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Love Part 6: the Buddha

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Some think that the Western concept “love” does not translate well into Buddhism; I found that the teachings of the Buddha are actually brimming with it—whether you translate it “compassion” or “loving kindness” or “friendliness”—love is at the heart of Buddhism.

We begin with the child Buddha, who was said to grow up “as the light of the moon increases little by little…the child grew from day to day in mind and in body; and truthfulness and love resided in his heart.”

Love of Family versus Love of People
Leaving behind loved ones, in search for a higher calling, is a theme found in stories of prophets, heroes, Jedi’s, and religious leaders. At the beginning of his search for Nirvana, the Buddha is torn: “There Siddhartha stood gazing at his beautiful wife and his beloved son, and his heart grieved. The pain of parting overcame him powerfully…the tears flowed freely.” He left, and even after reaching Enlightenment, he was faced with a similar situation. Should he enter Nirvana, or stay on earth to help humans? After being tempted to leave humans and enter Nirvana (similar to the temptation of Christ), the Buddha stays: “In a state of ecstasy he saw...all the misery and sorrow of the world...and a deep compassion seized his heart.” The Buddha reunites with his father when he asks him to "let the ties of love that bind him to the son whom he lost embrace with equal kindness to all his fellow beings, and he will receive in his place a greater one than Siddhartha [Buddha]"..."[the father] trembled with joy when he heard...'now I reap the fruit of your renunciation.'"

Loving Kindness
"And the Buddha made this solemn utterance:
    Do not deceive, do not despise
    Each other, anywhere.
    Do not be angry, nor should you
    Secret resentment bear;
    For as a mother risks her child,
    So boundless be your love to all,
    So tender, kind and mild.
    ...Whatever you have in mind,
    The rule of life that's always best
    Is to be loving-kind.
Gifts are great, the founding of viharas is meritorious, meditations and religious exercises pacify the heart, comprehension of the truth leads to Nirvana, but greater than all is loving kindness...loving kindness is sixteen times more efficacious in liberating the heart than all other religious accomplishments taken together."

These are amazing passages that, much like the famous Corinthians passage, speak about love as the most important thing in religious life.

Loving Enemies
Loving your enemies is an act of self-control and a way to transform the world; non-violence is the only way to stop violence:

"If someone foolishly does me wrong, I will return to that person the protection of my ungrudging love; the more evil comes from such a person, the more good shall go from me; the frangrance of goodness always comes to me, and the harmful air of evil goes to that person."

Letting the person slap you on the other cheek is like giving a person back a present. In a scene where a person actually does this to the Buddha, he replies: "You have railed at me, but I decline to accept your abuse, and request you to keep it yourself. Will it not be a source of misery to you?" It is like the person "spits up at heaven"--it comes back down on them.

Related Posts
Love Part 1: Platonic Love
Love Part 2: Aristotle
Love Part 3: Epictetus and stoic love 
Love Part 4: Marcus Aurelius
Love Part 5: Plotinus 


The Teachings of Buddha

Posted by Matt Smith at 06/20/2011 06:13:45 PM