A Locked Heart

The heart is like a door that can be open, closed, or locked. When it is open, the treasures, rocks, and sand contained inside the heart can then be extracted. But if the treasures in our hearts are locked up, it becomes a mystery that no one can solve.

So what do some people lock in their hearts? They lock up their desires, emotions, and secrets. A lock helps us to safeguard our possessions, so that they will not be lost or stolen. This is why we lock the drawers, doors, and safes of our hearts.

Every country has immigration and custom regulations. These serve as locks, limiting entry. Sometimes, a canal may be “locked” so that ships cannot pass through the waterways. Airspace may also be “locked,” to keep planes from flying over. Criminals are handcuffed and shackled, losing their freedom. Locks imply the lack of accessibility and freedom, or a form of imprisonment. In that sense, we keep information about our country locked up from others. Not publicizing others’ shortcomings, but only commending their virtues, is another example of locking up producing positive results. We must, therefore, keep in mind that there is a different key to every gate in the world, just as there are secrets to each person’s life.

Whenever something is locked up, it becomes a secret. Someone asked the Sixth Patriarch, Venerable Master Huineng, “aside from the Dharma you taught, are there any other secrets?”

The Sixth Patriarch replied, “The secret is within you!” what he meant was “the Dharma is not locked up. When your heart is wide open, the Dharma will enter naturally!”

Are there secrets in the world? Some people think there are not. However, many will keep family secrets for the sake of their ancestors and family name. For the sake of moral and social considerations, stories of illegitimate children are strictly guarded. There are moving stories in Chinese history where loyal ministers protected the imperial lineage by keeping the identity of heirs to the throne secret.

Can a secret really be kept? A person may tell a friend, “I have a secret to tell you, but don’t tell anybody.” The friend may then turn around and tells another person the same thing. In the end, the so-called secret is known by the whole world.

There are some justifiable reasons to keep secrets. Business secrets, personnel information, financial data, and technical innovations should be kept confidential. However, many people believe that special recipes or methods should also be kept secret and kept at all costs from others, resulting in lost knowledge that might have benefited the world.

Likewise, the lock to the heart should usually be open, yet closed for the appropriate occasion. The door of the heart should be open as much as possible. With an open heart, we can convey the truth. Otherwise, how can we possibly embrace human relations, ethics, and reasoning?