I've been listening to Pema Chodron's "Awakening Compassion" and today what I heard struck a chord so deep that it is definitely truth for me. Growing up Christian, I always struggled with the concept of original sin. It just didn't seem right to me.
Here's a different take on why we are as we are: This basic badness or original sin is actually an effort to protect ourselves, believing we are separate. But we aren't, you know. In reality we are all one. We are all inextricably connected!
The Buddhist teaching says every living thing has a soft spot (the heart). In the effort to protect our soft spot, we often do harm to ourselves and others. In fact, the teaching says that all violence comes from trying to protect this soft spot, our tender heart.
This idea seems more reasonable than the idea that we are all inherently bad or evil. To know that within each heart is a soft spot, a place where love resides, is so comforting and encouraging. All of our practices move us toward opening that tender heart.
When the heart begins to open, we are able to feel deeply into each moment, each experience. Then the heart grows stronger and is able to open more and more until our heart cradles the whole world and everything in it.