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Excerpted from Awakening the Buddhist Heart by Lama Surya Das. Copyright© 2000 by Lama Surya Das. Excerpted by permission of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"We need to learn to love others--even those we may not like."

Lama Surya Das, 
Awakening the Buddhist Heart, Part 3

Connecting to the sacred in our relationships is a way of satisfying our spiritual hunger with love--thus nurturing ourselves, as well as nourishing the world. For just a minute, stop and think about your relationships. Think about all those with whom you interact--at home, at work, and in the community. Think about family, friends, coworkers, and even those with whom you have only a nodding acquaintance. Don't leave anybody out, not even your pets. Whenever you think about the important relationships in your life, remember that each of us also has a connection with the natural world and all the wild creatures that live on our planet--as well as with the planet itself.

Some of our relationships seem deep and meaningful; others are merely casual. But on a spiritual level, they are all important; they can all be deepened and improved. Relationships are essential for ongoing spiritual growth and development. They help us find meaning and purpose; they help us experience love--human as well as divine. Learning to love is the first lesson in Spirituality 101. The connections we make as we live our incredible lives offer us the opportunity to acknowledge and connect to the divine in ourselves as well as in others. Ask yourself: Who did you love today?

Although spiritual seekers and saints historically have often been associated with self-sacrifice and reclusive, solitary lifestyles (often monastic, and frequently cloistered), here in the modern world, other traditions and styles of spirituality are emerging. Contemporary seekers realize that we can't retreat permanently; it is not very helpful to pass negative judgments on worldly values. Instead we need to find new and better ways of walking the soulful path of awakening, by integrating the heart of love in every aspect of our lives. In this way we learn to dance gracefully with life.

It is a fundamental Buddhist tenet as well as a larger, more general fact of life that we are all interconnected and interdependent on each other. I find it very gratifying to see that so many Western seekers and students of truth and Dharma are sincerely striving to combine social activism with spiritual growth. As seekers, we want to find ways to do spiritual work within our relationships. We aspire to help improve the quality of our own lives as well as the lives of those around us. In this way we are hopeful that we will be better able to live in congruence with our most deeply held inner principles and values. We who inhabit this planet all share a common karma as well as a common ground. We already live together; we need to learn to work together. We need to learn to love others--even those we may not like. This is the greatest challenge of all.

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