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Dharma talk on LOVE at Lower Hamlet Village, Loubes-Bernac on 16 May 2004 by venerable Zen master and Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn, author of 35 books and Nobel Peace prize nominee in 1967 - delivered in French:

Thich Nhat Hahn

To heal pain and to stop violence , the Buddha's teachings on LOVE is very clear: you have to learn again how to love. The Buddhists talk of love in terms of

  1. Loving kindness
  2. Joy
  3. Compassion
  4. Equanimity

Do we see these elements in our love?

1 Loving kindness - maitre - a bonte aimante

Your love must generate happiness to yourself and to the other person. If it brings suffering to the other person it is not love. To make the other person (which is the object of your love) happy you must have the willingness to make that person happy. The first part of loving kindness is the willingness to make that person or many people happy. We must have the determination to create happiness.

We have the intention to love but we make the other person suffer - you want to make them happy but you don't know how to do it: We have to add another dimension: willingness AND the capacity to make the other person happy. We have to learn how to love, how to love ourselves also - you are also the object of your love. You have to learn to love yourself, to take care of yourself. You have to understand yourself and the other person - that is the foundation.

"Darling, please help me to understand you. Please tell me what you have in your heart, tell me about your deepest aspirations."

Love is a PROCESS - the practice of deep listening, compassionate listening; must have the capacity to listen otherwise you cannot love. You must establish a communication with the other person, so you can really understand them.

"Darling , do I understand you enough? I know you have difficulties, you have pain, deep aspirations, please tell me so I can really love you." Those who love, have practised this kind of conversation. You must have time to love; to look deeply. To love is to look deeply to understand better. You cannot look deeply if you do not have the time. A person is made out of 5 elements: form (body), feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness. We need time to really look deeply - meditation is deep looking at the object on whom you meditate, to love is to meditate: to listen deeply to understand better, to look deeply to understand better. Your eyes help you to look deeply, good ears help you to listen well and to understand better. There must be compassionate listening: understanding is the foundation of love there is no love without understanding.

You must always be open to the object of your love: you must ask the other person: "Please tell me, talk about your suffering, your difficulties, your deepest aspirations so I can really love you and not make mistakes"

To offer happiness to the other person, understanding must be practised, deep listening must be practised. Write a letter to her in the language of love, using loving speech, then the other person will open her heart to you. But you must first look at yourself: your aspirations, you must first know yourself and love yourself ('and accept yourself'): self love is the foundation of love for others - this is the first step in the process of real love. The first aspect of true love is maitri, the intention and capacity to offer joy and happiness, it starts with friendship - consider the other person as your friend as your beloved friend (fraternite = brotherhood) and then to practice beinveillance = caring

Beinveillance means that you wish the well being of the other person, you want wellbeing for the other person. Loving kindness is a living thing - just like we need food, your love needs food. The deep listening, the understanding is the FOOD that makes our love grow - there is no limit to love. We cannnot measure love it is limitless (love is of an immeasurable mind). The love of the Buddha was called mindless love, of a boundless mind.

We must look deeply and see if our love contains the 4 immeasurable minds. Look at the nature of your love do you see maitri - it is maybe still very small. You must recognise maitri in your love - the seed must grow every day. With deep looking, deep listening, true love will grow every day until it gets immeasurable. Again to listen truly, you must ask the other person to help you so you can understand the other person.

2 Compassion: the intention to remove pain and suffering of the person you love. You have to recognise the suffering in that person, you have to recognise that the person you love suffer. Causes of suffering are ignorance, jealousy, prejudice and attachment. We need to recognise the wound, the suffering in that person, you must help your loved one to transform. The Buddhist term is karuna - the willingness to change the suffering from the person you love. Deep listening can already relieve suffering, compassionate listening can relief suffering. Do you have time to listen to yourself? Look into yourself, do you have too many projects - we are too busy, we must get back to ourselves. Each one of us are full of wounds, which stems from when we were a little child. We abandoned our inner child, the little boy , the little girl. Talk to this inner child to heal your wounds, then you can truly start loving yourself. Your beloved also has the little boy, the little girl in him/herself. What is of more essence? One more degree, one more new car? or to heal the little girl in ourselves, in our beloved: this is the practice of karuna. We alleviate the suffering, also our own suffering. We receive practices to do self healing for example the three touches of the earth.

3 Mudita - la joie

Love has to bring joy every minute, there must be joy. Buddha did teach about methods to generate happiness, Buddha did not just talk about suffering! We need joy, the practice of mindfulness can bring us happiness. Happiness is possible right now; if we notice the blue sky, the green trees the clouds. We can recognise true love; love is only true when it brings joy. Look into your love; does it bring joy or does it push you down in the mud, down into suffering, if so then it is passion , attachment!!

4 Equanimity - upeksha

If there is not equanimity, it is not true love. Equanimity means non-discrimination; the absence of division. The love of God is like this: God loves not only America but also Israel, in God's eyes there is no discrimination , no division. We need to look deeply; to recognise interbeing - happiness is not only individual, it is also with some body. The father cannot be happy if the son is not happy. I love her because she needs my love, she suffers - there is no colour or race or culture or geography or political discrimination. In true love there is no division between the north or the south. A mother loves her children in the spirit of equanimity; she has given birth to all 3, therefore she loves all 3 equally. The practice of being a mother; when you look deeply, everyone suffers, everyone needs your love. A mother can't say I only love this one not the other one. With the eyes of equanimity the Palestinians and the Israeli are the same. If the seeds of this disposition are small, suffering will persist. Discrimination always cause suffering - this is what is happening in our inter personal relationships. We need equanimity . Every one must practice, the wellbeing of your own people depends on the well being of other people - Chirac must practice, Bush must practice.

In the Holy Scriptures it says that love can heal the evil in us - the anger the violence. We must water the seeds of loving kindness, of compassion, of joy, of equanimity, not of violence of discrimination of terror. Often when we read or watch TV or movies we water the wrong seeds - then we are not on the right path. What we listen to, what we talk about, what we watch - this must help us water the good seeds. We need peace education, we need love education. The practice of true love, of deep listening, of deep understanding is the foundation of peace Our politicians are not trained in this path, this path of love, we have to train them in the path of love. The 4 elements of true love cannot exist separately - these 4 elements are interwoven. The one element is nourishing for the other one. To practice meditation is to practice love, because every moment in meditation we understand more. So inside of us is the foundation of love. One must first understand your lover, before you can love your lover - understanding is the foundation of love, understanding is another name for love. To understand, is to love.

The end


THE THREE TOUCHINGS OF THE EARTH - can be practised by couples together, especially at Fullmoon

1 The first touching of the earth:

This is for all your ancestors that have gone before you, for your mother and your father, for your grandparents: all their expectations, experiences and wisdom have been transmitted from so many generations of ancestors. I carry in me the life, the blood, the experience, wisdom, happiness and sorrow of all generations. I know that parents always love and support their children and grandchildren, although they are not always able to express that love skilfully because of difficulties they themselves encountered. I bow to all that was good and uplifting in my ancestors, honoring their strife and dreams. I see that my ancestors tried to build a way of life based on gratitude, joy, confidence, respect and loving-kindness. I bow deeply and allow their wisdom to flow through me and I ask my ancestors for their support, protection and strength.

This touching is also for all spiritual helpers and spiritual ancestors that have assisted me through my life. I see the Christ or the Buddha or the partriarchs and matriarchs and saints as my teachers, and also all my spiritual ancestors. I open my heart and my body to receive the energy of understanding, loving-kindness and protection from the Awakened Ones, their teachings, and the community of practice over many generations.

2 The second touching of the earth:

This is to honour the whole community we call earth, the human beings, the water, the seas, the sky, the forests, the vegetation, the mountains and the animals and all minerals. We see that we are all inter connected and should strive to preserve and protect the earth. We think of a small child in Africa with arms like sticks because of poverty, we think of the cheetah who devours a small buck to feed himself and we see the violence and injustice. With understanding and compassion we undertake to make any situation we encounter better and to be thankful and full of gratitude for the wonderful opportunity to inhabit this earth

3 The third touching of the earth:

This touching is for life and death, to see our life as a wave in the ocean where there is no beginning and there is no end - everything continues perfectly according to Divine plan. I am not limited by this body, I am present in the past and the future, I am part of the stream of life that flows through my ancestors a thousand years back and that will flow into thousands of years in the future, my spirit is part of all life that has been and that will be in the future, there is no end and there is no beginning only a continuum.