A Buddhist Valentine
How would Buddha love? By seeing everything as fundamentally like himself.
BY: Lama Surya Das
We might, for example, think of Buddhist spirituality as peace-loving, calm, virtuous and nonviolent; but in the case of a child or a pet running into the street, the active sides of compassion's calm heart spontaneously blaze forth, even as the loving center remains unchanged. Thus, the selfless Bodhisattva could possibly use force for the greater good, to protect, or to prevent harm and so forth, and need not be passive in the face of danger or when there is need for skillful, appropriate action.
The first arm of Buddhist love is maitri or lovingkindness, a boundless feeling of friendliness and wishing well for others. Maitri, or metta in the Pali language, implies friendliness: befriending and accepting yourself, your body and mind, and the world.
The second is karuna, or compassion, empathy, being moved by feeling what others feel. The third arm is upeksha, equanimity, recognizing the equality of all that lives. This recognition leads to the wisdom of detachment but not indifference or complacence, which are its near enemies.
The fourth arm is mudita, spiritual joy and satisfaction. This includes rejoicing in the virtue and success of others, -- the antidote to envy and jealousy.
The essence of Buddhist relationship is to cultivate the cling-free relationship, enriched with caring and equanimity. It is helpful in intimate relationships to communicate honestly, stay present, tell the truth of your experience using I-statements rather than accusations and judgments, and honor the other enough to show up with an open heart and mind and really listen.
Passion becomes compassion when we bring it into the path, when we recognize every moment in life as a possibility of awakening. Human love and sexual consummation can be like the tip of the iceberg of divine love, an ecstatic intimation of eternity, a portal to infinite depths of the groundlessness and boundarylessness that transports us beyond our limited, egoic selves. People often ask me how to find their Soul Mate, or even if I believe in such a concept. I think that rather than focusing on past lives or on finding the perfect mate in this world, we would generally do better to work on improving and developing ourselves. Make yourself the "perfect" mate, without being too perfectionistic about it, and you will be a good mate with almost anyone. When your heart is pure, your life and the entire world is pure.
We all feel the desire to possess and be possessed, to love and be loved, to connect and be embraced and to belong. However, I think that the most important thing in being together is the tenderness of a good heart. If our relationships aren't nurturing the growth and development of goodness of heart, openness, generosity, authenticity and intimate connection, they are not serving us or furthering a better world.
To truly love people I have learned that I need to let them be, and to love and accept and appreciate them as they are (free of my projections and illusions) and not as how I would like them to be. This is equally true for loving and accepting oneself.
Bhante Henepola Gunaratana writes, in his "Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness: "Whatever attitudes we habitually use toward ourselves, we will use on others, and whatever attitudes we habitually use toward others, we will use on ourselves. The situation is comparable to our serving food to ourselves and to other people from the same bowl. Everyone ends up eating the same thing--we must examine carefully what we are dishing out."
I notice that children let go of anger and would rather be happy than right, unlike so many of us adults. Like them, my dog reminds me that love is a verb, not a noun. Staying present in this very moment, through mindful awareness and paying attention to what is-- rather than dwelling on the past or the future, or on who I think I am and who I imagine others are-- helps free me from excess baggage, anxiety and neurosis - and opens me to love.