In his conclusion, Robin continues by responding to the questions raised in Part 3:
I’d like to share with you a true story from a book entitled Kinship With All Life, published in 1954. The title of the story is “Tail-rattlings”.
(Kinship With All Life p94) “One of the most interesting of these rare people was a slight and unassuming little woman named Grace Wiley…. ….and simply needs to be called into active expression through the gracious application of respect, sympathetic understanding, gentleness and love.”
The stories in this book illustrate the importance of being ever mindful of our mental states in relationship to all creatures and beings. We are all mental nudists the author states. Our mental states and energies are always on full public display for all to observe and evaluate.
How then did the Buddha instruct his followers to practice love? His instructions are spelled out in the Metta Sutta, which is only two verses long and fits on one page. I invite you to experience this teaching now by closing your eyes and listening. If you wish you can think of it as a guided meditation:
The Metta Sutta
This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness…
…Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.
So the Buddha begins by emphasizing the foundations of happiness, i.e. leading an ethical life: being straightforward, gentle in speech, not proud and demanding, not angry, deceitful or harmful to others. He then adds to this foundation the importance of maintaining loving intentions: “wishing, in gladness and in safety, may all beings be at ease”. And finally he advocates active love: “Even as a mother protects her child, her only child, so with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings radiating kindness over the entire world.”
When should these skills be practiced? His answer is simple: all the time without stopping. “Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down, free from drowsiness, one should sustain this recollection. This is said to be the supreme abiding.”
Such instructions are not easy to follow. All of the teachers mentioned tonight emphasize discipline, effort and conscious choice as necessary for the practice of love. It may occur to us to ask isn’t there an easier way? a shortcut? We may think: “I’m too busy for this. I’ll start working on this stuff when I retire. All this talk about spiritual evolution and growth is exhausting. I need a rest.”
I can sympathize with these points of view. Life is difficult and complicated. David Eagleman, a neuroscience researcher by day and writer by night, recently published a wonderful short story that speaks to this problem. The story is titled “Descent of Species” and is taken from his book Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives. (Sum
So perhaps a human life with all of its difficulty, complexity and heartache is still a gift. Zorba the Greek affectionately called it “the full catastrophe”. Life involves risk and vulnerability, inevitable failure as well as success. To love others without holding back requires great courage and faith. It demands a willingness to leave our comfort zone. It is because of these requirements that the opportunity for growth is so great.
So what are the take home messages here? What was the Buddha telling us about love? I would summarize it this way:
1) The goal of love is the well-being, safety and spiritual growth of ourselves and others.
2) Love is active not passive. It comes from within us and must be awakened by us.
3) Love is a choice. It is a practice. Love is available to us any time we choose to practice.
4) Love begins with intention. With our thoughts and intentions we make the world. That is why we must continuously pay attention to them. The energy we create with our thoughts determines our relationship to everything.
5) Love requires effort and a willingness to extend ourselves.
6) Only love can dispel hatred. Those who awaken love are released from anger and hatred. This cannot be changed or taken away. Ever.
In the end we all know love is too mysterious to be captured in words. It has to be experienced. So I would like to end by sharing one last story from Soul Food by Jack Kornfield and Christina Feldman. This is a true story of an extraordinary monk working in the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge reign of terror in Cambodia.
(Soul Food p331) “I saw one on the clearest examples of teaching presence demonstrated in the Cambodian refugee
….And it was clear that the presence of this monk and the truth
he chanted was even greater than the sorrows they had to
The Dhammapada, The Saying of the Buddha, translation by Thomas Byron, 1976
The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck, M.D., 1978, Simon and Schuster
The Tools, Phil Stutz and Barry Michaels, 2012, Spiegel and Grau Kinship with All Life, J. Allen Boone, 1954, Harper San Franscisco Sum, Forty Tales from the Afterlives, David Eagleman, 2009, Vintage Books
Soul Food, Stories to Nourish the Spirit and Heart,
Jack Kornfield and Christina Feldman, 1996, Harper San Francisco