True Love—a practice for awakening the heart, by Thich Nhat Hanh

The purpose of this post #

These are notes and excerpts I took directly from the short book, True Love, from Thich Nhat Hanh. I am a novice to meditation, and the practice of mindfulness. This book is a wonderful introduction.

I received this book as a gift from a special person in my life. The timing couldn’t have been better. I wanted to share these notes with my dearest friends—my sangha.

TL;DR & Notes #

In order to love, we have to be mindful and present, and communicate that energy to our loved ones. Taking refuge in the sangha is important. The sangha is a practice community in which brothers and sisters in the Dharma practice the cultivation of mindfulness daily: eat, drink, wash dishes, work in gardens, drive—and not just during times of sitting meditation.

The are four aspects of love that we can attain through mindfulness.

There are also four mantras to keep in mind.

Beware also of our alaya, the store-house consciousness, which is the basis of the other seven consciousnesses and contains every kind of seed.

Nirvana is not something we should search for, because we are nirvana, just as the wave is already water.

Additionally, the Buddha left us an absolutely essential text, the Anapanasati Sutta, or Discourse on the Practice of Mindful Breathing that we should check out.

The Four Aspects of Love #

  1. maitri: loving kindness, or benevolence. It is not only the desire to make someone happy; it is the ability to bring joy and happiness to the person you love. Deep looking is needed, “directed toward the person you love. Because if you do not understand this person, you cannot love properly.”
  2. karuna: compassion. This is not only the desire to ease the pain of another person, but the ability to do so. Knowledge and understanding are always at the root of the practice.
  3. mudita: joy. If there is no joy in love, it is not true love.
  4. upeksha: equanimity or freedom. When you love, you bring freedom to the person you love. If the opposite is true, it is not true love.

Love Is Being There #

First of the four mantras: “Dear one, I am here for you.”

You will approach the person you love with this mindfulness, with this concentration, you will look into his or her eyes, and you will begin to utter this formula: “Dear one, I am really here for you.”

Recognizing the Presence of the Other #

To love is to recognize; to be loved is to be recognized by the other.

If you love someone and you continue to ignore his or her presence, this is not true love. Perhaps your intention is not to ignore this person, but the way you act, look, and speak does not manifest the desire to recognize the presence of the other.

Therefore it is important to be mindful and recognize the presence, yours, and your love one’s.

Second of the four mantras: “Dear one, I know that you are here, and it makes me very happy.”

You must do whatever is necessary to be able to do this: recognize the presence of the person you love several times each day.

The Buddha told us this: “The past is no longer here, the future is not here yet; there is only one moment in which life is available and that is the present moment.”

smrti: the energy of mindfulness. Everyone possesses a seed (bija) of this energy. If we practice mindful breathing, we can generate this energy.

Being There When Someone Is Suffering #

Third mantra: “Dear one, I know that you are suffering, that is why I am here for you.”

If we are suffering and the man or woman we love ignores us, then we suffer more.

Really try to be there, for yourself, for life, for the people that you love.

Overcoming Pride #

You are suffering yourself and you think that your suffering has been created by the person you love most in the world

In true love there is no place for pride. If you are suffering, every time you are suffering you must go to the person in question and ask for his or her help.

Fourth mantra: “Dear one, I am suffering, please help.”

This is very simple, but very hard to do.

Deep Listening #

What can you do if love has already caused too much suffering between the two of you?

According to Buddhism, we are dealing with samyojana, the lump of suffering within us that is translated as an “internal formation.”

If united, it will remain there in the depths of consciousness. Everyday we say or do things that might leave behind “internal formations” in the person we love.

When you say something that makes another person suffer, that person develops an “internal formation.”

Buddhism speaks of Avalokiteshvara, the one who has the ability to listen and to understand the suffering of others.

In everyday life, deep listening, is a meditation. If you know the practice of mindful breathing, if you wish to maintain calm and living compassion within you, then deep listening will be possible.

So if we love someone, we should train in being able to listen. With calm and understanding, we can ease the suffering of another person.

Learning to Speak with Love Again #

We must learn to speak with love again. You can practice loving speech everyday. To achieve that, you need to look deeply into the nature of your suffering and your joy.

Meditation is the practice of looking deeply into the nature of your suffering and your joy.

Through the energy of mindfulness, through concentration, looking deeply into the nature of our suffering makes it possible for us to see the deep causes of that suffering.

If you can keep mindfulness and concentration alive, then looking deeply will reveal to you the true nature of your pain.

Freedom will arise as a result of your sustaining a deep vision into the nature of your pain.

Restoring Peace within Yourself #

“Your love for the other, your ability to love another person, depends on your ability to love yourself.”

Each of us is a king who reigns over a very vast territory that has five rivers.

  1. The first river is our body, which we do not know well enough
  2. The second is the river of sensations. To meditate is to sit down on the bank of the river of sensations and identify each sensation as it arises
  3. The third is the river of perceptions, which it is necessary to observe
  4. The fourth is the river of mental formations
  5. The fifth is the river of consciousness

The practice of mindfulness, the practice of meditation, consists of coming back to ourselves in order to restore peace and harmony.

Caring for yourself, reestablishing peace in yourself, is the basic condition for helping someone else.To be able to provide help, we have to have a little calm, a little joy, a little compassion in ourselves.

A short period of time with mindfulness is enough to transform the pain inside you, to bring back your joy in living, to cultivate the energy of compassion with which you can help the person you love.

The Energy of Mindfulness #

Meditating is not trying to run away, trying to ignore the presence of the pain, but on the contrary, it is looking at it face-to-face.

Buddhist meditation is based on the principle of nonduality.

This means that if we are mindfulness, if we are love, we are also ignorance, we are also suffering, and there is no reason to suppress anything at all.

Mindfulness is the energy that makes it possible for us to be aware of what is happening in the present moment.

Caring for Our Pain #

When you have pain within you, the first thing to do is to bring the energy of mindfulness to embrace the pain. “I know that you are there, little anger, my old friend. Breathe—I am taking care of you now.”

The next time you are angry, practice doing walking meditation in a natural setting. You breathe and you concentrate solely on breathing: “Breathing in—I know that I am breathing in; breathing out—I know that I am breathing out.”

With concentration, and deep looking, you will be able to look deeply at the true nature of your anger.

This discovery, this understanding, this wisdom, will liberate you from your pain.

If we practice cultivating this energy of mindfulness every day, we will have enough of it to take care of our pains.

The Principle of Nonduality #

The flower is on its way to becoming refuse, but the refuse is also on its way to becoming a flower.

The same is true of our mental formations, which include flowers like faith hope, understanding, and love; but there is also waste material like fear and pain.

This is the nonduality principle of Buddhism: there is nothing to throw away.

If a person has never suffered, he or she will never be able to know happiness.

Reconciliation #

It is your own understanding, your wisdom, that tells you how to behave, that tells you how to conduct your everyday life.

For example, every time you smoke a cigarette, this is not friendly gesture toward your heart. Every time you drink alcohol. it is lack of consideration toward your heart. Meditating in this way, you will have wisdom, understanding, and compassion.

Use the light of mindfulness. The Buddha proposed to us the practice of scanning directed toward the parts of our body. In the sitting position or the lying position, you should use the energy of mindfulness to scan your entire body, starting with your hair and gradually sweeping your body with the energy of mindfulness.

Coming to Life Again #

When we walk without mindfulness, we sacrifice the present moment to some destination somewhere—we are not alive.

For this reason, we must walk in such a way that life arises out of each step—in the present.

Telephone Meditation #

A simple meditation you can try, every time your phone rings. Let it ring and practice being mindful.

“I am determined to practice deep listening. I am determined to practice loving speech.” Each of these two lines corresponds to an inbreath or an outbreath, and after having breathed in this way twice, you will have more calm.

And then pick up the phone with dignity.

Get Rid of Our Concepts #

Nirvana is the foundation of our being, just as water is considered to be the essence of all waves.

We get caught in the concept of being and nonbeing.

Fear is born from our ignorance, from our concepts regarding life, death, being, and nonbeing.

If we are able to get rid of all these concepts by touching the reality within ourselves, then nonfear will be there and the greatest relief will become possible.

Nirvana is not something we should search for, because we are nirvana, just as the wave is already water.


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