In Tibetan, we use the term rimé to describe a mind “free from bias.” It is a particular attitude that helps people work with diversity in a way that supports their own personal development while promoting greater harmony with those who hold different views. We can call this attitude the rimé philosophy.
When you first begin a spiritual journey, having a rimé philosophy can provide you with a basis for choosing a path. Then, as you begin to progress along that path, it can help you overcome obstacles by showing you alternative ways of thinking about a given situation. And finally, when you reach more advanced stages, it provides you with a greater flexibility of mind that can be used to adapt to a wide variety of situations, helping you to bring greater benefit to those around you. In this way, the rimé philosophy is helpful in the beginning, middle, and end.We can break this attitude down into four distinct qualities that develop a gradual process over time. As you strengthen one quality, it naturally creates the conditions for the next quality to arise. In this way, we can think of the rimé philosophy as being like a flower that starts off as a seed and eventually blooms into a beautiful display of color.
The first quality we need to develop is tolerance, built on a basis of mutual respect. A mind that lacks this type of tolerance is openly antagonistic toward people who hold different views. It is a mind that clings very strongly to one’s own beliefs and feels threatened by the mere presence of other viewpoints. We need to loosen this grip in order to be able to communicate in a meaningful way.
Developing tolerance for a view is based on developing respect for a person. Respect means being able to connect with a person in such a way that even if we don’t agree with their views, we can still value their right to hold those views. The key to developing this sort of tolerance is to separate the validity of an idea from the validity of the person holding the idea. Behind every idea is a motivation that is shaped by hopes and fears. If we are able to identify this underlying motivation, we will see the wish to find happiness and to be free from suffering. Ultimately we all want the same thing; we just have different ways of going about it. Mutual respect can grow from understanding this basic commonality of motivation that unites us as people. If you connect with that basic motivation, then you establish a working basis for dialogue to occur.
Ultimately we all want the same thing; we just have different ways of going about it.
Tolerance makes it possible to establish a basic connection with another person. On the basis of that connection, you can then begin to open up to the possibility of communication. All forms of communication involve the transmission of ideas and the reception of those ideas. At this point, our main focus is on acquiring new information, and therefore we need to cultivate a greater quality of receptivity.
The basic idea behind receptivity is to create space in the mind for new ideas. As long as our mind is full, it will be unable to acquire anything new and therefore we will be unable to learn anything. Fortunately the mind is infinite in nature, and it therefore, has the capacity to accommodate as much as we like. It is only because of our grasping that we effectively limit that capacity. We box it in and solidify it, making it difficult for us to grow.
To counteract this tendency of closing ourselves off, we need to cultivate a mind of humility and non-grasping. The humility counteracts the pride that tells us we know everything. This can be developed through contemplating the uniqueness of the conditions that give rise to a particular situation. When we are able to recognize the potential for learning provided by such a situation, it becomes much easier to open ourselves to what is being communicated.
Meanwhile, adopting a mind that is free from grasping is a direct antidote to a narrow and fixed perspective. This mind can generally be developed either formally through awareness meditation or informally through mindfulness of the present moment. Either way, the essence of this practice is to adopt the capacity to simply observe what is happening without getting carried away by excessive judgments or other discursive thoughts.
As you begin to open yourself more and more to the lessons that life has to offer, you will naturally be influenced by the information you take in. When new ideas are introduced into the mind, they go through a process of integration in which the mind tries to reconcile what this new information means in relation to existing ideas.
At this point you have a choice. You can choose to disregard the new information, in which case you are left no better off than when you started, or you can choose to actively seek to understand the implications of this new information, which will lead you to a more robust and integrated mind. If you choose the latter, you will need to develop the quality of curiosity.
Curiosity is an inquisitive mind that desires to understand. In a way we can say that curiosity is a reaction to uncertainty. When such a mind sees two conflicting ideas, it desires to reconcile the uncertainty regarding which idea makes more sense. This leads to the asking of questions, and when we ask questions, we get answers. The new information these answers provide helps us to fill in holes in our understanding, leading to the removal of uncertainty.
Related: How to Open Up to a Painful World
To cultivate such a mind we need to nurture our thirst for understanding. We need to counteract the passive mind that complacently just absorbs things. This can be done by engaging with each opportunity as though it were the missing piece in a great puzzle. We develop joy in the very process of working things out and revel in the challenges that life presents us with. In this way, everything becomes fascinating, because everything has the capacity to teach us something. This is the mind of curiosity.
The previous three qualities of tolerance, receptivity, and curiosity combine together to form a powerful engine for the acquisition of information. A person who has cultivated all these qualities will be very much like a sponge. They will pull in as much as they can whenever they can, and because they actively engage in clarifying their understanding, the quality of their view will be very strong and very broad.
Having such a view provides a practitioner with a very unique opportunity. The more you learn about diverse approaches to similar problems, the more flexibility of mind you are able to exhibit. You can start to see how different ideas are more suited to different conditions. So when those conditions arise, you are able to respond in an appropriate manner that is capable of optimizing the benefit for yourself and others.
This sort of flexibility arises out of an awareness that clearly perceives what is going on in any given moment. This discriminating awareness can be cultivated by exposing the mind to a wide variety of circumstances and then looking at those circumstances from many angles. Doing so reduces clinging to reality as being just one way and promotes a malleable mind that can adapt very easily to variation.
Developing an unbiased attitude does not mean we have to think of all paths as being equal, as this is simply not true. Each has its own flavor and strengths, and therefore what we are trying to do is develop greater awareness of what diversity has to offer. Our aim is to clearly distinguish between their differences, respecting each as a skillful means to guide different sentient beings toward greater happiness.
Opening Up to Others
In a relaxed position, establish a neutral mind through the practice of mindfulness of breathing.
Begin by identifying a person who holds views different from your own. This can be anyone who provokes a feeling of aversion if you even consider speaking with them. Imagine that this person approaches you in the street and starts a conversation. Observe how you feel. Can you detect any barriers between you? Any resistance to listening? Try to get a sense of this closed-off mindset.
Now bring an awareness of the present moment into the scenario. When you encounter this person, focus on what is happening here and now. Release the history you have with this person, and simply observe what is being said in this moment. Similarly, let go of any expectations for where this conversation may lead. Stay in the present, engaged and aware of what is going on. How does this change the way you experience the scenario?
Now consider what is appearing to you. Here is a person. A person who has unique hopes and dreams. A person who has unique experiences. This person is one of a kind. There is no one else who has the exact perspective on life that this person has, and right now this person is here, talking with you. In what ways could this encounter teach you something? Think of the potential, not merely in terms of factual information but also in terms of who you are as a person and how you react to different things. Run through the scenario again and imagine different ways in which you could really make the most of this situation.
Rest in any insights that arise.
Excerpted from Unveiling Your Sacred Truth through the Kalachakra Path: Book One, The External Reality, by Khentrul Rinpoche © 2015. Reprinted with permission of The Tibetan Buddhist Rimé Institute, Inc.
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