The impact of loving kindness
Sometimes the practice of Insight meditation may be
interpreted to be a kind of practice which makes the meditator a heartless or indifferent being, like a
vegetable without any love and compassion for other
living beings. We must remember, however, that the
Buddha has strongly advised us to cultivate four sublime
states of mind: loving-kindness, compassion,
appreciative joy and equanimity.
The first of these four is so important that the Buddha
advised that one who depends entirely upon people for
one’s living (i.e. a monk or nun) can repay one’s
indebtedness to lay supporters if one practices loving
kindness towards all living beings, even for such a
short time as a fraction of a second each day.
Karaniyametta Sutta says, “One should develop this
mindfulness which is called divine behaviour here”.
Mindfulness is one of the most important factors in the
entire teaching of the Buddha. From the day He attained
Enlightenment till He passed away at the age of 80, in
almost every Dhamma talk He stressed mindfulness.
When He equates the practice of loving kindness with
that of mindfulness, we can understand the significance
of the practice of loving kindness in the Buddha’s
teaching. The Buddha perfected it for the attainment of
Enlightenment and balanced it with wisdom.
Even after the attainment of Enlightenment, the very
first thing He did every day, was to enter into the
attainment of Great Compassion, which is an outcome of
the practice of loving-kindness. Then He surveyed the
world to see if there were any being whom He could help
to understand Dhamma. These four sublime states of mind
are called ‘Brahma Vihara’, best behaviour or best
attitude. The first three of these are strong enough to
attain the first three Jhanas and the last to attain the
They are so important in the practice of Vipassana
meditation that they are included in the second step of
the Noble Eightfold Path. In fact, no concentration is
possible without these sublime states of mind because in
their absence the mind would be filled with hatred,
rigidity, worry, fear, tension and restlessness.
Preliminary to the practice of these noble states of
mind is overcoming our hatred, which is a thoughtless
way of wasting one’s energy. Hate is compared to boiling
water when it is active or jaundice when it is
unexpressed. It can destroy your meditation practice and
moral training. The hateful person is compared to a half
burned log of wood left in a funeral pyre. Both ends of
this log are burned and turned to charcoal and the
middle is covered with filth.
Nobody would like to pick it up for firewood or for any
other purpose because it can dirty the hand of the
person who handles it. Similarly the hateful person will
be avoided by all means, if possible, by everybody.
We must start the practice of loving kindness with
Sometimes some of you may wonder why we have to love
ourselves first. Wouldn’t that amount to self love and
lead to selfishness? When you investigate your own mind
very carefully, however, you will be convinced that
there is no one in the whole universe that you love more
than yourself. The Buddha advised, “Investigating the
whole world with my mind never did I find anyone dearer
than oneself. Since oneself is dearer than others, one
who loves oneself should never harm others”.
One who does not love oneself can never love another at
all. By the same token one who loves oneself will feel
the impact of loving kindness and then can understand
how beautiful it is if every heart in the whole world is
filled with the same feeling of loving-kindness.
The loving kindness that we want to cultivate is not an
ordinary love as it is understood in everyday
application. When you say, “I love such-and-such a
person” or “such-and-such a thing”, for instance, what
you really mean is that you desire that particular
person’s appearance, behaviour, ideas, voice, or overall
attitude; either towards you in particular or towards
life in general.
If that person changes the things you like very much in
him or her you may decide that you do not love him or
her. When your tastes, whims and fancies or that of the
other person change, then you would not say “I love
In this love-hate duality you love one and hate another.
You love now and hate later. You love when you wish and
hate when you wish. You love when everything is smooth
and rosy and hate when anything goes wrong with the
relationship between you and the other person or thing.
If your love changes from time to time, place to place
and situation to situation in this fashion then what you
call “love” is not true loving kindness but lust, greed,
or desire - not love by any means.
The kind of loving kindness that we want to cultivate
through meditation does not have its opposite or an
ulterior motive. Therefore, the love-hate dichotomy does
not apply to loving kindness cultivated through wisdom
or mindfulness, for it will never change into hate, as
circumstantial changes take place. True loving kindness
is a natural faculty concealed under the heap of greed,
hatred and ignorance. Nobody can give it to us.
We must find it out within ourselves and cultivate it
mindfully. Mindfulness discovers it, cultivates it and
maintains it. “I” consciousness (ahankara) dissolves in
mindfulness and its place will be taken by loving
kindness free from selfishness.
Because of our selfishness we hate some people. We want
to live in certain ways, do certain things in certain
ways, perceive things in certain ways; not in any other
way. If others do not agree with our views, our ways and
our styles, we not only hate them but become entirely so
irrational and blind with unmindfulness that we might
even deprive them of their right to live.
When you practice loving-kindness you do not get angry
if you do not receive any form of favour in return from
persons and beings to whom you radiate your loving
kindness, because you have no ulterior motive when you
radiate loving kindness towards them.
In this net of loving kindness not only do you include
all beings as they are, but you wish all of them,
without any discrimination, to be happy minded. You
continue to behave gently and kindly towards all beings,
speaking gently and kindly about them in their presence
as well as in their absence.
When we meditate, our minds and bodies become naturally,
relaxed. Our hindrances dissolve. Our sleepiness and
drowsiness, for instance, are replaced by alertness.
Doubt is replaced by confidence, hatred by joy,
restlessness and worry by happiness.
As our resentment is replaced by joy, loving-kindness
hidden in our subconscious mind expresses itself, making
us more peaceful and happy. In this state of meditation
we gain concentration and overcome our greed. We can see
how meditation destroys hatred and cultivates loving
kindness, which in turn supports our practice of
meditation. Together these two operate in unison,
culminating in concentration and insightfulness.
Therefore, to pick up one’s own mind wave of
loving-kindness one must fine tune oneself through the
practice of mindfulness meditation.
When harmful thoughts arise we learn not to entertain
them and when peaceful thoughts arise we let them grow
and stay in the mind much longer. This way we learn from
our own experience how to think more healthily. This
practice conditions our minds to grow loving kindness.