considers every aspect of what happens as part of a learning experience. One remains introspective under all circumstances. When one becomes outgoing, with what the Buddha termed "exuberance of youth," one goes to the world with one's thoughts, speech and action. One needs to recollect oneself and return within. A contemplative life in some orders is a life of prayer. In our way it's a combination of meditation and life-style. The contemplative life goes on inside of oneself. One can do the same thing with or without recollection. Contemplation is the most important aspect of introspection. It isn't necessary to sit still all day and watch one's breath. Every move, every thought, every word can give rise to understanding oneself.
I love Ayya Khema. She is, along with Pema Chodron, Thich Nhat Hanh and Lama Surya Das, among my favorite Buddhist teachers. She passed away in 1997, but she wrote twenty-five books during her eighteen years as a nun in the Theravadin tradition. I recommend her 1998 book Being Nobody, Going Nowhere. A survivor of the Nazi Holocaust, she speaks with a gentleness and compassion that could only come from one who understands the journey from suffering to acceptance.