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Occasionally, we must remind ourselves that life is not just healthcare, Pharma, drugs and doctors; it is much more and beyond all this.
Today’s Blog** is based on the teachings of the legendary Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh. Mr. Hanh was born in 1926 and has authored many books, one of which is titled ‘How to Love’. His books have been translated into many languages. His insights are immensely wise, and his teachings cover various aspects of human nature and life.
Hanh teaches that “understanding is love’s other name”. This ‘understanding’ is different from how we popularly use the term. He says that to love another means to fully understand his or her ‘suffering’, which in Buddhism refers to any source of ‘profound dissatisfaction’. He illustrates this with an apt metaphor:
“If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform”.
The question is that how we can grow our own hearts, which begins with a commitment to understand and bear witness to our own suffering.
“When we feed and support our own happiness, we are nourishing our ability to love. That’s why to love means to learn the art of nourishing our happiness. Understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift you can give another person. Understanding is love’s other name. If you don’t understand, you can’t love”.
Real, truthful love, he argues, is rooted in four elements — loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity — fostering which lends love “the element of holiness.” The first of them addresses this dialogic relationship between our own suffering and our capacity to fully understand our loved ones:
“The essence of loving kindness is being able to offer happiness. You can be the sunshine for another person. You can’t offer happiness until you have it for yourself. So build a home inside by accepting yourself and learning to love and heal yourself. Learn how to practice mindfulness in such a way that you can create moments of happiness and joy for your own nourishment. Then you have something to offer the other person.
If you have enough understanding and love, then every moment — whether it’s spent making breakfast, driving the car, watering the garden, or doing anything else in your day — can be a moment of joy”.
This interrelatedness of self and other is manifested in the fourth element as well, equanimity, which also signifies “inclusiveness” and “nondiscrimination”:
“In a deep relationship, there’s no longer a boundary between you and the other person. You are her and she is you. Your suffering is her suffering. Your understanding of your own suffering helps your loved one to suffer less. Suffering and happiness are no longer individual matters. What happens to your loved one happens to you. What happens to you happens to your loved one”.
Supplementing the four core elements are also the subsidiary elements of trust and respect, the currency of love’s deep mutuality.
“When you love someone, you have to have trust and confidence. Love without trust is not yet love. Of course, first you have to have trust, respect, and confidence in yourself. Trust that you have a good and compassionate nature. You are part of the universe; you are made of stars. When you look at your loved one, you see that he is also made of stars and carries eternity inside. Looking in this way, we naturally feel reverence. True love cannot be without trust and respect for oneself and for the other person”.
The essential mechanism for establishing such trust and respect is listening — “To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love. To know how to love someone, we have to understand them. To understand, we need to listen”.
“When you love someone, you should have the capacity to bring relief and help him to suffer less. This is an art. If you don’t understand the roots of his suffering, you can’t help, just as a doctor can’t help heal your illness if she doesn’t know the cause. You need to understand the cause of your loved one’s suffering in order to help bring relief.
The more you understand, the more you love; the more you love, the more you understand. They are two sides of one reality. The mind of love and the mind of understanding are the same”.
I shall end this post with this piece of his wisdom.
“Often, when we say, “I love you” we focus mostly on the idea of the “I” who is doing the loving and less on the quality of the love that’s being offered. This is because we are caught by the idea of self. We think we have a self. But there is no such thing as an individual separate self”.
Disclaimer. Most pictures in these blogs are taken from Google Images which does not show anyone’s copyright claim. However, if any such claim is presented, we shall remove the image with suitable regrets.
**This Blogpost is sourced mainly from Maria Popova’s Brainpickings.