Excerpt from How to Expand LOVE Widening the Circle of Loving Relationships
Posted on 5th Aug 2014
It is easy to love someone who is good to us but oftentimes difficult to love someone who has wronged us. Thankfully, there are Teachers in the Path to Enlightenment who will lead us into goodness and enlightenment through altruism. Like the Dalai Lama, he teaches steps on how to expand love from best friend to enemies in his book entitled above (1). He outlined seven steps namely:
Foundational step: Viewing Friend or Foe
First step: Recognizing Friends
Second step: Appreciating Kindness
Third step: Returning Kindness
Fourth step: Learning to Love
Fifth step: The Power of Compassion
Sixth step: Total Commitment
Seventh step: Seeking Altruistic Enlightenment
On the foundational step the Dalai Lama teaches equanimity in meditation. In meditation he guides us to view 3 people - a friend, foe, and a neutral person (who has neither helped nor harmed us) and see that these 3 all wants happiness and not pain and in this premise they are equal. He then says that a present status of a person is temporary and in different lifetimes they could be a friend, a foe, or neutral. With this in mind it becomes senseless to tag a person so strongly as favorable or unfavorable.
So now we know that a friend could have been a foe and a foe a friend, we start to realize the impermanence of our relationships especially in the course of many lifetimes. So now, the Dala Lama teaches us how to meditate and think of someone as having been you mother or close friend in the past. In this way we begin to view everyone as friend, as someone who has done us good deeds. Impermanence teaches us a form of love that is not attaching.
For the second step the Dalai Lama teaches us how to meditate on the love, sacrifices, and difficulties our mother did for us and appreciate that tenderly. Now we could transfer that love to our friends and enemies, meditating that they our mother in our past lives.
For the third and fourth step we do actual exercises of returning the goodness others did to us in the same or similar fashion. He also teaches us to count the benefits of loving versus the harmful effects of hatred. In this way we automatically would favor love of course.
The fifth step goes even further, that is the intent to alleviate suffering of others. This is also called mercy or compassion - wanting others to be in a state better than they are now, in a state full of happiness. A meditative technique taught by the Dalai Lama here is to switch roles with someone who is extremely poor or sick.
The sixth step of total commitment to altruism is like this:
“Even if I have to do it alone, I will free all sentient beings from suffering and the causes of suffering, and join all sentient beings with happiness and its causes.”
The seventh and last step is about striving to reach Buddhahood with the aim of alleviating suffering and bringing about happiness because of brotherly/sisterly compassion or love. This is synonymous to being like the “Buddha” and is the highest form of altruism you can strive for.
There you go, from identifying friends and enemies to embracing all sentient beings as your close friend - the Dala Lama has shown to us the way on how to expand the circle of LOVE.
(1) Dalai Lama. (2005). How to Expand LOVE Widening the Circle of Loving Relationships.New York: Atria Books