Lesson
11

Meditating on Love

1 of 4

Step 5 — Cultivating Love


Spiritual love

Cultivating a sense of closeness with others—along with reflecting on their kindness and developing a wish to return that kindness—naturally and easily leads to love, which is the counterpart of compassion. Compassion is the felt thought, "How nice it would be if this person were free from suffering and the causes of suffering." Love is the felt thought, "How nice it would be if this person had happiness and the causes of happiness."

Love for close persons and spiritual love are not completely different, but spiritual love is cleansed of partisanship and bias by being directed to all sentient beings. Biased love that we feel only for particular persons—which is often built on the fact that another person brings us pleasure—easily turns into consternation or flips to hatred when the person does not provide the familiar pleasure.

The meditation of spiritual love
. . . its field is extended toward every being.

The meditation of spiritual love is dramatically different, in that its field is extended toward every being. To accomplish this, the generation of love in meditative practice has to begin with specific persons by considering individually all the people you have been remembering in the previous exercises and any new ones that might come to mind. Start with friends because they are easy to love; then pass to neutral persons and finally to enemies.

Meditation — "How nice it would be...", the first degree of love

Buddhist texts speak of three degrees of love. The first is: "How nice it would be if this person had happiness and the causes of happiness!"

In meditation, imagine your best friend and think: "How nice it would be if this person had happiness and the causes of happiness!" Then, using that person and the feeling generated as a model, pass to the next level friend: "How nice it would be if this person had happiness and the causes of happiness!"

Reflect on:

  1. how this person, just like your best friend, also wants happiness and does not suffering.
  2. how this person, over the course of lives, also has extended great kindnesses.
  3. the fact that you want to return that kindness.

Try superimposing the image of your best friend on this person, highlighting one and then the other, back and forth, until the intensity of the wish increases. Continue this exercise with each of your friends.

Then pass on to neutral persons: "How nice it would be if this person in the supermarket had happiness and the causes of happiness!" Practice with many, many neutral persons individually. Then you can pass on to the varying levels of enemies, beginning with the least.

Practice until you can feel this wish as strongly as you feel it for the best of your friends. At first, you just say the words, but the feeling develops: "How nice it would be if this person had happiness and the causes of happiness!" Work gradually.

Frequent meditation will dissolve layers of recalcitrant ill will. Eventually someone else's intent to harm will no longer serve as a reason for hatred.