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A common Buddhist saying is as follows: “Having seen that like oneself all beings seek for
happiness, patiently then, cultivate love for beings all.”
We used to chant it every morning in a monastery in which I once lived. But living in the
everyday world it is not so easy to do. I want to be happy, and I know you do too. I can
understand that. We have this in common. You, me, cats, dogs, birds, snakes. You name it.
All beings seek to be happy and to avoid suffering. This is something we are united on.
Young Buddhist monks in Laos.Credit: Shutterstock
But love for beings all? I could start with mosquitos. Leeches – not so keen. Spiders – got
bitten a few weeks ago. My hand swelled up. Still, we can learn not to fear these creatures.
Now people – well, that gets harder. There always seems to be someone at work, or a friend,
or a relative who is just difficult. It gets harder to cultivate love as the situation gets more
Then there is the really hard stuff. It is hard to understand the extreme levels of violence we keep seeing perpetrated against women in our society. And if that’s not tough enough a challenge, there are two very significant wars going on at the moment to contemplate. Even a bloody civil war in the Buddhist country of Myanmar.
But back to the couplet I started with: “…patiently then cultivate love for beings all.” If we
truly want to develop a good heart and the capacity to truly love we need patience. Only a
few rare individuals throughout history have developed the ability to love all beings as they
are. I am still a long way off that – just another flawed individual. So maybe universal love is
beyond me in this life.
But I can work on developing a good heart. There are meditation techniques that can help
this process and life is always there to check you if you get too big a head. It is possible to
give up greed and it is possible to give up hatred, but it’s not easy and it takes time.
Along the way it helps to have a teacher and some inspiration.
I recall talking once to a Sri Lankan monk about a meditation technique for developing loving kindness. This involved firstly developing positive feelings for yourself, then moving through to sharing these with those to whom you have affection, then to those to whom you are neutral and finally to the cultivation of loving kindness for those you have aversion towards. He smiled at me and said: “But Michael, I don’t have ill will to anyone.”
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