Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

stringing a harp… or, can anger be righteous?

Anger is my mind poison. In Buddhism, there are three — greed, anger, & delusion. Once you hear of them, you pretty much know which is yours. Although often I have to work against a kind of negative cocktail effect of all three ~ I often want more, and I still believe some people will listen to reason… Delusional? I like to think it’s optimism…:)

Since I was a young child — really — I’ve known that part of my path  in life is to cultivate balance. To really walk the Middle Path. I love the image of the Buddha listening to a lute player, and likening the Middle Way to a lute string tuned neither too tightly nor too loosely, but just right to produce music.


What I also try to remember is that each string is different. And yep, I know that’s kind of hokey :). But if you string a harp (I have a bardic harp, just FYI, so I know this :)), you can use metal strings — famous Irish bards sometimes used silver for their strings, or (legend has it) even gold — or nylon or wrapped steel or brass or even gut. Each of these will give a different tone, and each note will need a different length, a different tightness to resonate in harmony.


A harp also has to be in harmony w/ itself — a great metaphor for balance. Like a piano, an older harp has to be tuned to the stress level of its sound board. When I left my home in Saudi Arabia on what was supposed to be a short leave, never to return (the Gulf War intervened), I left my harp tuned, strings tightened. They eventually pulled out the sound board… :( I had to have the entire soundboard refitted, as well as new strings and pegs.

Anger is like this, I think. A kind of harsh music. But one we can’t over-indulge in. There is a time and place for anger. Even the Dalai Lama says that sometimes it’s best to incur the bad karma of killing if by doing so you prevent other (and more) deaths. While he said this in reference to the death of Osama bin Laden, it helps me when I look at injustice, at unreasonable greed that masquerades as political thought, at racism and the many killing fields still extant.


Too much anger is a very tight string. And yet there is a mental detachment that is — for me, at least — far too loose a string. Neither makes good music. The tight string will snap. The loose one makes no music. And what good are we then? :)

So today, when I started going off on a situation over which I have no control whatsoever, I decided to write instead. To remind myself: music comes from balance. :) From a harp in tune with itself, strings at the right tautness to produce that lovely wind-strung sound. And if I master this balance, perhaps I can even learn to play the damn thing ~

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  • http://ImageforMetta mary tinucci


    Can you tell me the official meaning of the image at the top of this post? It says it means “Metta”. I want to know if that is a specific letter or symbol in another language that means Metta, or is that simply what you called this piece of art?

    I want to know because I want to find a true symbol for Metta or self-compassion to make as a a tattoo.

    Thanks for any help you can offer.

    Mary Tinucci

    • brittongildersleeve

      Mary, according to my sources (several books on Buddhism), this is one of several symbols. Here’s another: I’ve had this symbol for a long time, and I don’t even remember where I found it. Trying to locate it again, I keep ending up back at my own blog :). I’m so sorry. I’d ask a friend who reads Chinese or Kanji to be sure. Good luck!

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