Lama Surya Das is one of America's most visible and prolific Buddhist teachers. He leads several intensive silent meditation retreats each year and does weekly seminars, classes, lectures, workshops, and an online column. This is the third in a series of books: the first, Awakening the Buddha Within, was a primer on Western Buddhism with a Tibetan flavor, and the second, Awakening the Sacred, dealt with daily spiritual practice. This one focuses on fashioning a "spiritual intelligence" that informs and animates all of our relationships. As usual, Surya Das has plenty of colorful illustrative material along with helpful exercises, meditations, and prayers.
"Inside each of us is a tender and sensitive little Buddha who is naturally able to empathize with anyone. We can reconnect with that underlying tenderheartedness in us, no matter how old we have become," writes the author. He presents what this means in chapters on connecting to your life experience; developing authentic presence; letting go, getting real; building meaningful relationships; and finding our sacred place in nature.
The last three chapters of the book are especially cogent. Surya Das talks about the Tibetan tradition of crazy wisdom; the spiritual alchemy of letting obstacles and difficulties be our teachers; and learning to love what we don't like, which is part and parcel of tonglen practice.
I like the way the author includes so much under the broad umbrella of spiritual intelligence. He manages to bring together prayer wheels, reverence, being present, kindness, listening, and mindfulness. Lama Surya Das agrees with Brother David Steindl-Rast, who has observed: "The 'yes' of the human heart is our full response to the 'faithfulness at the heart of all things.' "