Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Love (metta, pema, piya or sineha) is a feeling of warm affection, interest and concern towards others and is the first of the four Brahma Viharas. The commentator Buddhaghosa defines love like this: ‘Love is characterised as promoting the welfare of others, its function is to desire their welfare, it manifests as the removal of annoyance and its proximate cause is seeing the loveableness of beings.’ The Dhammasamgani says that the three most important constituents of love are fellow-feeling (anuddaya), empathy (anuddayana) and consideration (anuddayitatta, Dhs.1056). The Buddha spoke of many different types of love, some of which do not have English equivalents; genial love (hita), intense love (kama), warm regard (adara), love of one’s mother (matteyya) and trusting love (vissasa).
The Buddha said that we should not just show love (metta) towards others, but a particular type of love; a love that is immeasurable (appamada). Some love is besmirched by jealousy, lust or the desire to control. Some holds itself back unless it is reciprocated or it gets its own way. Some love gives itself willingly and joyfully to some but withholds itself from others. All these types of love can be measured because they are to some extent limited.
The Buddha saw love not so much as a single emotion but as a trait that becomes apparent when several other emotions, traits, intentions and come together. He said: ‘Monks, there are six things that foster love and respect, helpfulness and agreement, harmony and unity. What six? When one acts with love towards one’s companions in the spiritual life, both in public and in private; when one speaks with love towards them, both in public and in private; when one thinks with love towards them, both in public and in private; when one shares with them, without reservations, whatever one has acquired justly, even if it be no more than the food from one’s alms bowl; when one possesses together with them virtues that are complete, unbroken and freedom-giving, praised by the wise and conducive to concentration; and when one possesses with one’s companions in the holy life, both in public and in private, the understanding that is noble, leading to freedom and which conduces to the complete destruction of suffering; then will there be love and respect, helpfulness and agreement, harmony and unity’ (M.I,322).
To be psychologically healthy and happy we have to begin by loving ourselves and our direct family. As we grow and mature, we gradually learn to include more individuals in our love - friends, spouse, in-laws, children, etc. To develop into a truly spiritual person, our love has to eventually pervade all the beings we come into contact with. In this process of changing love from being limited to becoming pervasive, selfishness, jealousy, attachment and the demand for reciprocation gradually subside and love becomes strong, undiscriminating and effortless. The Buddha said to his disciples: ‘You should train yourselves like this: “Our minds shall not be perverted nor shall we speak evil speech but with kindness and compassion we will live with a mind free from hatred and filled with love. We will live suffusing firstly one person with love and starting with them, suffuse the whole world with a love that is expansive, pervasive, immeasurable and utterly devoid of hatred or enmity.” This is how you should train yourself’ (M.I,127).
Buddhism sees love as being able to add an important dimension to almost anything, even to food; preparing it, sharing it with others or even just eating it. The commentary to the Jataka comments: ‘No food is tastier than that given by a loving friend. Even the sweetest confection made without care is not as tasty as the plainest gruel given with love’ (J.III,142). The Buddha made this same point when he said: ‘Tasty or bland, much or little, one can eat anything made with love. Indeed love is the highest taste’ (Ja.III,145).
The ancient Sri Lankan work, the Dharmapradipika, composed in the 12th century, says this of love: `If one has developed love really great, rid of the desire to hold and possess, that strong clean love which is untarnished by lust, that love that does not expect gain or profit, that love that is firm but not grasping, unshakeable but not inflexible, gentle and settled, hard but unhurting, helpful but not interfering, giving more than receiving, dignified but not proud, soft but not sentimental, that love which leads to the highest achievement, then one will be freed from all ill-will.’
The Buddha once asked several of his monk disciples how they were able to live together ‘in harmony, mutual appreciation and agreeability, like milk and water mixed, regarding each other with the eyes of love’ (M.III,156). One of them, Anuruddha, replied, ‘I always consider what a blessing it is, what a real blessing, that I am living with such companions in the spiritual life. I think, speak and act with love towards them, both in public and in private. I always consider that I should put aside my own wishes and acquiesce to what they want and then I do that. Thus we are many in body but one in mind’ (M.III,156).
Several things are mentioned here by the Buddha and Anuruddha – love generosity, having common values, appreciation of others, being sensitive to their needs and not always demanding one’s own way. Other qualities that nourish harmony are forgiveness, kindness, respect, sympathy and tolerance.

1 comment:

desertboot said...

In one word: Beautiful. In two words: Thank you. Db