Buddha’s Teachings on Love, Part 3 – By Robin Carr

Robin continues his exploration of love as presented in the Buddha’s teachings. In Part 2, Robin followed his discussion of the impact this work had on him and how this furthered his understanding of Buddha’s teaching on love.

Two psychotherapists from Los Angeles just published a book that addresses this exact question. The book is The Tools by Phil Stutz and Barry Michaels. They noticed how frequently they and their patients become trapped in the universal expectation that the world will treat us fairly, a childish but cherished assumption which is violated every day. We should know better, but we cling to the childish insistence that life treat us fairly. When this doesn’t happen we dig in our heels and refuse to budge. We enter what they refer to as “The Maze”.

I want to share with you a story Phil Stutz tells from his own childhood. Recalling his experience he saw a way out of cascading mental cycles of anger and hatred. Phil realized its only when we feel something bigger, better and more powerful than fairness that we stop waiting for it and give up our childish expectations.

(The Tools p76) “I was about five years old and my parents took my sister and me to the snow…. ….I felt a powerful wave of love for everything and everyone – it gave me the strength to overcome my injured pride and anger.” The trick to getting out of “The Maze” is learning to generate a state of love whenever you choose, especially when you’re so hurt or angry it feels impossible. Phil and Barry call this active love. It begins by concentrating all the love that surrounds you into your heart, then transmitting it to the person who’s triggered your anger, and finally feeling the love you’re transmitting entering the other person. It’s the act of pouring love into the other that sets us free. They go into great detail with examples of how this practice works with their patients and how it transforms lives.

Their technique is similar to what the Buddha teaches in the Metta Sutta, which we will discuss shortly. But can this technique work? One particularly powerful image from the life of the Buddha suggests that it can. I am thinking of the Buddha’s third encounter with Devadatta. Devadatta was both cousin and brother-in-law to the Buddha. He entered the order of monks early on and was known as a good monk. But as his powers grew he became conceited, jealous of the Buddha and covetous of worldly gain and fame. Devadatta publicly asked the Buddha to make him the leader of the Sangha and when the Buddha declined Devadatta became angry and vowed to take revenge. Three times he attempted to kill the Buddha. The first two times he failed.

Devadatta’s third attempt was to take a fierce man killing elephant named Nalagiri and make him drunk with liquor. As the Buddha entered the streets of the village, the immense intoxicated elephant saw him coming and charged at him in a rage. Everyone ran for cover, but the Buddha calmly stood fast. As the charging elephant approached, Buddha radiated great waves of loving kindness or metta toward Nalagiri. So vast and deep was the Buddha’s love that as the elephant reached the Buddha, it stopped, became quiet and stood before the Master. The Buddha then stroked Nalagiri’s trunk and spoke softly. The elephant picked up dust at the Master’s feet with its trunk and scattered the dust over its own head. Then it retreated bowing into the stable and ever after remained fully tamed. What are we to make of this story? Is it some fanciful tale made up by devoted followers or could something like this actually have happened?

To be continued in July 2015 newsletter

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