In the stage of Accepted Discipleship we must learn to love in an impersonal, spontaneous and truly heartfelt way. But, how do we get there? This post offers insights of how to do this using the book How to Expand Love by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
If we are to become Accepted Disciples and really learn to love, then we need an effective approach in how to do this. In my many studies on this, there is one book that stands out, which is explained more in this post. Again, it is called How to Expand Love by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. On the surface, this book seems simple. In practice, it is not so easy. Yet, if we are to move from “Little Chelaship” where love is idealistic, but lacks the intelligent know-how, or “Chela in the Light” with the tendency towards criticism and approaching love as an effort to love and not spontaneous wise loving, then we need to put into place these principles. Of course in this post, I can only briefly outline them. They are much better explained in the book.
Interestingly enough the very first step the Dalai Lama recommends is to establish equanimity. This is very much like the need to develop impersonality that is talked about in the Accepted Discipleship: Impersonality and Love post. Before we can truly begin to love we must become impersonal and find our equanimity “in order to learn to recognize and change our knee-jerk responses” as the Dalai Lama says on pp. 9 – 10. (To me these knee-jerk responses seem like emotional and personality triggers that lead us into the power games of the solar plexus where fight or flight take place and right vs wrong and win vs lose come into play).
Then, he outlines seven steps following our reaching a state of impersonality or equanimity as the Dalai Lama calls it.
Step One: In this first step our main task is to generate love (or a positive attitude as the Dalai Lama calls it), towards those we are really close to, then to those we are not so close to, then to neutral people, and finally enemies. For me, a way to approach this has been to imagine that these people are all my children. At times they may please me, frustrate me, make me really hurt and angry. Yet, they are all my children. Despite it all, I feel love for them. After all, they are my children. From this stand-point it is easier for me to want what is best for them no matter what. In the book the Dalai Lama has numerous meditations for generating love by working first with friends, then people we are not so close to, then neutral people, then enemies. As we go back and forth doing this loving concern for all is developed.
Step Two: We focus on kindness. We start by remembering all the kind things those we love have done for us. We can even think about things neutral people may have done for us (like farmers growing the crops we eat, people stocking the shelves for us at the grocery stores, and so forth). With enemies we remember that even though they may not have been kind, and may have even harmed us, they give us the opportunity to practice loving kindness in return.
Steps Three & Four: Here we focus on how various people suffer (step three) and generate the love inside to want to remove their suffering (step four). We start with ourselves and how we suffer and how good it would feel not to suffer. Then we focus on loved ones who may be suffering and how good it would feel if they did not suffer. Then we focus on people we know, but are not so close to and focus on how they may be suffering, and how good it would feel (for them and us) if they did not suffer. Next, we do this for neutral people and finally for our enemies. (Personal note: I find this to be the most powerful step, especially to really contemplate how people we may dislike may be suffering in ways that we do not immediate see, especially when we use our critical minds).
Step Five: We move from how good it would feel to have people be relieved of their suffering, to generating a deep compassion and dedication to see them removed from their suffering.
Step Six: We become more and more committed to altruism, or the spontaneous desire to see and lift the suffering of others.
Step Seven: Our unbiased love and compassion help us serve and help an increasingly expansive level of sentient beings. As the Dalai Lama puts it, following these steps will “transform counterproductive emphasis on yourself into healthy concern for others.” And, it helps “replace self-cherishing with other cherishing.” p.13
In summary, if you look at what is required of Accepted Disciples you see how well this book fits in with that stage, giving us a very practical and hands on “how to” manual, that would be an excellent meditation practice to do on a daily basis.
(Note: Here is a link to the YouTube video on this book).
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