by Susan Busby
Nalandabodhi Connecticut was the second stop on Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche’s 2013 North East tour of New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. In Connecticut, Rinpoche taught on the Four Immeasurables: love or loving-kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity.
Love is the first of the Four Immeasurables. Rinpoche stated that religions may disagree about many things but there is no disagreement when we talk about loving-kindness. This is not some diplomatic agreement between religions, but a heartfelt agreement about the importance of this practice of loving kindness. Here, this sense of love is not necessarily restricted to the idea of romantic love, but the meaning conveys a sense of softness, kindness, gentleness or a feeling of goodness, a sense of brotherhood, sisterhood, and harmony. This noble heart of love and kindness gets mixed up, however, with our habitual tendency of attachment, grasping, and clinging. In that moment when we get attached to the object of our love, we lose our love. When we truly and genuinely feel our heart of loving-kindness there is a sense of genuine freedom and great comfort, satisfaction, contentment and joy. When there are many strings attached to this love, that is when we begin to feel a sense of dissatisfaction and discontentment, that nothing is enough, and then we feel a sense of lack of freedom.
The first important step in practicing loving-kindness is to practice it towards oneself, and reflect on our own nature, our own being, and then see what we desire to achieve and what we hope will not happen. We reflect on that with patience because impatience is the obstacle to love and kindness, so we practice reflecting on what we want to achieve and avoid, along with patience. This will help us see how deeply we are habituated to desire and aversion, and how our mind is consciously or unconsciously moving toward things we want and away from things we don’t want.
Rinpoche explained that the Mahayana sense of love is based on the idea of selflessness, and the love that we are trying to connect with is love that shines from our Buddha-nature. This Buddha-nature, which is our real nature of mind, is full of wisdom and compassion in its own state, without effort or without adding anything to it. This Buddha-nature is our true state, and has a sense of gentleness and kindness. Therefore, there is no reason to hate ourselves. It is a controversial idea, but the Buddha’s idea is that our original state is completely pure and good.
The real heart of love is a gentle, soft, and vulnerable spot. This vulnerability makes us afraid to fully identify with our heart and blocks us from maintaining pure selfless, egoless love. We have love but try to shield it with armor and protection. We don’t want people to look at us to see our vulnerability. We do this so much that we do it towards ourselves; we shield ourselves from our own vulnerable spot so we cannot love ourselves any more. We perpetuate this habit based on our conditioning and conditions around us. Thus we are unable to give genuine, egoless love even to ourselves sometimes. Rinpoche suggests that we be brave, and feel it to transform our fear and transform our blockages. When we can feel this love–the egoless, selfless, genuine soft spot, and maintain it, then that is limitless love. We call this love without boundary. When we can experience it, this love is genuinely beautiful. When we can shine this love towards others, then we can bring the beauty of this love into our world.