Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The 11th Dharma Session of Middle Way Buddhist Association: Love is in the air

“ ... Love is nature's way of giving; a reason to be living ...”

For those of us who belong to the so-called baby boomer generation, this is likely to be familiar lyrics; otherwise the tune itself, Love is a Many Splendored Thing, may also evoke a trip down the memory lane. Love can indeed move mountains. At the same time, love can be the source of untold misery too, when its twin brother, hate, comes to the fore. But it does not have to be that way, when we subscribe to the Buddhist notion of love, as expounded by Bhante Dhammawansha at the occasion of the 11th Dharma session of Middle Way Buddhist Association (MBWA) held on December, 15, 2007 at its Pinellas Park venue.

This was to be the first of the three topics that Bhante would speak on, immediately following the mutual introduction of fellow attendees, the other two being cause and effect, and compassion, two of the central tenets in Buddhism.

Broadly, love can be conditional or unconditional. The former lies within the purview of us mere mortals, it being the preoccupation of the mundane world, be it between married couples, among family members, friends, leaders and followers, etc. On the other hand, unconditional love is a particular rarity in this time when materialism reigns supreme but is professed by the Buddha and Bodhisattvas nonetheless.

Conditional love is characterized by the duality of love and hate, the line of division being often tenuous at best. It is selfish, driven by self benefits, and is loaded with expectations. It is carnal in nature and fixates on the ego. Since “I” is in the thick of action, negative emotions like anger, fear, worry, and doubt abound, thereby accentuating the negative feedback to the extent of destroying the lives of others. This proliferating trend has turned the world into a time bomb, a catastrophe in waiting.

The only way to defuse the dire situation is to propagate unconditional love, one that is fulfilling, healing, uplifting, and reinforcing. It nips hatred in the bud. Unconditional love starts from within, by changing our mind. It is said that the difference between a murderer and a saint is only one thought away.

Ever noticed that the poisons in animals are confined to certain parts of their bodies: the tail of a scorpion, the fangs of a venomous snake, the skin of some animals? But all five senses of a human body are poisonous, but they can be controlled, with the mind. Think no retaliation, practice forbearance. When in a group, do only one of two things: spiritual discussion or noble silence.

A pre-requisite to embracing unconditional love is self love, the ability and capacity to love ourselves. It may seem paradoxical, but is like having a bottle of water, you can't give it to others if you don't have one. Through self love, we will be able to give love to others. This is one way to develop the seed of unconditional love. One other way is to appreciate life, going above and beyond the oft-quoted raison detre: eat, drink and be merry.

Cultivate the right understanding, and hold the right view. Let go of clinging, avoid emotional roller coaster, talk to “anger”, without giving it plus or minus, be friendly with negative emotions, not hiding or rejecting, but accepting, observing. Be mindful, focusing in the moment.

How to be detached from the 5 senses? When seeing, just see. When touching, just touch. We need to control our senses, just like the turtle retracting its head and limbs into the shell when it encounters a tiger, leaving the tiger no choice but to walk away.

Satisfying our desires only brings temporary relief, after which they will continue to fester to become long-term afflictions.

Bhante concluded the meaningful session on love by passing on another gem of Buddhist teaching:

Worldly things are always ready for our needs, but not for our greed.”

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