The ordinary man is in the habit of regarding only certain persons as the proper objects of his love. His outlook is limited to wife and child, to parents and friends; all others are ‘outsiders’, outside, that is, the sacred circle of those whom he considers to have a claim on his love. His heart is tied up in knots and though desolated with grief at the death of a son, the death of fifty thousand ‘outsiders’ in China leaves him more or less cold.
In order to loosen these knots of the heart, to plough up the soil, as it were, the Buddha recommended His disciples to practice a certain form of meditation known as the Brahma Vihara, or Brahma-dwelling, so-called perhaps because by its aid the heart of the sadhaka is expanded till it dwells in the whole universe.
As a preliminary discipline the disciple is bidden to abstain from all killing of living beings and, “ashamed of roughness and full of mercy, he dwells compassionate and kind to all creatures that have life.” After this he is instructed to perform the following exercise regularly.
“He lets his mind pervade one quarter of the world with thoughts of love and so the second and so the third and so the fourth. And thus the whole wide world above, below, around and everywhere does he continue to pervade with thoughts of love, far-reaching, grown great and beyond measure.”
“Just as a mighty trumpeter makes himself heard in all the four directions, even so of all things that have shape or life, there is not one that he passes by or leaves aside but regards them all with mind set free and deep felt love.”
Such a meditation, if regularly carried out with concentrated mind, has results of two sorts. In the first place, as described above, it operates on the heart of the sadhaka himself, ploughing up its stony soil and breaking down the barriers which shut off the individual within the narrow circle of his own relations and friends.
In addition to this it has an actual positive result in the outer world as well. There is a direct connection between mind and mind, as direct as there is between matter and matter, and, as the sadhaka progresses in his efforts, as his mind becomes more and more capable of concentration, his outraying thoughts of love will directly influence an ever-widening circle, and so, since loving thoughts are parents of loving deeds, will be a silent source of inspiration to countless deeds of love of which he himself never knows anything.
Thus, not by his own hands alone, but through the hands of others too, he will help to extinguish the fierce fires of hatred and anger that torment the world. For, as the Buddha has elsewhere said; “not by hatred does hatred come to an end; hatred ends by love alone. This is the eternal law.”
Perhaps there will be some who will say that this love that is here taught is very fine but it is a love of humanity and not a love of God. Such an objection, however, reveals utter ignorance both of the nature of love and of the nature of God.
The Shruti said: “not for the sake of the wife is the wife dear but for the sake of the atman.” Love is not a mere rapturous emotion. Love is self-giving, and to whom can the self be given but to that Vasudeva who is in the hearts of all? Nowhere in all the worlds can a living being be found in whose heart Vasudeva is not seated and none, however far he may wander, has ever or will ever set eyes on a single thing that is separate from Him, for Vasudeva is all.
Excerpted from essay ‘Love In Buddhism’ in the book ‘Search for Truth’
Yogi Krishna Prem