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Lions Roar : September 2017
But our wish to live a life of loving-kindness is often eclipsed by our habitual neuroses. We may start out with loving inten- tions, but we get so easily co-opted by grasping at expectations or getting lost in fluffy artifice. So how can we cultivate bound- less love in a way that is grounded in wisdom? The great Tibetan master Longchenpa advised in his text, The Great Chariot, that boundless love should be developed “one by one.” We start from our own immediate experience. We remember the love we received from one person, or that we feel for one person. Then we expand it to include another, and another, until our love includes all beings as limitless as the sky. Boundless love extends out from the love we know firsthand. This is why Buddhism reminds us to remember the love we have received from our mothers and fathers (or caregivers), and then build on that. Maybe our relationship with our parents was not an easy love, maybe even thinking in this way brings up heartache. But that is part of the practice too, as cultivating love puts us in touch with the whole experience of life—both the beauty of the world and its pain. Remembering the experience of love and kindness that we have received urges us onward beyond the separation we feel. It helps melt the walls we build between ourselves and others. Discovering our natural tenderness, we realize that the path of loving-kindness is a more authentic way of life because our authenticity and the tender heart of compassion are tied together. The practice of love is hard at times, even outrageously pain- ful. One day we resolve to be loving and kind and maybe the next day we can’t connect with love at all. What is missing? Where is our love when we can’t feel it? The Indian Buddhist sage Vimalakirti was once asked, “How can we find the inexhaustible bodhisattva’s love?” He replied, “We must know selflessness and emptiness.” When love is exhausted, we have to look to our fundamental openness and abandon the struggle of ego. Opening further makes tremen- dous resources available spontaneously. This is why they say the bodhisattva’s love is like moonlight shining on a hundred bowls of water. Every bowl is filled with moonlight, but not because the moon is making it happen through aggressive efforts. There is abundant light because the moon is relaxing as it is, giving itself over to its innate luminosity. Connecting with boundless love offers us equanimity. When we meet our circumstances with an attitude of loving-kindness, it offers a way of living that is stable regardless of others’ behavior. It is inevitable that life will have dramas and uncertainty, but we can meet these with a single-minded sense of our calling to culti- vate further loving-kindness. Buddhism says that because of impermanence, the people who were once our friends could be our enemies now, and people who are our friends now may one day be enemies. Our friends may unwittingly do harm to us. Therefore, we will be unstable if we rely on how other people relate to us to decide if we will have loving-kindness. We will be caught in reactions rather than living in the equanimity that arises from the resolve to meet life with gentleness and warmth. Thus the cultivation of boundless love and the realization of equanimity are tied together. When there is drama in the lotus garden, we are steadied by expanding to meet whatever comes with a further open heart. PEMA KHANDRO RINPOCHE is a Vajrayana Buddhist teacher and founder of Ngakpa International. Make Your Love Skillful GEOFFREY SHUGEN ARNOLD, SENSEI on the unity of life, love, and practice “I beg your compassion. Please give me a way to liberation,” the student asked. “Who is binding you?” replied the teacher. “No one is binding me,” answered the student. “Then why seek liberation?” responded the teacher. IN THE MAHAYANA TRADITION, enlightened wisdom and selfless compassion are understood and realized as one reality. It is because of our realization into the emptiness of self-nature that we can let “uncaused compassion” shine forth. This com- passion arises without the need or desire for recognition or reward. While intelligent and responsive, it is not attached to a final outcome. We can think of this as “moving freely within the buddhafield”—the realm of living beings dedicated to helping alleviate suffering for everyone. The Buddha taught that the three essential trainings in the path are samadhi (single-minded concentration), prajna (expe- riential insight into the real nature of self, other, and things), and the moral precepts (compassion). In the Zen tradition, all three are practiced and realized as one unified reality. This has deep and broad implications into how we understand and practice our meditation—not just on the cushion, but in each and every moment of our daily lives. It is there that the vital reality of the buddhafield is manifested. Most of us want to serve. We want to help others and be useful. But how do we do this? How can we truly be helpful in a world with so much pain, complexity, and confusion? How do we meet the good and evil in our world without falling into attachments and false views of good and evil? How can we care deeply without attachment? One of the essential aspects of compassion is upaya, skillful means. When our compassion is skillful, we are able to offer something truly beneficial. Buddhism teaches that we learn about compassion and skillful means through our own spiritual LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2017 46