Kol Ami — The Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Community
Qualities of the Heart
By Susan Freiband
Sylvia Boorstein, cofounding teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre California, is the author of It’s Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness, That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist: On Being a Faithful Jew and a Passionate Buddhist, and Pay Attention, for Goodness’ Sake, Practicing the Perfections of the Heart-The Buddhist Path of Kindness. In this last book, published in 2002, she describes the Buddha’s Ten Paramitas or Perfections of the Heart, qualities, she states that are natural, built-in inclinations of the human heart. The list of the Paramitas includes generosity, morality, renunciation, wisdom, energy, patience, truthfulness, determination, loving kindness and equanimity. According to Sylvia Boorstein, they are mutual gifts, which depend on each other, where both givers and receivers benefit. Taken together, they are a path to goodness and kindness.
At the beginning of each of the ten chapters in the book, focusing on one of the Paramitas, Boorstein includes a quote from the Buddha and a table which identifies the practice, what it develops, how, what it’s supported by, how it manifests. For example, the practice of generosity develops the habit of sharing, by experiencing the joy of not feeling needy, the ease of a peaceful mind, the possibility of the end of suffering, while realizing that life is inevitably challenging and discovering the relief that comes with the absence of self-centered preoccupation, which manifests as contentment (p. 39).
One of the advantages of becoming an elder is having time and opportunity to look within, to examine the qualities of the heart of greatest importance, relevance, priority at this time of life, to make each day count, make a difference, leave a legacy. There is much in Torah, mussar and the Jewish tradition that speaks to this, as well as a richness to be found in exploring other faith traditions, as Sylvia Boorstein has done so well in her wise and insightful books.