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Lions Roar : March 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2011 57 they cloud the mind and would vitiate yogic progress. and until your guru was satisfied that all this was second nature, the yogi couldn’t begin even the simplest yogic exercise. the Buddha, of course, was a past master of these prac- tices who had studied energetically with all the leading yoga teachers of his day. he put himself through dreadful penances and nearly destroyed his health. Finally, just as he reached the end of his tether, a memory occurred to him—how when he was a small child his father had taken him to watch the ritual ploughing of the first field before the sowing of the harvest. his nursemaid had put him under a rose apple tree while she went off to watch the ceremony. the little boy saw that shoots of young grass had been ploughed up and the little insects clinging to these blades of grass had died. a pang of pure grief filled him, as if these insects were his own relatives. then that feeling of sorrow and empathy was succeeded by a moment of joy, and even though he had never had a yogic lesson in his life, the little boy entered a state of trance. remembering this experience, the Buddha thought, “If I can reproduce those positive emotions—that moment of em- pathy, that pure joy in life that has nothing to do with my own needs and desires—if I can cultivate these positive emotions and gently put to one side the negative impulses that erupt within us all the time, then I will be working with my human nature to achieve nirvana.” and that’s what he did. one of the practices that the Buddha taught was the medi- tation on love known as the four immeasurables. In this prac- tice, you send out feelings of goodwill, loving-kindness, com- passion, and unbiased love to all the corners of the farthest reaches of the world, not omitting a single creature from your radius of concern. If you do this consistently, you make room for the other in your mind, and gradually the barriers you erect between yourself and the outside world come down. You experience, the Buddha taught, an expansive feeling of love, a release of the mind, and, ultimately, enlightenment. not omitting a single creature from our radius of con- cern—chinese sages of this period also taught this principle, but were less interested in the psychological aspects of com- passion and more interested in its social and political implica- tions. In the fifth century Bce, Mo tse said that everybody had to have jian ai, concern for everybody. that is sometimes translated as “universal love,” but that’s a bit emotive for the practical, pragmatic Mo tse. he was living at the beginning of the era known as the warring states, when for a period of two hundred years or so the various states and principalities of china fought each other to the death until only one re- mained. Mo tse said the only way to stop the chinese from the great rabbi hillel said, “that which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. that is the torah. everything else is only commentary.” killing each other was to practice jian ai, concern for everybody. If you applied the golden rule, you would not invade another’s state because you wouldn’t like that done to you and your state. In war, harvests are destroyed, expensive horses and weapons ruined, and there are thousands of casualties, so there is no one to look after the fields. how, Mo tse asked, could this benefit anybody? today, with all our modern weapons, we also have to ask ourselves: how can war really benefit us? Jesus, of course, took it so far as to say, “love your enemies.” that teaching needs some context. Jesus was commenting on a text in leviticus that said, “love your neighbour,” and he extended that to “love your enemy.” leviticus was a legal text, and it was not talking ©eStateoFMarcchagall/Sodrac.photo:Scala/artreSoUrce,nY The Rabbi, by Marc Chagall