Speaking Heart to Heart on the Internet and Anywhere

overconfidenceIdeally, whenever we wanted to talk to another person, we could do so over tea or coffee while relaxing on a cozy couch. Or if we are both Nichiren Buddhists–as I am–and the topic of conversation is a touchy one, we could sit down in front of our altar and chant Nam- myoho-renge-kyo together before we begin our dialogue (chanting is the Nichiren Buddhist form of prayer).

But in the real world, sometimes distance, time constraints and a myriad of other factors dictate that if we are going to verbally communicate with someone, we will have to do so either by phone, postal mail or electronically–that is, by fax, e-mail or via the World Wide Web.

Personally, I don’t think this reality is a bad one. Rather I believe it is neutral. By this I mean, whether value or anti-value is the result of our efforts to communicate with others depends not on the communication method we employ, but on our hearts. This thinking is totally in line with the Buddhist idea that all things have both a positive and negative aspect. It is up to me to bring out the positive aspect of the mode of communication I choose to utilize at a particular time.

If the only “right” way to communicate with others was to do so in person, then most of us would have no connection to any of the great spiritual or philosophical thinkers of the present or past, like Maya Angelou, Dr. Martin Luther King or even Fred Rogers, for instance, because most people have ever met these people face to face. However, many of us have nonetheless “met” these individuals through their writings, what is written about them or on television and the radio.

In addition, anyone who has lost a dear relative knows that communication with that person does not cease just because you are no longer able to “see” her or him as you once did. On the contrary, we humans often remain deeply connected to our departed loved ones.

So I fall back on what the 13th-century Japanese founder of Nichiren Buddhism, Nichiren, wrote in a letter titled “The Drum at the Gate of Thunder”: “Merely seeing each other face would in itself be insignificant. The important thing is the heart. “Whether the heart is expressed in person, in writing, on the phone, or on television and radio, I think ultimately what matters is your heart when trying to communicate.

With a husband and three children under the age of nine at home, and with a large extended family, I have plenty of opportunities to test this theory. When I haven’t created harmony within my own heart when I’m fearful or angry I have difficulty communicating in a way that creates harmonious relationships with others. Basically, my fear and anger come down to my lack of faith that I have a divine nature that Nichiren Buddhist call a Buddha-nature.

When caught in the cycle of weak faith, I fall into seeing others as the source of my problem and I feel incapable of effecting change. Without faith in my Buddha nature, hopelessness and despair run rampant in my psyche.

But when I return to the basics of prayer, spiritual study and deeply believing in my ability to deeply change things for the better, I can create the best reality for all. Then I can communicate from my highest self my Buddha self. As a result of doing so, I am able to harmonize my interpersonal relationships with both those that are near and far.

Life to life communication is difficult no matter the mode of conveyance. Fortunately, with sincere prayer (or intent, for those who don’t practice a religion) human beings have the capacity to express our deepest selves and to truly reach others by using a variety of methods. For me, prayer to profoundly connect to the people in my immediate environment and to those who are seemingly separated from me by time, space or simply point of view is the most effective way to ensure that I will “meet” them heart to heart.

 

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