Dharma Topic: Season of Love

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Dear Still Water Friends,

At Plum Village, before there is a formal reading from
the Buddha, the community recites together the Sutra
Opening Verse:

The Dharma is deep and lovely.

We now have a chance to see it, study it, and practice it.

We vow to realize its true meaning.

When I hear “deep and lovely” i think of a flowing river, all the
parts intermingling. In our mindfulness practice there are a multitude
of sutras, teachings, numbered lists, and practices. It is easy to feel
overwhelmed. However, as I see it, there is just one Dharma river, just
one “noble” way of being: to be fully present to life with an open
heart and a calm mind.

In cultures such as ours, influenced by the Northern European
traditions, December is a time of sharing, hope, and renewal. This
Thursday evening, after our meditation period, we will read together
the Buddha’s Discourse on Love and share together how its message
touches us today and perhaps supports us in our seasonal celebrations.

You are invited to be with us, in person or in spirit.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s translation of the Sutra is below, along with a brief excerpt form a commentary.

Warm wishes,

Mitchell Ratner

Senior Teacher

Discourse On Love

“He or she who wants to attain peace should
practice being upright, humble, and capable of using loving speech. He
or she will know how to live simply and happily, with senses calmed,
without being covetous and carried away by the emotions of the
majority. Let him or her not do anything that will be disapproved of by
the wise ones.

“(And this is what he or she contemplates): May everyone be happy and safe, and may their hearts be filled with joy.

all living beings live in Security and in Peace beings who are frail or
strong, tall or short, big or small, visible or not visible, near or
far away, already born or yet to be born. May all of them dwell in
perfect tranquility.

“Let no one do harm to anyone. Let no one
put the life of anyone in danger. Let no one, out of anger or ill will,
wish anyone any harm.

“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.

Free from
wrong views, greed and sensual desires, living in beauty and realizing
Perfect Understanding, those who practice Boundless Love will certainly
transcend Birth and Death.”

Excerpt from a Dharma talk by Thich Nhat Hanh on December 18, 1998:

“Our love will know no obstacle.” In order to be able to
expand our love like that, we need to practice deep looking. Because
without practicing deep looking, you cannot love easily. The Buddha
said that only love can answer hatred. Because if you answer hatred
with hatred, the hatred will increase and will destroy not only
yourself and the other person but also the whole universe. So only love
can answer hatred. “Our love will know no obstacle. 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.” We have to cultivate
mindfulness of love the whole day long. When you walk, it is for love.
When you sit, it is for love. When you are lying down, it is for love.
When you work, it is for love. When you do everything it is for
expressing love, it is motivated by love. When you walk, you sit, you
are lying down, you work, all are for expressing your love. When you
ask the baby to eat and it doesn’t want to, you say:
“Please, eat one spoonful for mummy, one spoonful for daddy, one
spoonful for your sister.” You love yourself, your Sangha body,
your spiritual path, your teacher, and that is why every act you do is
for expressing love.

The mindfulness of love is the presence of love everywhere, every
moment of your days. When you are mindful of your love, you can enter
slowly into love concentration. Love concentration is everywhere, and
your address, your zip code is love: maitri, karuna, mudita, and
upeksa. Maitri means giving joy, karuna is removing suffering, Mudita
is feeling joy and upeksa is loving without discrimination, like the
right hand loves the left hand. If you cultivate that concentration all
day long: when you walk, when you sit, when you eat, when you work,
then you are living in the deep concentration of love. It’s
called maitri concentration, and you can dwell in maitri concentration
all day long. “This is the noblest way of living.” And
thanks to this you will be “free from wrong views, greed, and
sensual desire. And you live in beauty and you realize perfect
understanding. That perfect understanding is that you are a Buddha.
When you cultivate deep concentration of love you are free from wrong
views and you will listen to even the most difficult people very
carefully, and try to understand them deeply, their difficulties, their
environment, their childhood, and when you do like that, you will
arrive at the great understanding that is the perfect understanding of
an enlightened one. “Those who practice boundless love will
certainly transcend birth and death.”