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Lions Roar : November 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2008 54 Shall we compare our hearts to a garden—with beautiful blooms, straggling weeds, swooping birds and sunshine and rain—and most importantly, seeds? — GREG LIVINGTON PICTURE THE LOTUS FLOWER. In Buddhist art, the Bud- dha is often depicted sitting on a lotus-flower throne. The lotus represents our own peace and happiness and our innate yearn- ing for the peace and happiness of others. Compassion resides in each of us naturally, but we need to create space in our heart and mind for it to be nurtured and to allow it to flower. Benefit- ing others brings us joy, and our mind and heart become bigger when we care for, think about, and act in the interest of others. The teachings on true love offered by the Buddha are called the four brahmaviharas. Vihara means “abode” or “dwelling place” and brahmavihara means “dwelling place of the god Brahma.” These teachings are also referred to as the four immeasurables: loving-kindness (maitri), compassion (karuna), joy (mudita), and equanimity (upeksha). They are referred to as “immeasur- ables” because if you practice them, the love in your heart will grow so much it cannot be measured. TRUE LOVE Maitri is the first aspect of true love, the intention and the capacity to offer joy and happiness. Listening and looking deeply help us to develop this capacity so that we can be a good friend to ourselves and to others. Some Buddhist teachers define maitri as “loving- kindness” because they believe the word “love” has become tar- nished in our popular language. Thich Nhat Hanh uses the phrase “true love,” encouraging us to restore love to its true meaning. The second aspect of true love is karuna, the intention and ca- pacity to lighten sorrow and relieve and transform suffering. Karuna is generally translated as “compassion.” To develop compassion in ourselves, we need to practice mindful breathing, deep listening, and deep looking. Looking deeply and listening carefully, you understand the suffering of the other person. You accept him or her, and natu- rally your love and compassion flow freely. This is the most beautiful practice and the most powerful method of bringing about transfor- mation and healing. Happiness is made of one substance, compas- sion, and compassion is made of understanding. If you don’t have compassion in your heart, you cannot be happy. Cultivating compas- sion for others, you create happiness for yourself and for the world. Someone recently asked us the difference between love and compassion. Love is the practice of nonharming in our thinking, in our speech, and in our actions. Compassion is the practice of helping relieve the suffering of others with our own thoughts, actions, and speech. The third aspect of true love is mudita, or joy. True love always brings joy to the ones we love, as well as to ourselves. In this way we can tell if our love is true or not. Is our love in- creasing the joy of those we love, or is it stifling them or mak- ing them miserable? If the love we offer does not bring joy to In their new guide to mindful relationships, PEGGY ROWE WARD and LARRY WARD offer stories, Love’s Garden NOV 48-57.indd 54 NOV 48-57.indd 54 9/1/08 12:21:40 PM 9/1/08 12:21:40 PM