How to Expand Love: Widening the Circle of Loving Relationships


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Drawn from the teachings of the world-renowned leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, comes a practical, seven-step guidebook for developing love for others and transforming every relationship in life.

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Jun 9, 2018

The Dalai Lama On Love

"When I speak about love and compassion, I do so not as a Buddhist, or as a Tibetan, nor as the Dalai Lama. I do so as one human being speaking with another". With these words, the Dalai Lama opens his recent guide to expanding one's circle of loving relationships through the practice of love and compassion. This book is simply and eloquently written, and its teachings are wise. The Dalai Lama points out that human beings are essentially alike when superficial differences are pealed away. In addition, all religions are essentially alike to the extent they teach love, kindness, and peace and "a desire to help their fellow beings." (p.4) The Dalai Lama presents a way of understanding these insights and a means of bringing them into focus in one's life through the practice of lovingkindness. Some of the teachings in this book make use of specifically Buddhist beliefs such as the doctrine of rebirth. But the practices and principles of this book can be used with benefit regardless of whether the reader accepts or doesn't accept rebirth or other specifically Buddhist doctrines.

The Dalai Lama sets forth a process of reflective understanding and meditation in first understanding the nature of love and then learning to practice it. It is an inner-directed teaching in that it looks to the self and to self-understanding rather than to externals -- to things beyond one's control such as wealth or power or to success -- as the key to happiness. Thus, the first part of the Dalai Lama's teaching in this book is directed to an understanding of the basic purity of the human mind. Because the mind is pure, it is possible, for the Dalai Lama, to remove defilements such as hatred, lust, and ignorance. The radiant, empty character of the mind also links all human beings together in terms of establishing a commonality and an ability to love and be loved. It teaches that people ought not to be categorized in that beyond the defilements that plague all of us, we are essentially human with the need to be loved and to be free from suffering. This teaching of the pure, radiant mind ("Buddha nature") possessed by all is the most fundamental and difficult teaching in this book.

The Dalai Lama then presents a series of seven steps to increase one's ability to feel love and compassion for an ever-growing class of people and sentient beings. The process is presented in gradually expanding steps, and the reader can follow the path as it develops. Each step is accompanied by teachings and by suggested meditation practices. these seven steps are 1.creating a positive attitude towards others; 2. recognizing the kindnesses each of us has received; 3. reciprocating the kindness of others; 4. learning to love others (including learning the difference between disinterested love and love based upon attachment, such as physical or sensual desire or upon the receipt of benefits from those close to us); 5. practicing compassion, the desire to have others free from suffering; 6 becoming committed to altruism -- to training one's mind to and working for the welfare of others; and 7. realizing enlightenment in terms of being devoted to the welfare of others.

The teachings in this book are in part guides that everyone can use regardless of his or her religious beliefs, and in part a simple exposition of the bodhisattva path of Mahayana Buddhism. The Dalai Lama makes frequent reference to ancient Indian and Tibetan sources, including the Tibetan "Stages on the Path to Enlightenment" (pp 7-8), and the teachings of the great Indian sage, Nagarjuna (pp. 190 -- 197). Each chapter of the book is headed by a short quotation from a Buddhist source that the Dalai Lama amplifies in the teachings that follow.

This book is short and a pleasure to read, but there is no suggestion that the teachings are easy. Work on the mind and on learning to love is a project of years and lives. The Dalai Lama has written an inspiring guide to learning to love.

Robin Friedman

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