Buddhism can seem kinda cerebral at times, but that’s only the surface. Really, it’s all about heart.

The Together Heart (Doshin/Tongxin) is a decent translation of Zen’s “One Mind” or “True Nature.” We all share the same center. We all have the same hangups, the same afflictions and antidotes; they just look a little different in each of us. To put it poetically, we all have the same heart.

Wherever you go, people are people. Sadness is sadness, desire is desire, pain is pain, love is love, and joy is joy. We respond to things the same way millions of others do. The pain from a stubbed toe might piss you off, make you laugh, or not really affect you at all. Either way, you’re not alone in that response. Somewhere, maybe even on the other side of the world, someone else is stubbing their toe and responding the same way to the same pain. That’s our center.

I’m an agnostic Zennist. No matter what I experience or learn, I can’t buy into Buddha-nature, the Dharmakaya, etc. as some kind of cosmic consciousness. I can’t even say it’s bare awareness and that this awareness is the same in all beings, because I just don’t know. I’ve had little awakenings that seem to point to that, but for all I know, that could’ve just been a trip. If cosmic consciousness is what I was looking for, I’d just practice Advaita Vedanta. I came to Zen because it has the option within it to turn the same clueless shrug on all claims, spiritual and material.

But the same heart, the same potentials—now that I can get behind. The only fundamental difference between you and I are the potentials that various experiences have actualized in us. We all have the potential to respond to pain with anger, humor, or equanimity, and the potential to center ourselves enough to have a choice. We can choose which seeds we water, which potentials we actualize. We’re not solid, we’re like clay. There’s no limit to what we can mold ourselves into.

The only difference between a murderer, a cynic, an optimist and a Buddha is the seeds each chose to water. A Buddha is someone who lives with this Together Heart, who’s actualized all of the most benevolent potentials, and through that, unbound each knot of, “Taking things personally,” and found peace.

Nothing is personal; we’re all in this together.

Try this out if you like. Just think, “Together Heart,” a few times and see how it makes you feel, how it influences your mental landscape. If you need to, you can visualize a circle while you’re doing it. There’s no need to dam up your stream-of-thought—just pepper it with the occasional, “Together Heart,” while you’re sitting or throughout the day.

Feel free to share your results in the comments.

(PS, I apologize for any typos – this was a flyby entry)

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