The benefits of love

The benefits of love

Part of a series of talks on Lama Tsongkhapa’s Three Principal Aspects of the Path given in various locations around the United States from 2002-2007. This talk was given in Boise, Idaho.

  • Developing a loving heart
  • The eight benefits of love
  • The four Brahma viharas

Bodhicitta 06: The benefits of love (download)

Let me just finish with a little bit of discussion about the benefits of love because when we think about the benefits of something we get more jazzed to do it. What I will read comes from Nagarjuna’s book, The Precious Garland, “The Eight Benefits of Love.” Actually there are more benefits, but he talked about eight.

The eight benefits of love

The first is that gods—because you know that there are all sorts of devas and other beings—will be friendly to us. The second is that humans will be friendly to us. And this is true, I mean, if you have love, people are friendly to you. I mean why, when the Dalai Lama walks in the room, do people relax and smile? It’s the power of somebody having love—just the aura he exhibits. So you meet with more friendliness from both human beings and celestial beings, different gods and spirits. Then third is that even non-human beings will protect us. Remember this list is coming from ancient India where they accepted the existence of many different life forms. So if we have love, human beings protect us, and non-human beings also protect us.

Audience: Could you say again what one and two are?

Venerable Thubten Chodron (VTC): One is that the gods will be friendly to us, and two is that the humans will be friendly to us, and three is that we will receive protection from human and non-humans. Again, it’s very clear.

Number four is that you will have mental peace and mental happiness. We can see this when the mind is loving and peaceful. When the mind is full of hurt, anger and hatred, the mind is painful. But when the mind is loving, there is a lot of internal peace. Number four is that we will have mental and emotional peace.

The fifth benefit of love is physical peace and happiness—physical well-being. Our body will be more relaxed. You can see that when the mind is full of negative emotions, the body is tense. When the mind is full of love, the body is relaxed. So I think meditating on love can be a very good way to prevent and remedy health problems because it really helps to relax the body/mind together.

The sixth benefit is not being harmed by weapons and poisons. There’s a story from the Buddha’s life that fits here. You may have heard it before. The Buddha had a cousin named Devadatta who was very jealous of him and was always trying to harm the Buddha. In fact, Devadatta even established a breakaway sangha community. He divided the monks and nuns and took his own group and made himself their leader. This was incredible negative karma, but he was just always so vile and jealous of the Buddha and tried to kill him several times. One time, he tried to kill him by sending a mad elephant to chase him. As the mad elephant is charging towards the Buddha, the Buddha is just sitting there being who he was, a loving human being. Then the elephant fell on its knees and bowed to the Buddha. So there is some power of love to transform the situation.

The seventh benefit is that effortlessly you will establish your aims. We can see why we can bring about our spiritual aims, our virtuous aims, when we have a loving mind. First of all, when we act in a loving way, other people are going to help us to have the practical things that we need to bring about our aims. Also, karmicly when we have a loving mind we purify so much karma created by hatred that we cease obstacles. We create so much good karma through having that kind mind, and this karma becomes the principal cause for all of our virtuous activates to go ahead. So you can see that these are not unreasonable claims that are being made. There is reason behind them.

The eighth benefit of love is that you will be reborn in the world of Brahma. Brahma is one of the celestial beings who lives in great delight and great pleasure. They say that for as many sentient beings as you cultivate love towards that many eons you will be born in the realm of Brahma. If, as Mahayana practitioners, we cultivate love towards all sentient beings then it leads not just to rebirth in the realm of Brahma but to non-abiding nirvana—in other words, to full buddhahood. When we think about a spiritual person, isn’t having a kind heart one of the first qualities we think of? If you think about these eight and try to understand them, you will come up with more benefits of meditating on love, okay?

One is that the celestial beings will be friendly. Two is that the human beings will be friendly. Three is that you will be protected by humans and non-humans. Four is that you will have mental peace, and five is that you will have physical peace. Six is that poisons and weapons won’t harm you. And seven is that you will be able to attain your goals. And eight is that you will have a good rebirth in the realm of Brahma or full enlightenment.

It is possible to understand the reasons behind all of these. For example, being born in the realm of Brahma as a result of the good karma you create. Do you remember the four immeasurables that we recite: love, compassion, joy, and equanimity? They are called the four Brahma viharas, the four abodes of Brahma, because by practicing them you get born in the realm of Brahma. We’re not terribly interested in that because we would much rather become fully enlightened Buddhas. So we try to not get enticed by the carrot of a good rebirth. But as you think about them in depth you will see in your own life the advantages of having a loving mind, especially the mental peace and happiness in your relationships and family. This peace and happiness will affect whatever group you belong to or however you choose to spread peace in the country. It all comes through having a kind and loving heart, not by forcing ourselves to love others. We can’t say, “I should love everybody,” but we can see others in beauty and recognize their kindness towards us.

Any other questions about this?

Audience: I have a story for you about the kindnesses of another being. One time I was walking up a canyon in the desert in Arizona, and I saw a snake come up out of the grass. It was a big constrictor and it had a little baby mouse in its mouth. And out of the grass behind it came, apparently, the mother mouse. She came out and she bit that snake on the neck, and mother and baby went running back off into the bushes. There is a story for your meditation.

VTC: Wow! Incredible the kindness of the mother, isn’t it. That’s a great story.

Okay, let’s sit quietly and do a little bit of meditation on this. So again, think about it in relation to your life, try to develop that loving heart. And especially if you are having difficulties with somebody, think of all the things they’ve done to help you in this life and previous lives.

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.