Filled. . .
Just as blood nourishes the heart which keeps it flowing, so love nourishes spiritual freedom and is, in turn, kept flowing by it. The connection is so strong that Buddhism, often known as a Path of Freedom, could equally be called a religion of love. Perhaps this is what he had in mind when the Dalai Lama said his religion is kindness. For the Buddha, love is one of the paths to full spiritual liberation.
If we call Buddhism a religion of love we need to be clear what we mean by love, or more precisely, what forms of love we are including. Because freedom is the guide, the measure, and the ultimate goal of all things Buddhist, Buddhist love includes those forms of love that are characterized by freedom. Love that involves clinging, lust, confusion, neediness, fear, or grasping to self would, in Buddhist terms, be seen as expressions of bondage and limitation.
Loving kindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity are the four kinds of love taught and encouraged in classic Buddhist teachings. None of these are uniquely Buddhist; they are four qualities of heart that reside within everyone, at least as potentials.
In their most developed forms, the four types of love can each become a boundless radiance glowing from us. As such, love may flow from us equally toward all beings or it can glow freely without needing to be directed to anyone.
To be “free” only when things are pleasant is not real liberation. Similarly, to love only in optimal conditions is not real love. Not a few Buddhist meditators have experienced great love while in meditation, only to have it disappear quickly outside of meditation. It can be easy to love all beings in the abstract, but it can be a great challenge to do so when we have to live with them. It is one thing to love and another to express that love in daily life.
One of the most rewarding spiritual practices is to cultivate the ability to bring love into all aspects of our life and to all people we encounter. This entails learning how to include love’s presence while we speak to others, are in conflict with others, and are living with others. While this can be a daunting task, it begins with having the intention to do so.
Each drop of our efforts to understand, embrace and share love is significant and, as the Buddha said, “with each tiny drop of water, the water jug is filled.”
Peace and Love, Jim