Merullo brings us a delightful character in Volya Rinpoche, a Siberian monk on a road trip across America. In his halting English, Rinpoche shares many spiritual concepts in plain terms with Otto, his unwilling and often disgruntled tour guide. Case in point, a discussion of free will.
“Many times every day,” Rinpoche explains, “you can go one way or the other way. You can go with anger or not go. Go with greed or not go. Go with hate or not go...These feel like small things, small choices, but every day, across one life, across many, many lives (you can) choose the good way, again and again and again, in what you are thinking and what you are doing.”
So, when life seems overwhelming and I lose sight of the big picture, I can consciously zero in on what’s right in front of me. Each and every moment offers me options, and choosing among them is really all I need to do.
I arrive at an appointment to find my name not on the schedule. I notice tears in someone’s eyes. A glass slips from my hand and shatters on the floor. I witness unkindness. I’m late for work and behind an exceptionally slow driver. I walk through the beauty of nature with my thoughts drifting elsewhere.
In every situation, options are available to me. Which will I choose? How will I direct this precious life energy given me?
While most of us generally try to do the right thing, this kind of specificity requires an awareness that makes it a life practice indeed. Yet, according to Merullo’s Rinpoche, by repeatedly choosing wisely, an inner quiet can begin to develop. “And,” Rinpoche explains, “that quiet space gives you a chance to see deep, deep into the world if you want to.”
Do we want to? Will we make room in our lives for deep looking? Another choice.
When asked about violence and hatred in the world, Rinpoche's answer is also simple. "I don't know the why. I know the is. This is the world and always the world...Inside the big world that you cannot control, you have the small world of you that you can control. In that small world, if you look, you can see whether to go this way toward good, or that other way.”
He goes on to explain that in his lineage, God is not seen as “up in the sky looking at you and judging you.” Instead, God is “giving out love and giving out love and giving out love…like a very nice music always playing. If you hurt people you make yourself deaf to this music, that's all. Not God’s fault, your fault. Not God’s judgment, your choice, you see? You make yourself no chance to feel God, or the moon going up, or any good love.”
Small, seemingly insignificant choices, minute by minute, day after day. Choices that help us find our way to the love streaming through every minute, to the joy of the music that is always playing.