Dharma Topic: Cultivating Loving Kindness

posted in: Dharma Topics | 0

Dear Still Water Friends,

This Thursday evening, April 14, after our meditation period, we will recite together the five mindfulness trainings and have a discussion on the second of the trainings, on loving kindness.

The training reads:

Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to cultivating loving kindness and learning ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants, and minerals.

I am committed to practicing generosity by sharing my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in real need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other species on Earth.

Reading over the training today I was struck by the words “cultivating loving kindness,” and remembered a comment of Sister Gina, the Abbess of the Lower Hamlet at Plum Village. She was introducing a three week retreat in 1996 and said:

So often we hear something from Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) and we say, “I know that.” The real question, however, is “Do I do that?”

How do we really, in our daily lives, “cultivate lovingkindness”?

Literally, the word ‘cultivate’ means to prepare the land for planting by digging, plowing, or fertilizing. More generally if means to tend, nurture or foster.

Loving-kindness is the phrase Thich Nhat Hanh and others use to translate the Pali word Metta and the Sanskrit equivalent Maitri. In Transformation and Healing Thich Nhat Hanh writes that Metta/Maitri is a quality of mind”which is intent on bringing peace, joy and happiness to others.”Etymologically Metta/Maitri have their roots in the words for friend. As in a friendship, we act in ways that will benefit another. Our open-hearted intention is to bring joy and happiness to others. In the Discourse on Love, metta/maitri is compared to the care and devotion a mother has for her only child:

Just as a mother loves and protects her only child at the risk of her own life, we should cultivate Boundless Love to offer to all living beings in the entire cosmos. We should let our boundless love pervade the whole universe, above, below and across. Our love will know no obstacles, our heart will be absolutely free from hatred and enmity. Whether standing or walking, sitting or lying, as long as we are awake, we should maintain this mindfulness of love in our own heart. This is the noblest way of living.

If we are filled with loving kindness, then the rest of thetraining follows naturally. If we are filled with loving kindness, then we havethe energy and desire to learn how to help others, to be generous, and to livemorally. But what do we do if the loving kindness in us only fills our littlefinger, or perhaps one of our legs? How do we cultivate it, nurture it, andnourish it?

If “cultivating loving kindness” was to be trulyyour priority for the next six months, what would you do each day? What wouldyou change about your life? — That will be the opening question for our dharmadiscussion.

You are invited to join us.

Warm wishes,

Mitchell Ratner
Senior Teacher