Teachings On Love

Teachings On Love by Thich Nhat Hanh (Thây)

This book isn’t just thought provoking, it is thought transforming. A health professional loaned this to me along with a Beginner’s Meditation CD set by Jack Kornfield because she said they were tools that helped her understand the meaning of true peace and love.  I am still in the process of reading and digesting this book, and wanted to share quotes with you that have been helpful to me thus far because it’s a journey we can take together step by step. 🙂

The Four Immeasurable Truths

Maitri (Love)”

“Maitri can be translated as ‘love’ or ‘loving kindness.’ Some Buddhist teachers prefer ‘loving kindness,’ as they find ‘love’ too dangerous. But I prefer the word ‘love.’ Words sometimes get sick and we have to heal them. We have been using the word ‘love’ to mean appetite or desire, as in ‘I love hamburgers.’ We have to use language more carefully. ‘Love’ is a beautiful word; we have to restore its meaning. The word ‘maître’ has roots in the word mitra which means friend. In Buddhism, the primary meaning of love is friendship.”

“Without understanding, your love is not true love. You must look deeply in order to see and understand the needs, aspirations and suffering of the one you love. We all need love. Love brings us joy and well-being. It is as natural as the air. We are loved by the air; we need fresh air to be happy and well. We are loved by trees. We need trees to be healthy. In order to be loved, we have to love, which means we have to understand. For our love to continue, we have to take the appropriate action or non-action to protect the air, the trees, and our beloved.”

Compassion (Karuna)

“To develop compassion in ourselves, we need to practice mindful breathing, deep listening and deep looking. The Lotus Sutras describes Avalokiteshvara as the bodhisattva who practices ‘looking with the eyes of compassion and listening deeply to the cries of the world.’ Compassion contains deep concern. You know the other person is suffering, so you sit close to her. You look and listen deeply to her to be able to touch her pain. You are in deep communication, deep communion with her, and that alone brings some relief.”

“One compassionate word, action or thought can reduce another person’s suffering and bring him joy. One word can give comfort and confidence, destroy doubt, help someone avoid a mistake, reconcile a conflict, or open the door to liberation. One action can save a person’s life or help him take advantage of a rare opportunity. One thought can do the same, because thoughts always lead to words and actions. With compassion in our hearts, every thought, word and deed can bring about a miracle.”

Joy (Mudita)”

“Some commentators have said that mudita means ‘sympathetic joy’ or ‘altruistic joy,’ the happiness we feel when others are happy. But that is too limited. It discriminates between self and others. A deeper definition of mudita is a joy that is filled with peace and contentment. We rejoice when we see others happy, but we rejoice in our own well-being as well. How can we feel joy for another person when we do not feel joy for ourselves? Joy is for everyone.”

Ditthadhamma sukhavihari means ‘dwelling happily in the present moment.’ We don’t rush to the future; we know that everything is here in the present moment. Many small things can bring us tremendous joy, such as awareness that we have eyes in good condition. We just have to open our eyes and we can see the blue sky, the violet flowers, the children, the trees, and so many other kinds of forms and colours. Dwelling in mindfulness, we can touch these wondrous and refreshing things, and our mind of joy arises naturally. Joy contains happiness and happiness contains joy.”

Equanimity (Upeksha)

“The fourth element of true love is upeksha, which means equanimity, nonattachment, nondiscrimination, even-mindfulness, or letting go. Upa means ‘over’ and iksh means ‘to look.’ You climb the mountain to be able to look over the whole situation, not bound by one side or the other. If your love has attachment, discrimination, prejudice, or clinging in it, it is not true love. People who do not understand Buddhism sometimes think upeksha means indifference, but true equanimity is neither cold nor indifferent. If you have more than one child, they are all your children. Upeksha does not mean that you don’t love. You love in a way that all your children receive your love, without discrimination.”

“Without upeksha, your love may become possessive. A summer breeze can be very refreshing; but if we try to put it in a tin can so we can have it entirely for ourselves, the breeze will die. Our beloved is the same. He is like a cloud, a breeze, a flower. If you imprison him in a tin can, he will die. Yet many people do just that. They rob their loved one of his liberty, until he can no longer be himself. They love to satisfy themselves and use their loved one to help them fulfill that. That is not loving; it is destroying. You say you love him, but if you do not understand his aspirations, his needs, his difficulties, he is in a prison called love. True love allows you to preserve your freedom and the freedom of your beloved. That is upeksha.”

In conclusion:

“For love to be true love, it must contain compassion, joy and equanimity. For compassion to be true compassion, it has to have love, joy and equanimity in it. True joy has to contain love, compassion, and equanimity. And true equanimity has to contain love, compassion, and joy in it. This is the interbeing nature of the Four Immeasurable Minds. When Buddha told the Brahman man to practice the Four Immeasurable Minds, he was offering all of us a very important teaching. But we must look deeply and practice them for ourselves to bring these four aspects of love into our own lives and into the lives to those we love.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

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