Dec 23, 2011

The Buddha’s Teachings on Love

- by Gil Fronsdal

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.

Lovingkindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and a particular form of 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. Teachings about the four forms of love existed in India prior to the Buddha – they were elements common to the Indian spiritual world which he included within his system of practice. While Buddhism cannot exist without love, it may be helpful to realize that love can exist happily apart from Buddhism. Learning the ways of these four loves does not require one to become a Buddhist. It only requires a willingness to develop innate capacities.

Love does not need to be left to chance. It mustn’t be a matter of “falling in love,” nor must it be accepted in whatever degree or frequency it happens to appear. The Buddhist tradition has developed a range of practices and reflections designed to develop our capacity to love. As with a treasure behind a locked door, we can find the key that allows us to open the door of love; like a muscle, love can be strengthened through practice.

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. When boundless, love without any particular object is recognized in Buddhism as a form of liberation.

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. And it is supported by appreciating each manifestation of love that we encounter. Even practicing loving-kindness for the time it takes to snap the fingers is beneficial. Each drop of practice is significant and, as the Buddha said, “with dripping drops of water, the water jug is filled.”


Anonymous said...

Dear friends,

I don't think it is useful to use this word either, even people are melting away if hearing it. As far as I am aware: Buddha saw that love (pema) is greedy attachment (tanha) and he never called for love, non-hated (adosa) is not love. The opposite is what the Buddha encouraged. Let go of love as well of hatred. Love is just a part of the wheel and does not exist if there is no hatred. It keeps the wheel going around.

Unfortunate there are many teacher who are not willing to let go this word full of human attachments as they like to bind people on them. As people them self get wiser, they stress the word in all direction to bend it into a possible abstraction.

Not only today people where shocked as they heard that Buddha told: "sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are born from one who is dear, come springing from one who is dear"

To actually follow the way to unboundness as well as to teach it, is probably a matter of right view.

with metta *smile*

mikette vonissenberg said...

Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.


The way is not the sky
The way is the heart.


Buddha taught Compassion . However first having Love and Compassion for ourselves as everything emanates from within our Being.

Buddha loved Humanity enough to leave his own wife and child to seek the End to Pain and Suffering.

He became Enlightened and he Found Light and Love in that Illumination.

His Love is of a spiritual nature, not in our everyday " sayings" I love you!

We can Love and not be attached. Look at Mother Teresa:)

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