A mail from a friend reminded me of the most important lesson in last night's talk, which I missed capturing. My friend is inspiring people to spend 11 minutes in the new year, 1/1/11, focused on 1-ness, and dedicate their "thought-sound" to the good of the universe (see Ekataa.net).
Reading this message made me smile, and remember Rev Heng Sure's starting story on his Christmas stocking, which he carried with him at the age of 22 to a Buddhist monastery on a retreat, around the Christmas period. He could not bring it in his heart to dispose of the stocking, so, on the night of the 24th, he hung it outside his room, in the hope that his fellow Buddhist meditators would take it down and trash it, for (he reasoned) Buddhists had no use for Christmas stockings.
The next morning, he woke up at 3:45 AM, and apart from being tired, remembered the stocking and decided to look for a broom to clean up the surely shredded stocking outside his door. He opened his door and was surprised to find nothing on the floor. Look to his right, he found the Christmas stocking not just intact but full of gifts. There were sutras, chants, Buddha stories and other gifts from his fellow meditators, perhaps the most unique Christmas presents he had received. Then, as he walked by his teacher, the teacher grinned at him and said "Merry Christmas!" That one act of kindness made him feel that he was going to like this place after all :).
In true pay-it-forward style, the Reverend was full of kindness for other traditions, and it is rare to hear a talk where a teacher from one tradition is so full of genuine respect for others, although his own path may be different. The seeds his teacher sowed have flowered into a beautiful tree, with many fruits for all of us.
That thread of unity is my biggest takeaway from last night, and reminded me of my professor's philosophy (who is a philosophical Buddhist and a nondualist) which has manifested in our field called "Decision Analysis." We only expend our energy in discussions or obtaining information provided they have the potential to change our decision. Like last week's talk, it does not matter what tradition one comes from, and what one's beliefs are; if we end up being united in our Decisions (not the big "D" decision) - i.e. genuine loving, sharing and serving. It also reminded me of a talk by a monk I know at a Stanford multifaith conference, where he shared the metaphor of a mountain in Hawaii - one side is a lush rainforest, while the other has a barren desert landscape. While climbing up, it is very hard to believe that a different landscape could possibly exist. But at the top, the view is the same. Chatting with Richard Whittaker later on, I received another insight (which is not unusual when talking to Richard) on this metaphor. When we start at the base from different positions, our differences are rather great, but as we keep climbing up, the differences reduce.
How amazing it is that the room was full of people many of whom hardly knew each other, and yet, our hearts were filled with gratitude for the space, the talk, the food and the countless other gifts that came our way even without our knowing.