August 11, 2014

On Yogic Concepts of Affection.


“In true love, you attain freedom.” ~ Thích Nhất Hạnh, True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart

In the Buddhist texts and scripture, a bodhisattva represents one of the many levels of “godhood.”

This seems to represent a being that is not human, not tangible, not of this Earth. To some, anything related to “god,” “godliness” or the Divine necessarily entails something that is untouchable during our relatively material lives. This viewpoint is narrow minded.

The literal translation of the word “Bodhisattva” means “Balanced in Love” or “Mind of Love.”

Bodhi means Love and Sattva has multiple meanings, but I would prefer to use the context of being in balance. This is derived from the yogic philosophical concept of the “gunas”—the three states of mind (the other two being “rajas” and “tamas.”)

Sattvha is the balance—the equilibrium state—it is the holy place of peace and calm where the opposites of dualistic thinking may rest and unify. It is the Middle Way and in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, it is the goal of the yogi. So we establish Sattvha.

What is love?

Love has:

nothing to do with Hollywood romanticism.
nothing to do with finding that one true soulmate—for we have many soulmates.
nothing to do with sex at all.
nothing to do with physical attraction.
nothing to do with dating.
nothing to do with relying on others or depending on them.
nothing to do with money.

Love is a state of mind.

A place of acceptance for all. A place of kindness, goodness and welcoming. It is friendly, compassionate, and caring—without necessarily requiring extroverted or outgoing effort to give care or give affection. Love is just a feeling.

Let us separate love from sex. The two do not mix and to combine them is foolhardy, leading to addiction, dependence, craving and attachment. There’s no need to fall in love, we can just be there already. Consciously. We can exist in a state of love.

The Buddhist ideal is expressing this sort of all-encompassing compassionate love for all beings—living or deceased, small or large, far or near. Like a warm fire burning brightly—love does not discriminate. This is true love.

It may be easy to waver from this state. For the unfocused, the insincere, the flippant—this state may fall victim to attachment or craving, to ill will. Constant vigilance is required to remain “satthvic.” But impossible, it is not.

The Buddhist ideal of a Bodhisattva, one who’s mind is balanced in love, is not something otherworldly.

We can realize it here and now. We can make it our practice. We can dedicate ourselves to live in this way. Starting now, you can choose to become a bodhisattva.

In the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, at Plum Village, they say that “One Buddha is Not Enough.” The message is clear—we can all be Buddhas. The meaning of Buddha can wait for another writing. For now, let’s focus on one step at a time—the bodhisattva. Just by cultivating that mind of love, and making it our mission to balance in that space.

Mettā to you.


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