Vows, commitments and modern life:  Giving our love

To give love.

To fulfil this commitment we should try develop the thought “how wonderful it would be if all living beings could be happy.  May they be happy.  I will help them to become happy.”  We should begin by developing this thought with our friends and family and then gradually increase the scope until it embraces all living beings.

Everybody wants to be happy, yet almost nobody knows how to attain it.  Everyone is convinced that they are not happy due to some unfortunate turn of external circumstances, so they invest all of their energy into changing them.  Most people are also confused about what is happiness.  They think the pleasant feelings they get from attachment is happiness, and so they relate to external objects as if they have some power to give us happiness.  As a result of this type of thinking, people develop all sorts of addictions and dependencies on the things of samsara.  But over time, these things provide us less and less happiness, and we are left only with frustration and want.  True happiness is inner peace.  If our mind is peaceful, we can enjoy everything, even adverse conditions.  A peaceful mind is a flexible mind that is undisturbed by things going wrong.  A peaceful mind is a light mind that simply can’t be bothered.  A peaceful mind is a blissful mind, a deep inner contentment radiating from within.  We cannot truly give love if we don’t know what true happiness is.

After we know what giving love is, we must want to do so for others.  Normally we don’t care whether others are happy or not, but that is only because we think they are somehow separate from us.  On the surface, it appears that one wave is distinct from another; but in reality they are both parts of the same underlying ocean.  It is the same with ourselves and others.  At a minimum, we can develop the wish of wanting to give love by thinking of the many karmic benefits of this wish.  This wish functions to purify our past negative karma towards others (it is the opposite of wishing to harm), it accumulates within our mind vast quantities of merit, and it creates the causes for our own future happiness.

It is not enough to merely want to give love, we need to actually do so.  We must pass beyond wishing others were happy to actually dedicating our life to making that happen.  We can think, “if I don’t work to help this person be truly happy, who will?”  In reality, everyone wants to feel loved, and everybody likes to feel loved.  Geshe-la likens giving love to a magic crystal with the power to transform any community for the better.  On this basis, we can generate a personal determination to actually give them love.

Once we have the wish to actually give love, we can do so in a variety of different ways.  But generally speaking, they can be divided into the three different types of love.  The first type of love is affectionate love.  Affectionate love is a feeling of genuine delight when we see or think of somebody.  The example Geshe-la give is the delight a kind grandmother gets when she sees her grandchildren, or the delight a 5 year old has when their parents walk in the door after work.  Most of the time we are convinced people don’t like us, so it really warms our heart when somebody is genuinely happy to see us.  In the same way, we can warm the heart of those around us by expressing our delight at seeing them.  Of course we shouldn’t overdo it, making them feel uncomfortable.  Each culture will have different norms and customs when it comes to expressing our delight, and we should act accordingly, but whatever is within the scope of culturally normal, we should express our delight.  In particular, we should do so when we haven’t seen somebody for a long time.  When we see others, we should feel as if we have found a long-lost precious treasure, because in fact that is exactly what has happened.

The second way we can give love is to cherish others.  What does it mean to cherish others?  It means to consider their happiness and well-being to be something important.  We naturally work for whatever we consider to be important.  We of course think our own happiness is important, and so we work for our happiness.  In exactly the same way, because we consider other’s happiness as something important to us, we naturally work to secure it.  At a very practical level this means we make no distinction between whether some problem is happening to us or happening to somebody else, we seek to resolve it all the same.  We make no distinction whether some happiness or good fortune is happening to us or happening to somebody else, we seek to sure it all the same.  When making decisions, we consider the well being of all concerned, and pursue the outcome that provides the greatest benefit for the greatest number of people.  In short, we cease working only for ourself and we begin working only for others.  Working only for others does not mean we neglect ourself, we still seek to improve ourself and our capacities so that we are able to serve others even more effectively.

The third way we can give love is to take personal responsibility for others happiness.  Anybody who becomes a parent knows the profound difference between being a good friend, and being responsible for the welfare of somebody else.  Geshe-la gives the example of seeing somebody drowning in a river, those with compassion in their heart will wish fervently that the person is saved; those with superior intention (also known as personal responsibility) will dive in themselves to save them.  We realize it is not enough to just consider other’s happiness to be important, we actually need to take personal responsibility to do something.  If we understand emptiness correctly, we realize that ultimately all of the problems in the world are parts of our own karmic dream.  If thousands were killed in a battle in last night’s dream, who is responsible for those deaths?  Surely our own conflicted mind.  In the same way, if this entire world is nothing more than a karmic dream of our waking mind, then who is responsible for all of its sufferings?  Surely, our own contaminated mind.  Through correct mental actions, in particular our tantric practices of generation and completion stage, we can literally karmically reconstruct our dream from a world of suffering into a world of eternal joy.

In short, we should give love to others in every way we can every opportunity we get.

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