The Limitless Heart
As a mother would risk her life to protect her child, her only child, even so should one cultivate a limitless heart with regard to all beings. So with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings; radiating kindness over the entire world."
-- The Buddha, Sutta Nipata I, 8
Loving your Enemies
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters,* what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
-- Ascribed to Jesus, Matthew 5:37-47
Metta Sutta: The Buddha's Words on Loving-kindness
This is what should be done by one who is skilled in goodness
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright, straightforward and gentle in speech,
Humble and not conceited, contented and easily satisfied.
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm, and wise and skilful,
not proud and demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing that the wise would later reprove.
They should wish:
In gladness and in safety
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be,
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born,
May all beings be at ease!
Let none deceive another, or despise any being in any state,
Let none through anger or ill-will wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings,
Radiating kindness over the entire world,
Spreading upwards to the skies, and downwards to the depths,
Outwards and unbounded, freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down,
Free from drowsiness, one should sustain this recollection.
Karaniya Metta Sutta: The Buddha's Words on Loving-kindness
* translated from the Pali by
The Amaravati Sangha
Renewing the Mind
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
-- Romans 12:2
"The cultivation of benevolence (mettā bhāvanā) is a popular form of meditation in Buddhism. In the Theravadin Buddhist tradition, this practice begins with the meditator cultivating benevolence towards themselves, then one's loved ones, friends, teachers, strangers, enemies, and finally towards all sentient beings. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, this practice is associated with tonglen(cf.), whereby one breathes out ("sends") happiness and breathes in ("receives") suffering.Tibetan Buddhists also practice contemplation of the Brahmavihāras, also called the four immeasurables, which is sometimes called 'compassion meditation'
The Religion of Loving-kindness
"This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples;no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness."
-- The Dalai Lama
God the Bodhisattva
In moments of kindness we dwell in the likeness of a sky-like Mind in whose image we are made and whose heart is as wide as the ocean. This sky-like Mind is God, the cosmic Bodhisattva in whose life we live and move and have our being. At least this is how process-relational panentheists see things. For them -- for us -- God and the Universe dwell in mutual relation and neither is complete without the other. God is the cosmic lure toward novelty and also the deep listening who shares in the sufferings and joys of all creatures; and finite creatures are the entities whose sufferings and joys are shared by God, giving God something to love. Both have agency or "creativity" of a kind, which means that neither God nor the universe fully control one another. There are things that happen in the universe that God cannot prevent; and there is a steadfast love in God, a grace, that no amount of worldly resistance can overcome. In these ways God transcends the universe and the universe also transcends God. And yet both are also immanent within each other. The universe is immanent within God as the subject of God's infinite love, present within God as an embryo to a womb; and God is immanent within universe as a lure toward novelty and, in human life, love. When our minds are renewed by this lure, we become like a mother who would risk her life to her life to protect her child, and whose heart reaches out to all with radiant kindness. We seek to become, like God, Bodhisattvas whose heart will not rest content until all sentient beings are saved from sufferiing.
How can such insight becoming abiding light in daily life? Perhaps the Metta Meditation of Buddhism can help us to dwell in the likeness. It is a form of mind-training or consciousness-cultivation, inviting us to envision in our mind's eye people we love, people to whom we might otherwise be indifferent, and people we might otherwise hate, and will their well-being. This practice is one example, and not the only example, of a Fat Soul spiritual practice. There are many others; Patricia Adams Farmer's offers some more in Fat Soul, Happy Soul: A Soul Fattening Exercise. Still, one way or another, we need our practices. Buddhism, with its many practices of meditation, can help. Below you will find some readings that can inspire or inform the practice and also a "guided meditation" by the Jewish Buddhist thinkers, Sylvia Boorstein, that can give you a taste of it.
-- Jay McDaniel
"The original name of this practice is metta bhavana, which comes from the Pali language. Metta means ‘love’ (in a non-romantic sense), friendliness, or kindness: hence ‘loving-kindness’ for short. It is an emotion, something you feel in your heart. Bhavana means development or cultivation. The commonest form of the practice is in five stages, each of which should last about five minutes for a beginner.
- In the first stage, you feel metta for yourself. You start by becoming aware of yourself, and focusing on feelings of peace, calm, and tranquillity. Then you let these grow in to feelings of strength and confidence, and then develop into love within your heart. You can use an image, like golden light flooding your body, or a phrase such as ‘may I be well and happy’, which you can repeat to yourself. These are ways of stimulating the feeling of metta for yourself.
- In the second stage think of a good friend. Bring them to mind as vividly as you can, and think of their good qualities. Feel your connection with your friend, and your liking for them, and encourage these to grow by repeating ‘may they be well; may they be happy’ quietly to yourself. You can also use an image, such as shining light from your heart into theirs. You can use these techniques — a phrase or an image — in the next two stages as well.
- Then think of someone you do not particularly like or dislike. Your feelings are ‘neutral’. This may be someone you do not know well but see around. You reflect on their humanity, and include them in your feelings of metta.
- Then think of someone you actually dislike — an enemy. Trying not to get caught up in any feelings of hatred, you think of them positively and send your metta to them as well.
- In the final stage, first of all you think of all four people together — yourself, the friend, the neutral person, and the enemy. Then extend your feelings further — to everyone around you, to everyone in your neighbourhood; in your town, your country, and so on throughout the world. Have a sense of waves of loving-kindness spreading from your heart to everyone, to all beings everywhere. Then gradually relax out of meditation, and bring the practice to an end."
- - The Buddhist Centre Online (The Triratna Social Network)
The Fat Soul
In a world filled with rigidity in the forms of religious fundamentalism, racism, injustice, planetary destruction, xenophobia, and panphobia—yes, the Fear of Everything—there is an alternative: the way of FAT SOUL.
We believe that instead of shrinking back in despair or approaching the world with raised hackles, we need to widen out in love, compassion, inclusivity, and full-bodied joy. This unseemly business of widening out when everyone else is shrinking back may seem wildly counter-cultural, but it just might relieve some of the angst of these troubled times.
And it could even—yes, if we get fat enough—change the world.
What is a Fat Soul? Just what it sounds like. Fat Souls are wide souls, expansive souls—souls too big to fit into the slim-cut “Us” and “Them” categories. Fat Soul is a philosophy of life, a kind of wide-angle lens through which to see life, community, and the Big Wide World.
Our goal is to draw the circle of compassion wider.
-- from the Fat Soul International Manifesto
Loving-kindness as Willingness not Willfulness
Willingness implies a surrendering of one’s self-separateness, an entering into, an immersion in the deepest processes of life itself. It is a realization that one already is a part of some ultimate cosmic process and it is a commitment to participation in that process. In contrast, willfulness is the setting of oneself apart from the fundamental essence of life in an attempt to master, direct, control, or otherwise manipulate existence. More simply, willingness is saying yes to the mystery of being alive in each moment. Willfulness is saying no, or perhaps more commonly, ‘yes, but…’
But willingness and willfulness do not apply to specific things or situations. They reflect instead the underlying attitude one has toward the wonder of life itself. Willingness notices this wonder and bows in some kind of reverence to it. Willfulness forgets it, ignores it, or at its worse, actively tries to destroy it. Thus willingness can sometimes seem very active and assertive, even aggressive. And willfulness can appear in the guise of passivity. Political revolution is a good example
— Gerald May, author of Will and Spirit
The Deepest Process: Eros and Empathy
Gerald May describes a willing attitude toward life as immersion in the "deepest process of life itself. What is it? Process theologians describe it as God, understood as Eros and Empathy.
The deepest process is the Eros in that it is an indwelling yet ever-adaptive lure, within each and every actual entity in the universe, to realize its full potential in the moment at hand. It is the lure toward harmonious intensity, toward satisfaction, toward the fullness of life. This Eros is in quantum events within the depths of an atom, living cells within the depths of organisms, and within organisms themselves as their innermost will to live and live well.
The deepest process is also the Empathy of the universe in that, thinks Whitehead, it has a life of its own that shares in the joys and sufferings of all living beings, like a Buddhist Bodhisattva. It is a Great Compassion which embraces the whole of the universe: a sky-like Womb filled with empathy. Whitehead called it the consequent nature of God.
A willing approach to life wants to live from this Empathy, embracing as much as it can, and thereby becoming, in the words of Patricia Adams Farmer, a Fat Soul or a Soul with Size. Make no mistake: this soul is not a substance with edges or boundaries; it is a wideness and an open space. As we learn to love our enemies we are seeking to dwell in the wideness, allowing our own minds to be renewed by its love. Another name for this is prayer.
-- Jay McDaniel