Lovingkindness. The Revolutionary Art of Happiness
How much do I want to read more? 8/10
Love this short book.
FOREWORD - JON KABAT-ZINN
The word metta, Pali for “lovingkindness.” why that particular word is up there rather than, say, mindfulness or insight or equanimity or wisdom or compassion.
The Dalai Lama has said: “My religion is kindness.”
the power of lovingkindness, the embrace that allows no separation between self, others, and events—the affirmation and honoring of a core goodness in others and in oneself. The practice of lovingkindness is, in fact, the ground of mindfulness practice, requiring the same nonjudging, nongrasping, nonrejecting orientation toward the present moment, an orientation that invites and makes room for calmness, clarity of mind and heart, and understanding.
THROUGHOUT OUR LIVES we long to love ourselves more deeply and to feel connected with others. Instead, we often contract, fear intimacy, and suffer a bewildering sense of separation. We crave love, and yet we are lonely. Our delusion of being separate from one another, of being apart from all that is around us, gives rise to all of this pain. What is the way out of this?
Spiritual practice, by uprooting our personal mythologies of isolation, uncovers the radiant, joyful heart within each of us.
We find, beneath the wounding concepts of separation, a connection both to ourselves and to all beings. We find a source of great happiness that is beyond concepts and beyond convention. Freeing ourselves from the illusion of separation allows us to live in a natural freedom rather than be driven by preconceptions about our own boundaries and limitations.
The Buddha described the spiritual path that leads to this freedom as “the liberation of the heart which is love,” and he taught a systematic, integrated path that moves the heart out of isolating contraction into true connection. That path is still with us as a living tradition of meditation practices that cultivate love, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. These four qualities are among the most beautiful and powerful states of consciousness we can experience. Together they are called in Pali, the language spoken by the Buddha, the brahma-viharas. Brahma means “heavenly.” Vihara means “abode” or “home.” By practicing these meditations, we establish love (Pali, metta), compassion (karuna), sympathetic joy (mudita), and equanimity (upekkha) as our home.
Through meditation practice, many of us came into initial contact with our own capacity for goodness and felt the elation of discovering a new connection with all beings. I cannot imagine anything that I would be willing to trade for that discovery—no money, no power over others, no trophies or accolades.
The integrity we develop on a spiritual path comes from being able to distinguish for ourselves the habits and influences in the mind which are skillful and lead to love and awareness, from those which are unskillful and reinforce our false sense of separation.
The Buddha once said:
Abandon what is unskillful. One can abandon the unskillful. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it. If this abandoning of the unskillful would bring harm and suffering, I would not ask you to abandon it. But as it brings benefit and happiness, therefore I say, abandon what is unskillful.
Cultivate the good. One can cultivate the good. If it were not possible, I would not ask you to do it. If this cultivation were to bring harm and suffering, I would not ask you to do it. But as this cultivation brings benefit and happiness, I say, cultivate the good.
Abandoning unskillful states comes as we learn to truly love ourselves and all beings, so that love provides the light by which we bear witness to those burdens, watching them simply fall away.
Rather than obsessively following states of mind such as anger, fear, or grasping, states that will bring harm to ourselves and others, we can let go as though dropping a burden. We are indeed burdened by carrying around habitual unskillful reactions. As wisdom reveals to us that we don’t need these reactions, we can abandon them.
Cultivating the good means recovering the incandescent power of love that is present as a potential in all of us. An awakened life demands a fundamental re-visioning of the limited views we hold of our own potential. To say that we cultivate the good means that we align ourselves with an expansive vision of what is possible for us, and we use the tools of spiritual practice to sustain our real, moment-to-moment experience of that vision.
If we go into a darkened room and turn on the light, it doesn’t matter if the room has been dark for a day, or a week, or ten thousand years—we turn on the light and it is illumined. Once we contact our capacity for love and happiness—the good—the light has been turned on.
This transformation comes from actually walking the path: putting the values and theories into practice, bringing them to life. We make the effort to abandon the unskillful and cultivate the good with the conviction that in fact we can be successful.
The path begins with cultivating appreciation of our oneness with others through generosity, nonharming, right speech, and right action. Then, on the foundation of these qualities, we purify our minds through the concentration practices of meditation. As we do, we come to experience wisdom through recognizing the truth, and become deeply aware of the suffering caused by separation and of the happiness of knowing our connection with all beings. The culmination of this recognition is called by the Buddha “the sure heart’s release.” Coming to an understanding of the true nature of the heart and of happiness is the fulfillment of a spiritual path.
1- The Revolutionary Art of Happiness
—- E. M. FORSTER
WE CAN TRAVEL a long way and do many different things, but our deepest happiness is not born from accumulating new experiences. It is born from letting go of what is unnecessary, and knowing ourselves to be always at home. True happiness may not be at all far away, but it requires a radical change of view as to where to find it.
As he was sitting there working, he realized that he was feeling happier and happier. At first he thought the happiness came because he was creating the unheralded, revolutionary, perfect design. Then suddenly he realized that, in fact, he was so happy because he was remarkably comfortable sitting on one of the pews. He looked around and saw that there were about three hundred of those pews right in his own room.
We spend our lives searching for something we think we don’t have, something that will make us happy. But the key to our deepest happiness lies in changing our vision of where to seek it. As the great Japanese poet and Zen master Hakuin said, “Not knowing how near the Truth is, people seek it far away. What a pity! They are like one who, in the midst of water, cries out in thirst so imploringly.”