"As I read these passages, I feel that the Gospel especially emphasizes the practice of tolerance and feelings of impartiality toward all creatures. In my opinion, in order to develop one's capacity for tolerance toward all beings, and particularly toward an enemy, it is important as a precondition to have a feeling of equanimity toward all. If someone tells you that you should not be hostile toward your enemy or that you should love your enemy, that statement alone is not going to move you to change. It is quite natural for all of us to feel hostility toward those who harm us, and to feel attachment toward our loved ones. It is a natural human feeling, so we must have effective techniques to help us make that transition from these inherently biased feelings toward a state of greater equanimity.

"There are specific techniques for developing this sense of equanimity toward all sentient creatures. For instance, in the Buddhist context, one can refer to the concept of rebirth to assist in the practice of generating equanimity. As we are discussing the cultivation of equanimity in the context of Christian practice, however, perhaps it is possible to invoke the idea of Creation and that all creatures are equal in that they are all creations of the same God. On the basis of this belief, one can develop a sense of equanimity. Just before our morning's session, I had a brief discussion with Father Laurence. He made the point that in Christian theology there is the belief that all human beings are created in the image of God — we all share a common divine nature. I find this quite similar to the idea of buddha-nature in Buddhism. On the basis of this belief that all human beings share the same divine nature, we have a very strong ground, a very powerful reason, to believe that it is possible for each of us to develop a genuine sense of equanimity toward all beings.

"However, we should not see equanimity as an end in itself. Nor should we feel that we are striving for a total state of apathy in which we have no feelings or fluctuating emotions toward either our enemies or our loved ones and friends. That is not what we are seeking to achieve. What we aspire to achieve is, first of all, to set the foundation, to have a kind of clear field where we can then plant other thoughts. Equanimity is this even ground that we are first laying out. On the basis of this, we should then reflect on the merits of tolerance, patience, love, and compassion toward all. We should also contemplate the disadvantages and the negatives of self-centered thinking, fluctuating emotions toward friend and enemies, and the negativities of having biased feelings toward other beings.

"The crucial point is how you utilize this basic equanimity. It is important to concentrate on the negativities of anger and hatred, which are the principle obstacles to enhancing one's capacity for compassion and tolerance. You should also reflect upon the merits and virtues of enhancing tolerance and patience. This can be done in the Christian context without having to resort to any belief in rebirth. For example when reflecting upon the merits and virtues of tolerance and patience you can think along the following lines: God created you as an individual and gave you the freedom to act in a way that is compatible and in accordance with the Creator's wishes — to act in an ethical way, in a moral way, and to live a life of an ethically disciplined, responsible individual. By feeling and practicing tolerance and patience toward fellow creatures, you are fulfilling that wish: you are pleasing your Creator. That is, in a way, the best gift, the best offering that you can make to the divine Creator.

"There is an idea in Buddhism of something called offering of practice (drupai chöpa): of all the offerings you can make to someone that you revere — such as material offerings, singing songs of praise, or other gifts — the best offering you can make is to live a life according to the principles of that being. In the Christian context, by living life in an ethically disciplined way, based on tolerance and patience, you are, in a way, making a wonderful gift to your Creator. This is in some sense much more effective than having only prayer as your main practice. If you pray but then do not live according to that prayer, it is not of much benefit.

"One of the great yogis of Tibetan Buddhism, Milarepa, states in one of his songs of spiritual experience, 'As far as offerings of material gifts are concerned, I am destitute: I have nothing to offer. What I have to offer in abundance is the fight of my spiritual practice.' We can see that, generally, the person who has a tremendous reserve of patience and tolerance has a certain degree of tranquility and calmness in his or her life. Such a person is not only happy and more emotionally grounded, but also seems to be physically healthier and to experience less illness. The person possesses a strong will, has a good appetite, and can sleep with a clear conscience. These are all benefits of tolerance and patience that we can see in our own daily lives."

Back to reading a full review of this book.