Loving Kindness in Practice

Einar Adalsteinsson – Iceland

There is no loving kindness implicit in reading about it; it is rather an act of communion, a mutual communication. This is why I have to ask for your help, dear reader. You may discard everything I say, but first let the words and ideas trickle through your mind like a still rain, or pass through your consciousness like a gentle breeze in a cornfield. Let the ‘stillness of nature’ reign in the inner realms, unaffected by my words and ideas. Make this a meditation.

Loving kindness is a state of mind, yet nowise permanent, invariable. It is a flowing-fresh, new powerful stream. We can feel this stream inside us when we are in the right mood, glad, pure, and when everything is well. It is therefore more like an absence of inner and outer struggle, rather than something to acquire. It is really always there.

Loving kindness is not only present within everyone but is everywhere. It is what holds the universe together. This is what we need to manifest in practice. But there seems to be a something inour psyche, something personal, which heavily overlies this intimate and natural state of loving kindness.

Most of the time we choke it with our thoughts and emotions, so that it cannot shine through. And maybe we are not quite ready to show it in practical work whenever perchance it comes to the surface in our consciousness. We would rather enjoy it alone by ourselves. So there is a dual task to make the loving kindness dwell not only in our mind but help it light up our neighborhood as well.

The problem is that one cannot become a loving person. Any effort will fail. One can be a loving person, but one cannot have or acquire loving kindness. Furthermore, as a really loving person we cannot own a thing; we must renounce everything, even the loving kindness!

Since there is no way to it directly, we must try some indirect route. Two obstacles face us: Firstly, to go beyond ideas, especially on what loving kindness is or is not. Secondly, to deal with the emotional inclinations which totally obscure its subtle movements. Loving kindness is neither an idea nor an emotion, so the thinking principle of man is plainly ineffective in knowing it, and so is emotion. Loving kindness, no doubt, influences both our thoughts and emotions. Not vice versa. Thoughts and emotions interact between themselves, but do not touch that primal ground which is loving kindness itself. That state reigns forever untouched, unstained by any ignorance of ours.

The only way open is to understand, to see. With understanding another virtue spontaneously awakens, namely, forgiveness. To understand is to forgive. Forgiveness is simply a correction within the psyche. Please note that we are not talking about the logical aspect of understanding, but to ‘see’, to be reconciled. The same holds for forgiveness. Real forgiveness is not anything to do, but something that occurs — when we really understand. First and foremost this has to be an inner understanding that gives rise to inner harmony. Even if intellectual understanding on forgiving or the willing of it be of no avail, we still have to be willful enough, so far as to seek or crave for truth and understanding. We must work at correcting all misunderstanding in our psyche, deliberately, constantly, conscientiously. This is achieved only by self-awareness, and an awareness of how we interact with others. Forgiving includes everything within and without.

Sometimes we seem to be nearer to experiencing that loving kindness than other times. At times we may sometimes feel crushed by fear and hostility within and at other times there is harmony and we feel kindly disposed to each and everyone. It is important that we become aware of these natural changes, and more so in our difficult trying moments that are only fleeting moments of a passing mood. By paying such attention as a witness, rather than as the helpless victim, we gradually gain understanding of the processes of consciousness conducive to inner harmonization. Then we can understand and forgive without effort.

Caring for the moments of inner harmony is, however, more important, for then only can we approach the wholesome understanding, that fundamental insight, to tackle our difficult problems. By all means let us try to cherish and expand these happy moments, and try to weave them into our daily routine. It is not necessary to sit and meditate regularly for this, although I do not dissuade you from doing so, for it is necessary for all of us to be freed now and then from the daily humdrum and enjoy alone an unattached moment.

It is important that we turn within and try to find the inner harmony, peace and tranquility that characterize the state of loving kindness; to make note of the interactions of thoughts and emotions, how one breeds the other and vice versa; to carefully notice moments of new understanding, when fresh sparks of insight light up problems that have been weighing us down, or flash new solutions to them. Such radiant moments are easily recognized by the joyous inner delight that wells from within.

At such moments beware of any grasping or holding on to that state but keep the attention vulnerable to new insights and understanding. We don’t have to fear that any insight will ever be lost as we let go the idea that brought it on. Insight is a state of consciousness, which for most of us comes only now and then, and goes away the moment we switch our attention to the idea or package it manifests in. But it does not necessarily have to be that way. We are here considering how best to spread these moments of insight further and further out over an ever-widening area of our normal consciousness so that our life eventually slides into an unbroken harmony and insight — which is the Great Enlightenment itself. It is this invasion of insight that clears the ground for the loving kindness, the universal love that does not make any differentiation but spreads out evenly over everything.

Understanding and loving kindness always go together and cannot exist without each other. Actually they are one and the same, with two sides or roles. The understanding is a perception, an experience, the passive part. Loving kindness is the active, creative part. It molds both one’s emotions and thoughts, and influences one’s entire being, from the densest material to the subtlest spiritual element. Loving kindness needs no especial attention. It manifests itself in all our views and actions. On its own it corrects all inner and outer imperfections, and harmony suffuses all things. Loving kindness is our nature, creative, healing, fresh and impartial unilaterally, freely forth­coming in every action, thought and expression. There is nothing to do, nothing to take care of.

Only simply to let it be.

[This is a reprint from The Theosophist, October 1998, with special thanks to Janet Kerschner]

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