by Atenea Garza Levy

For years I didn’t understand why my grandmother answered, “Hearts are mirrors,” every time I told her I loved her.

I spent quite some time thinking what that could mean, and then I decided to stop, because I was only circling around the same reasons again and again. Years later I heard that some Dharma teachers say that the mind is like a mirror, a mirror that “reflects objects of perceptions and becomes involved with them,” as Ven. Chodron wrote. So if my mirror is not polished or is not clean, everything I perceive will be distorted as well. The world in which I move will be stained by ignorance, because the dirt arises from ignorance.

But how do we polish the mirror of the mind? Through the practice of Dharma.

Once I read a story about a great king. He was the most powerful king in all of the known world. He had many lands, many servants, all the wealth we can imagine, the most beautiful women, the most delightful food, the most wonderful music every time he wanted it. And also, as every great king does, he had a council of sages.

One day he convened them all for a meeting. “My beloved wise men,” he said. “I have an urgent need, and only you can help me. What I need is a ring, which must have two characteristics: whenever I feel sad and I see it, I will become happy and whenever I feel happy and I see it, I will become sad.” The sages were in a big, entangled challenge. They didn’t know how to create such a ring . . . and for the boss!

Well, the days passed and finally the sages visited the king and gave him the little object. He looked at it and exclaimed, “Oh, my beloved ones! This is exactly what I needed!” On the ring was inscribed, “This, too, is going to end.”

No phenomenon is static. Nothing lasts. Everything comes and goes like the clouds in the sky, like the faces in a mirror. There is no use in clinging to anything or to anyone. What can be useful is to have a clear mirror, one that has been cleaned and polished with perseverance, with patience, with joy; one that tends to reflect the purest qualities like love, wisdom, and compassion.

And in this way our limitless mirrors won’t be a place for ignorance to abide, won’t be tarnished with the stains that make hatred arise, won’t cling to anyone or anything — not even to the Dharma—because we will realize that this, too, is going to end.