A Path of Love

“If I were really asked to define myself, I wouldn’t start with race; I wouldn’t start with blackness; I wouldn’t start with gender; I wouldn’t start with feminism. I would start with stripping down to what fundamentally informs my life, which is that I’m a seeker on the path. I think of feminism, and I think of anti-racist struggles as part of it. But where I stand spiritually is, steadfastly, on a path about love.” Bell Hooks

…a path about love.  This was the point I think for The Buddha. His was a path of love. His years of hardship and deprivation were about love of other sentient beings; his wish to relieve us all of our suffering – all beings for all time. He said, “I teach one thing and one thing only, suffering and the end of suffering.” He had the idea that if he could find the answer for himself that he could give it to everyone and that we could all be free.  He continually taught that the path to greater happiness is not the self-centered thought, but the other-centered thought. Not in a co-dependent way but in an altruistic way. The question is not “How can I take care of you?” but rather “How can I be of benefit to you?” Even our meditation practice is for the benefit of all sentient beings. Our wish is to relieve all beings of their suffering. So, with our open heart of love, we sit and breathe.  We attempt to clear away all the layers of delusion that separate us from our basic goodness so that we sense, or have an awareness of, our connection to all beings. The merit that we accumulate from our sitting practice and our dharma study can be sent out to all beings and given to them to help raise their awareness of their suffering and how to end it. Our thought is for the other. Even our wish for enlightenment is for the benefit of all other beings. 

This is the path of the Bodhisattva, one whose purpose is the liberation of all sentient beings. As Jack Kornfield said, this is a path with heart. We hear about the practice, and the dharma, and something within us stirs. We know innately that it is true; that we are responsible for one another.  Being totally self-absorbed and self-interested becomes a meaningless existence.  We know there is another way to live, a way that will give purpose to our lives.  We do community service, volunteer somewhere, give money – all so that we can feel like we’re contributing somehow.  These are things the Buddha encouraged. As a matter of fact is it the first thing he taught his followers – not meditation, but generosity: giving, dana.

Meditation

Bring your attention to the breath. Feel the breath in the body. Watch it move in and out. How do the lungs feel as they expand and contract with the breath. Can you feel your ribs moving; your clothes moving against your skin as the chest rises and falls? These are all noticed. The awareness is placed on them with a light attention. No conversation is necessary; we are just being attentive to something that is normally overlooked because it happens automatically.

Sit in this way for a while, five minutes, or 20 or 60 or 3 breaths. It may not be comfortable (or maybe it will). But, just give it a try today.

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