Lama Kathy Wesley| Special to The Columbus Dispatch
All the worlds faith traditions agree on one point: Love is the answer.
No matter what the problem is fear, anger, jealousy, sadness love can assuage the hurt and build a bridge from a moment of pain to a moment of healing. And in many traditions, its said the God is love so love can be a bridge to the divine, as well.
In fact, it almost seems perfect until we get to the how part.
How do we find the love? Where do we look? And what do we do when we cant see it?
Twenty-six hundredyears ago several centuries before Jesus of Nazareth was born - a spiritual seeker in India, who had fasted,prayedand meditated for six years on a riverbank, experienced a spiritual illumination that gave him some answers to those questions.
TheBuddhaShakyamuni, as he was known, taught widely in northern India, walking on foot from town to town, gathering disciples and preaching a philosophy of love and non-violence.
His teachings, summarized in the collection known as the Dhammapada, or path of truth, begin with the acknowledgement that our thoughts determine our experience of the world at every turn:
We are what we think,
All that we are arises with our thoughts,
With our thoughts,
We make the world.
He went on to say that if we think, speak and act with a selfish mind feeling superior to others and looking down on others we experience mental suffering and disquiet; and if we think, speak and act with an unselfish mind recognizing the qualities of others, understanding theirfaultsand holding them as dear as a member of our family we experience mental contentment and spiritual peace.
For the Buddha, then, love begins as the acknowledgement that all those who live want to be happy but often dont know how to accomplish that happiness,often practicing harm in a mistaken attempt to gain comfort and security for themselves.
Soin this view, love begins when we recognize that other folks are just like us wanting happiness, but not quite capable of accomplishing it.
In this view, love isnt romance its connection. It is the wish that others have the happiness that we also want for ourselves. Its not either-or; its yes-and.
Finding that love can start with ourselves. We know how it feels to be happy; we know how it feels to be kind and to receive kindness. We also know how it feels to be miserable, and how it feels to be angry and resentful and push away the kindness of others.
And we know, deep inside us, which of these two feelings we prefer.
Many people remember the teachings of the childrens educator and entertainer Fred Rogers, who used to say that love can be born from feelings of gratitude. During his public appearances, Mister Rogers would frequently conclude his remarks by asking audience members to sit in silence for one minute, feeling gratitude for those who have loved us into existence.
Steeping ourselves in this love, in his view, was a way to find our way back to our heart, our truest spiritual home. And finding our way home was the start of sharing that love with others, whose pain he saw as being so evident that it needed immediate care.
Unusual to find Buddhist philosophy coming from a television personality who also happened to be an ordained Presbyterianminister, but not at all unusual when we consider that the attitude of love and kindness connect us to each other in ways that disarm our fear and anger and unhappiness.
The Buddha said it was important to train the mind to spend a little time each day letting our chattering minds subside by quietly observing the breath so we could clear out the confusing torrent of thoughts and feelings and be able to reflect on qualities like love and compassion and basic goodness.
Soif we want to find the love thats within us, we can start by justtakingseven or 10 mindfulbreaths, reflecting on gratitude for what we have, and then by using our imagination to mentally extend that goodness to other people.
Doing this exercise and including everyone in our imaginary circle of love even people we dislike or dont agree with is one way to make peace inside ourselves with those parts of ourselves we dont like and then inadvertently project out onto others.
And if we could perhaps take moments throughout our day to remember and steep in this gratitude and extend this love to others that we meet,how transformed would our world become then?
This moment in history might be the ideal time to try this out. Im in how about you?
Lama Kathy Wesley is a Columbus native and a Buddhistminister at the KarmaThegsumChlingBuddhist Meditation Center in Franklinton.
Keeping the Faith is a column featuring the perspectives of a variety of faith leaders from the Columbus area.
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