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I had the good fortune to be invited to celebrate these magnificent Tashlikh (literally: "casting off") vows as part of a Jewish Rosh Hashanah (new year.. literally: "head of the year") ceremony. The ceremony began with a reading:

Who is a God like You, Who bears iniquity and ignores transgression for the remnant of His chosen people! He does not retain His anger forever for He desires to be benevolent. He will again show compassion and will subdue our sins and cast all of their transgressions into the depths of the sea!

                        Michah 7:18-19

Then we began to cast symbolic bread crumbs into a river. With each bread crumb we recited another one of these vows from the heart, and after each vow there were a few moments of silent meditation to consider ways that we could change ourselves in order to allow these vows to truly bloom and flower in our own lives:

Let us cast away the sin of deception ---- so that we will mislead no one in word or in deed, nor pretend to be what we are not.

Let us cast away the sin of vain ambition --- which prompts us to strive for goals which bring neither true fulfillment nor genuine contentment.

Let us cast away the sin of stubbornness --- so that we will neither persist in foolish habits nor fail to acknowledge our will to change.

Let us cast away the sin of envy --- so that we will neither be consumed by desire for what we lack nor grow unmindful of the blessings which are already ours.

Let us cast away the sin of selfishness --- which keeps us from enriching our lives through wider concerns and greater sharing, and from reaching out in love to other human beings.

Let us cast away the sin of indifference --- so that we may be sensitive to the sufferings of others and responsive to the needs of people everywhere.

Let us cast away the sin of pride and arrogance --- so that we can worship God and serve His purpose in humility and truth.

But, why wait for a new year... aren't these a good set of ideals for everyday?

As the mystical poet Rumi said:

           Love's wine
             is endless,
         keep on pouring 
              it forever.

So much time and energy is spent looking here and there, hunting for some complex formula, seeking some big long mantra... but the truth is even simpler... we simply need to live every moment centered in Loving Kindness.    

Sufi mystical poet Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi (Mathnawi, V:134-135) said:

              Don't search for the water,
                       just get thirsty,
             so that the water may arrive,

                   just as the cry of the
                        newborn babe
                 brings the mothers milk.   

Similarly, the 38th chapter of the Hua Hu Ching starts off with:             

            Why scurry about looking for the truth?
             It vibrates every thing and every not-thing, right off the tip of your nose.
             Can you be still and see it in the mountain?
             the pine tree?

I know it sounds too simple, but look at all of the great lines from the Masters... always amazingly simple stuff. The highest principles to which we aspire are stepping stones, leading us step by step toward Loving Kindness.

Only through selfless thoughts and selfless acts centered in Loving Kindness do we ever find the sense of true  fulfillment and peace of mind that we all hunger for. And it is through our incessant longing to be more selfless, more loving and more kind that we become an expression of Loving Kindness.

Perhaps some would argue that the term should be "love" or perhaps just "kindness", but such arguments miss the point... the word is really not very important, but rather there is an essence which is found in the depths of these words Loving Kindness... and that essence is what we must become.

When Aldous Huxley was dying, he was asked what he had learned from all of his experience with his spiritual teachers and gurus and through his own spiritual life. He said, "It's embarrassing to tell you this, but it seems to come down mostly to just learning to be kinder."

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus says

" Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. The second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

And indeed we can follow these commandments simply by letting Loving Kindness be the root of all of our actions and thoughts in the present moment.

The great Persian poet Hafiz inspired this rendering by Daniel Ladinsky:

It happens all the time in heaven,
                  And some day

           It will begin to happen
                  Again on earth-

 That men and women who are married,
          And men and men who are

          And women and women
       Who give each other Light,
  Often will get down on their knees

           And while so tenderly
         Holding their lover's hand,

           With tears in their eyes,
       Will sincerely speak, saying,

                   "My dear,
    How can I be more loving to you;

             How can I be more

May the light of the Divine Presence shine through each of us, more and more each day...

Wishing you love, harmony and beauty,