Tonight’s advice from the heart:
See all living beings as your father or mother, and love them as if you were their child.
This is a a foundational premise in Buddhism that I have not found directly present in any other system. Granted, there is the Judeo-Christian, “Love one another as if yourself” and I believe the tenet of “Love for all beings” is present in one form or another in almost all world religious systems, but the specificity in this piece of advice has always seemed deeper and more meaningful to me.
Perhaps this is because family is the one thing I’ve never really had in “the traditional sense”, but also because I find the concept of loving others as if they were your parents somehow transcends the concept as presented in other systems.
My apologies, this is not supposed to be a “better than” conversation. (wry grin) My intent in the above was simply to say that I think the notion of relating the love we’re supposed to hold for others to one’s parents is a very insightful piece of advice.
Regardless our upbringing, most of us have a true and abiding love for our parents. Whether or not that love was effectively or adequately returned, returned in the ways we’d prefer or wish, etc. becomes more than a little irrelevant when the focus is placed instead upon the type of love we should hold for them; a love independent of how much or well it is reciprocated. The unconditional love, agapos, that loves because it can, because it should.
This piece of advice within the Buddhist tradition is usually part of a series of practices designed to help us discover or re-discover and reconnect with that feeling and fullness of pure, unadultered love that we felt as children for those who brought us into the world. Later, to turn that feeling of love to friends and relations and, still later, to direct it toward those we dislike or do not understand and, finally, to give it equally to those who cause us pain, anger, and hatred.
It is something I struggle with in relation to my real parents to this day, even as I fully recognize that their being as they were was significant part of my being as I am and this is not a bad thing at all. I still struggle with it as well in relation to those who I’ve allowed to hurt and mistreat me. All the same, they are all the same in this practice and, as regular part of my practice, I spend time thinking about the good qualities I know each of them hold and slowly getting my head and heart into the habit of extending care toward them.
This said, I find definite progress over the last years with this piece of advice. People I once could not even think of without spasming with anger, hurt, or extreme dislike now have a degree of acceptance and understanding I do not think I could have managed without this particular practice. And I begin to see how developing and carefully cultivating this feeling of love as if mother or father is shaping this change.
Combined with the thought that we all want to be happy, feel content, worthy, loveable, and cared for, there are many aspects of hurtfulness and anger here that are being softened. If not directly by this practice, then indirectly by the realization that there are very few human interpersonal acts that, when negative, are based in more than the attempt to avoid pain or find happiness.
Taken from this perspective, removing the “me” who feels the hurt of them or the anger of them, it becomes easier to accept and work toward the understanding that brings easement of my own hurts and angers. I think ultimately, this piece of advice is intended not so much to convince myself that “I was wrong” or “They were wrong” or even “We were wrong” so much as to help me understand that humans do what they do to try and ease their own pain – me as much as they, they as much as me – and, in the final analysis, being loving toward others is the best and only way to end the choices and interactions that create new angers, hurts, and hatreds.
I know that, as a direct result of this practice, there are many things that happen which once would have created fairly intense and negative reaction that no longer do so. (Not to say that I no longer have this reaction. That would be a lie. But the number of them is definitely on the decrease. This seems a positive thing.)
I think that the core meaning and purpose of this piece of advice from the heart is simply to help one begin the process by which inner affliction is transformed and neutralized while creating the mental and emotional ability to stop creating new impediments in need of neutralization.