Saturday, February 14, 2004
The following is a Love Meditation adapted from the Visuddhimagga:
May I be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May he/she be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May they be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May I be safe and free from injury.
May he/she be safe and free from injury.
May they be safe and free from injury.
May I be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.
May he/she be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.
May they be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.
Notice that we begin this meditation on ourselves. Until we are able to love and nourish ourselves, the Buddha said, we cannot be of much help to others. To "love mankind" while not accepting ourselves is a mere abstraction. After sending ourselves the energy of loving kindness (metta in Pali/maitri in Sanskrit) we then practice on others. The traditional order is first we send love to, and meditate on, someone we like, then someone neutral to us, then someone we love, and finally someone the mere thought of whom makes us suffer.
When presenting this practice to a new student, if I sense they suffer from self-aversion, self-hatred, or merely from poor self-worth, I may invite them just to practice with themselves for several months. When they are nourished, then we go on to the other categories. And when practicing with the fourth group (those who make us suffer) it is again best to work our way to the real "difficult" person or people in our lives. For instance, I had a student who had suffered severe abuse at the hands of her father (including sexual incest) as a child. I had her work with those difficult people who irritated her at work, people with whom she had suffered misunderstandings of one kind or another, until over time she was able to work her way up to including her father in her meditations.
It is also taught that we work our way through the five skandhas: body, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness. Look into your body with the eyes of love. Look into the condition of your lungs, your liver, your heart. When we really do this, we will eat, drink and act in ways that demonstrate our love and compassion for our body. At the same time, seeing our body's impermanence, we loosen our identification with the body.
Then we contemplate our feelings. They may be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, and we practice opening to all without aversion or grasping. Seeing their nature of constant change, we loosen our identification with them, and we can see their conditioning. Practice, to at least some degree, is cutting off the conditions that take us away from happiness, and the creating of the conditions that nurture happiness.
Then we meditate on our perceptions. The Buddha pointed out that the person who suffers the most is the one who has many wrong perceptions. And most of our perceptions are erroneous! In one sutra, he says that all perceptions are deceptions. This merely points out that we only know the world around us as the psychological experience conditioned and presented by our central nervous system. Love meditation helps us to look with clarity and serenity so that we improve the way we perceive. Again, with a clearer understanding of the conditioning of our perceptions, we cling to them with less intensity and are less willing to fight and "kill" over them. (As an aside, most if not of the world's wars are fought over perceptions people take to be truth).
Next, we observe our mental formations. These include all our ideas, concepts and tendencies within us that condition the way we speak and act. Anger, fear, anxiety and all the other afflictions are mental formations, but so are concentration and mindfulness. So with love meditation, we practice transforming unwholesome mental formations while nourishing wholesome mental formations.
Finally, the fifth skandha is consciousness. Within our consciousness are seeds of love, compassion, joy and equanimity. These are the seeds of true love, which must be kind, compassionate, joyful and equanimous in order to be "true love." There are also all the seeds of the mental formations such as greed, anger and fear. Our practice can be seen as the cultivation of the seeds of love, and the organic transformation of the seeds of afflictions into the compost that helps nourish love.
It is not necessary to do battle with ourselves. Practice looking deeply, not just on your mat or cushion, but throughout the day. If you do, you will discover the true nature of the five skandhas -- again, form (body), feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness -- and you will see the conditions that have caused you to be the way you are. Seeing clearly makes it easier to accept yourself -- your suffering and your happiness -- just as you are. To love is first of all to accept yourself as you actually are. "Knowing yourself" is the first practice of love.
May you be happy, peaceful and light in body, mind and spirit!
.: posted by Poep Sa Frank Jude 6:21 PM