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Love in Buddhism

Walpola Piyananda Thera

Dharma Vijaya Buddhist Vihara, 1990

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 Editor’s Introduction


Ven. Walpola Piyananda, the author of this book, tells a story of when he was a 12 year old samanera (novice monk). His teacher sent him to the front gate of the temple which raced east. At either side of the entrance was a jasmine bush. The teacher advised young Piyananda to water each plant equally and give them eqal amounts of fertiliser. But, he was to speak kindly and warmly to one plant, and to use language unbecoming of a monk to the other plant. The young novice thought this was quite funny, and took a lot of ribbing from his fellow novices.

Since you already know the topic of this book, you probably know the result of the above experiment. The plant which was praised and comforted grew faster and flowered more luxuriantly.

This experiment had what was probably the teacher’s intended effect on the young monk, piyananda, who has since then spent much of his time practicing and teaching what Buddhism calls "metta", variously translated as loving kindness, love, friendliness, universal friendship, and other like terms. The key idea is that of a feeling of love totally devoid of lust, clinging or desire in any form, one which does not distinguish among the object of its love.

There are countless stories of the Buddha’s love and compassion, and the Buddhist texts, both canonical and post-canonical have been full of discussions of this subject. It has been an integral part of Buddhist practice since earliest times.

In the present work, the subject is taken up in several ways. The first part is an article discussing what are called the "sublime states" in Buddhism, which are love, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity.

The second part begins with the story of Angulimala, a story which I feel is the archetypical embodiment of the power of love and compassion. It is followed by a series of textual examples of different aspects of the Buddha’s sense of love, and this is followed by an instrumental essay on the practice of loving-kindness. The main part of the text ends with a meditation practice technique commonly used in Ven. Piyananda’s teaching. A short afterword discusses the role of loving-kindness meditation within the whole of our path and goal.

There is a certain amount of repetition of materials in the two parts, but this was unavoidable since we wanted to maintain the integrity of each of the individual articles, which were originally written on separate occasions, though all material in this book has been specially edited for this occasion. Numbered notes in the text refer to the back of the text where the references are available for those wishing to examine the original sources further.

It is hoped that this short booklet will serve as a solid introduction to a subject which transcends the religious beliefs of one group, and which addresses our need to have the right attitiude in human relations if we are to live on this planet. At the same time, it is also an instructional text which we hope will serve those who wish to implement the practice of the ending of enmity, anger, and ill-will in all its forms.

Universal love, friendliness, loving-kindness, or however we choose to call it, is a firm ethical basis for human life beyond the confines of any religion, though it is also an integral of Buddhism of all types, and a tool in the religious meditational practices of Buddhism leading to awakening. We hope it may serve you in one or all of these ways.

Stan Levinson
March 1990

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Update: 01-04-2001


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