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How to Love

On Sunday, August 2, 2009, Venerable Chang Hwa gave a talk on the topic of “How to Love.” Venerable engaged the audience with thought-provoking questions, stories and instructions on practices on how to love and be loved.

She referred to the Buddha’s teachings in the sutras, Master Sheng Yen’s teachings and those of modern-day teachers for guidance on love and relationships.

In the process of love, we may encounter many problems and challenges. Venerable stated, “Love is a learning process. You never love somebody the right way in the beginning.” She described four types of love or attachment—that to the material world, to relationships, to our bodies and to our minds, which include feelings and emotions.

The most subtle attachment is the attachment to existence. We may experience suffering because of these attachments. There are also three types of worldly love—possessive love, sympathetic love, and sacrificial love. While these types of love are valuable, they are conditional.

Before asking ourselves how to love others, we should ask how we want others to love us. “We don’t need much, but we ask for much. In the end, we don’t feel loved because nobody can fulfill our criteria, and then we suffer.

The people who love you suffer too because they feel that they can never fulfill your request so that you can love me back.” She quoted a Chinese saying, “Those who love will be loved always, because they know how to love.”

Venerable stated that it’s not that hard to love and be loved. She referred to the Sigalaka Sutra, which states that we should bow to the six directions—our parents, teachers, spouse, relatives and friends, staff and employers, and monastics. When we mentally bow to them, even if we don’t do anything else to show our love, they will be able to feel our love.

She also cited the Vimilakirti Sutra, which teaches that we should not consider our friends and families as obstacles to liberation, but rather, as aids to our practice.

To develop healthy relationships with people and the environment, Master Sheng Yen proposed the Six Ethics, which is a modern interpretation of the Sigalaka Sutra – ethics in the family, campus, workplace, society, between ethnic groups, and nature.

Shifu said that we should strive to love equally, based on people’s needs and not based on our relationships. This is compassion, or unconditional, equanimous, non-discriminating love. Spontaneous love is love without subject and object. There are no thoughts of “I am loving you,” because we are all the same; there is no separation. We may experience this type of love during meditation.

Shifu said that the Buddha taught that “the true self is buddhanature, or the self-nature of emptiness”. It is always there but we cannot see it because of ignorance. The sutras teach how to love ourselves, by keeping the precepts, and practicing meditation and wisdom. Shifu also gave the teaching of knowing the self, accepting the self, uplifting the self, dissolving self.

The book, Zero Limits teaches how everything in our lives is our responsibility, and the entire world is your creation. It tells the story of a doctor who cured criminally insane patients without ever seeing them in person, merely by reviewing their records and saying, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.”
This view and practice is comparable to the Buddhist belief that everything is created by the mind.

The Heart Sutra says that all five skandhas are empty; the body, the mind, and the world are created by the five skandhas. If we can see the emptiness of the five skandhas, we will be able to understand the true mind, and there will be nothing that we cannot do.

Venerable concluded the talk by saying that if we want to love others, we must love ourselves first. Before experiencing emptiness, Fashi suggested that we can say, in our minds, “I love you,” first, to ourselves and then to others.

(By Chang Jie)

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