Love Your Enemy

Tonight's topic is loving yourself and others, as well as your enemy. It's difficult to talk about and even more difficult to practice, but it's very important. I will talk about the Buddhist point of view and what the terms love and enemy mean. It's really precious to share different points of view no matter what we believe, so we can learn from each other. It's good to share this and practice as much as we can. Even though my personal practice of loving kindness and extending love to my family and friends is limited, I have some experience of what it means to love your enemy. When we can challenge our attitude in a positive way it is very powerful.

The definition of love is a wish that someone be happy with no expectation of personal gain. There is the ordinary happiness of food, shelter, and so forth. But Buddhism also talks about the extraordinary happiness of liberation. Ordinary happiness does not satisfy us, as we sometimes believe. True happiness comes from the heart and mind. It's not enough to just work hard for food and shelter We also have to work for happiness of the heart and mind. When true happiness arises from the heart we cannot compare any other happiness to it. No matter how delicious the food or nice the house, it cannot compare to this. So it is important to work on both internal and external happiness in balance. If they are not in balance we will have so much difficulty in this life.

We learn love from our mother. Sometimes we also learn it from our father, friends, or even animals. This is the first step of the meditation practice on loving kindness. Sometimes people tell me nobody loves them. I don't think that's true. If you search carefully, you will see there is someone. We need to see the value of love. I understand that people have different life experiences, but in this practice we recollect the kindness of others and try to pay it back. So this is one of the more important practices.

We have to see the value of love. Of course there are challenges, but there is no other way to bring happiness to ourselves and others. I have not found any other way than love. I can choose hatred or anger, but it only makes me miserable. Seeing this is called the true realization of love born in the heart. That is very important. When you develop love for others, it brings joy, peace and happiness.

The question is how our meditation benefits others. I believe that how great the benefit is depends on how strong my motivation, practice, and dedication are. If they're strong, it can benefit others, no doubt about that. When love is developed, the spiritual power our practice is greater.

Having no desire and expectations with love is the hardest part. Usually when we think about our friends and partners, our love is not free of expectations. There is possessiveness. Buddhism teaches there should be no expectations or attachments. It is difficult. At first our love is tainted by attachment and expectation, but it is very possible to purify it. One has to see the value of love. It is the source and fundamental cause of happiness. No matter what level of love we have, it is always important. I found that loving kindness is always a positive quality, but romantic love is not always positive. Hatred, anger, and violence can arise from it. True love ends violence, physically, verbally and emotionally. Verbal violence is very important to solve. Harsh words are the source of physical violence. Consider how much others have loved you and it will give rise to joy. You will want to make them happy in return. Loving others is very important. Practice does not just mean sitting on a cushion. It's how we talk and act with our family and friends.

The bodhisattvas always practice the six perfections. The six perfections are the practice of love. When you see this, they're not just talk, they're important for your daily life. The six perfections start with generosity. When you love someone, you are generous with them. Chandrakirti explained that generosity is placed first because everyone loves someone who is generous. Then the next perfection is moral ethics. No question about the relation to love there. Then comes patience. In order for love to be successful, it must be patient. Then there is perseverance. When you love someone, the action of love must be continuous. And because it is motivated by love, it is accompanied by joy. Then the next perfection is concentration. There is no question about the relation between love and concentration. Love carries concentration all the time. And finally there is wisdom. We must find the middle way and that comes from wisdom. Spirituality is not idealism, it is related to our daily life. We practice the six perfections with our friends and family.

From our families we extend our love to all other sentient beings. All sentient beings have the same desire for happiness. Everyone desires it. So it is important is to develop love to every sentient being. Developing loving kindness to our friends is easy. The difficult part is loving our enemies. The definition of an enemy has many levels. In general, it is those who wish to harm you physically, verbally, or mentally. There is both the outside enemy and inside enemy. Outside enemies are others who wish to harm us. It's hard to say what violence is. It's not just physical violence. There's more to it than that. There are nations that wish to harm each other. That is just a bigger picture of the external enemy. The internal enemy is described by Shantideva. If we are in the grip of the power of anger and hatred, that is an enemy that will destroy ourselves and others. All enemies start from the heart that holds negative thoughts and views.

We should think if I do not change my anger and hatred, it does not help me or my external enemy. If I develop love it helps me develop joy and happiness. If I have developed my love and compassion that will make me happy and full of joy. But if something in the environment goes wrong it destroys our happiness. So our happiness depends upon others as well as ourselves. We depend upon the kindness of everyone in our family. So sometimes our happiness depends on others. So developing loving kindness for others is important. We learn wisdom from others. As the world gets worse, we learn more wisdom. So happiness it is important to develop for others as well as ourselves. The true enemies are our anger and hatred and we should avoid them as much as possible. When we go into retreat, anger and hatred will arise. Loving kindness meditation looks very simple but in another way it is not. You have to work on it all day and night.

There are all sorts of practices and they all are important. But if we fail to develop loving kindness, it is very difficult to say if they have any value. Without developing loving kindness, I don't know what value that practice have. I have learned all the traditional academic studies and done a three year retreat. But I found if I do not develop loving kindness in my heart, I found they had little value. So loving kindness practice is the most important. It is healing, not just in this life, but life after life. There are so many levels of tantra, but this is the essence.

What I found is that one country develops loving kindness, it slowly benefits all countries. If one country develops hatred, it affects all nations. The karmic consequences of hatred are very powerful and last life after life. If you want happiness, at least try it. The best choice is developing loving kindness to others. If you live twenty four hours in a state of hatred that is very sad. It's not always possible to change others, so it is important to develop a warm heart that grows as big as space and can reach everybody. So if you develop love, you will have a good sleep and a good day.

The six perfections can be applied to our daily lives, it is not just a spiritual practice. Until we have confidence in ourselves, we need to practice. If someone says something negative to you and nothing arises in the heart, that is the sign of strong practice. If not, you have to work harder. If instead of hate you feel a stronger love, that is a sign your practice is working.

Even if sometimes we don't see the result of our practice, others may see it. In Vermont I met a long time practitioner, who had been practicing since she was a teenager. After she met a Tibetan Buddhist master she became interested in Buddhism and attended a weekend teaching on Chenrezig. She went home and practiced it secretly. After a couple of months of practice her mother told her, whatever you are doing, just keep doing it. She had not seen any improvement herself, but her mother saw the change. So she told me that story. So we do not always see how we are changing in a positive way.

The most important thing is to not have hatred. It's not easy, but when you practice loving kindness, it really makes sense. I am not qualified to solve the world's problems. There are so many factors to consider and I can only talk about maybe two percent. I can only give the Buddhist point of view. The emotional part is very important. Buddhism teaches about karma. All karma is created from mental intention. These intentions are expressed as emotions. Religions have led to much violence and that is very sad. Killing from religion is very sad. So we are proud that Buddhism doesn't have this history. Buddha taught not to discriminate against other religions, because he saw their value.

Lama Gursam
August 11, 2006
Susquehanna Yoga Center