A Buddhist Valentine

How would Buddha love? By seeing everything as fundamentally like himself.

"If one's thoughts towards spirituality
were of the same intensity as those towards love,
one would become a Buddha
in this very body, in this very life."

--from the Love Poems of the Sixth Dalai Lama


Valentine's Day is one of my favorite American holidays. The fact that this heart-centered if over-commercialized day falls around the same time as Tibetan New Year reminds me to make new year's resolutions relating to those I love and renew my commitment to cultivating goodness of heart. These resolutions usually involve opening my heart and mind; listening better; learning to forgive and to love even those I don't like; and coming to accept and bless the world, rather than fighting with it or trying to escape from it. As Zen Master Dogen says: "To study the Buddha Way is to be intimate with all things."

Some say we are here in this world to learn and to evolve in consciousness. Certainly primary among life's lessons is how to love and to love well, and to BE love, as well to give and receive it. I believe love is central to happiness, growth and fulfillment.

How would Buddha love? By seeing every single being, human and otherwise, as fundamentally like himself, and thus able to treat them and love them in the way he would be treated. We call this infinitely benevolent, selfless love, Bodhicitta or the Awakened Heart, the very spirit of enlightenment.

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One can find this taught beautifully in the "Loving-kindness Sutra"; in Shantideva's classic "The Way of the Bodhisattva"; in Atisha's "Mind Training and Attitude Transformation"; and in Togmed's "Thirty Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas"... As well as in the Old Testament.

Each relationship and every single encounter can be a vehicle for meaningful spiritual connection, through the transformative magic of Bodhicitta. Buddha taught that this Bodhicitta or spiritual love has four active arms, known as the Four Boundless Heartitudes, and four expressive faces known as the Four Forms of Compassion in action. This is how we love, Buddha-style: impartial to all, free from excessive attachment or false hope and expectation; accepting, tolerant, and forgiving. Buddhist nonattachment doesn't imply complacence or indifference, or not having committed relationships or being passionately engaged with society, but rather has to do with our effort to defy change and resist the fact of impermanence and our mortality. By holding on to that which in any case is forever slipping through our fingers, we just get rope burn.

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Lama Surya Das
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