Thursday, April 08, 2004

The Gate of Sadness
Jewish and Buddhist Teachings on the Broken Heart

The Gate of Sadness is a monograph in progress on the subject of sadness as it is regarded in the Jewish and Buddhist traditions. The introduction and first few teachings are available here.

Sometimes a crumb falls from the tables of joy
Sometimes a bone is flung.
To some people love is given,
To others, only heaven.

Langston Hughes

Sadness and joy are not opposites. They exist as two notes of a sometimes
dissonant, sometimes harmonious, chord of quiet awareness. Learning to
experience and accept one’s sadness as part of the unfolding perfection of Being is
to make the darkness visible, and beautiful. It is a gate into deeply knowing that
all is God.

Denying sorrow, or pretending too quickly that everything is okay, denies
that God exists everywhere, which contradicts the unity and reality of God itself.
If God takes place only when we are happy, it is not God.

Sadness is not the same as despair. Despair is a condition of the ego, in
which the “I” loses confidence that the sad mind state will change. It is part of a
narrative, in which the desired happiness is feared never to come. Sadness is not
part of a narrative; it is simply what is, at this moment. In fact, despair hates
sadness, and seeks to avoid it – even as it believes that to avoid it is impossible.
In this sense, despair and holy sadness are opposites.

When we truly experience, not just merely learn, that sadness is a
manifestation of God, and when we feel -- not just merely theorize -- that we are
not alone in sadness, we can become one with an underlying peace with what is
that lovingly endures even our most painful heartbreaks.

The teachings in this book flow from many voices of Jewish traditions,
and some from Buddhist ones, though hopefully they can inspire any seeker of
communion with ultimate Being. They do not represent the only voices in these
traditions on the subject of sadness, or even the dominant ones. Most importantly,
this path is not a cure for sadness – it is an embrace of it. The gate of sadness will
not make us happy. But it can make us joyful, content, and loving in the midst of
pain. With an open heart, sadness and joy may thus be united.

Read more:
by Jay Michaelson

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