Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds
Buddhism is not about love. I wish it was—it could be, but it’s not. Love is not the primary focus of Buddhist practice; it’s awakening from delusion. Love is the primary focus of yogis like Baba Ram Das and others in the Bhakti yoga movement, which is why I have been drawn to it over and over again, to Ram Das, Krishna Das, Lama Surya Das, and the other Das progeny of the Maharaj-ji Neem Karoli Baba. They all made love their primary focus because Maharaj-ji’s primary teaching was the essence of love. That’s the experience that every devotee had of Baba, the experience of immense love. Baba taught love. So did Jesus. So did Rumi. So does Thich Nhat Hanh. So does Christopher Titmuss, the British Theravada monk who I have recently discovered. Josh Korda teaches connection and Joanna Macy teaches “the work that reconnects”. There are lots of spiritual teachers who teach love, but not many of them are Buddhists. Pema Chodron, the Dalai Lama and the 17th Karmapa are among the few in the Tibetan tradition. I’m right now reading the Karmapa’s latest book, Interconnected. It’s all about getting connected to the world from the inside out, about loving the world. That’s why over the last couple of years I have been veering away from ‘only Buddhism’ and have incorporated teachings and practices in the Bhakti yoga tradition, because the primary focus of Bhakti is Love.
I just finished watching a video by a team of people who have discovered the ‘secret sauce’ for doing the inner work necessary to recover from addiction and mental illness. It”s The Four Pillars of Inner Work, presented by Susan Pierce Thompson and Molly Larkin of Bright Line Healing.
Here’s the Four Pillars, really quickly:
Awareness (Meditation & mindfulness)
Surrender (I call it Acceptance, being fully engaged in the present moment)
Forgiveness (of self and others; I call this Compassion)
Connection (practicing Love, yes love is a practice)
I would present the Four Pillars this way:
AACC: Awareness, Acceptance, Compassion, Connection
I know that this is the ‘secret sauce’, the sure-fire formula, because I have been studying and practicing in the field of recovery for years. I have come across each of these elements of spiritual practice, and I know they work, but this is the first time I have seen them all in one place, presented as an integrated path. Beats the 12 Steps, the 4 Noble Truths and the Eight-fold Path. By a mile.
Watching this video, I had one of those ‘aha’ moments when everything I had been studying and practicing for the last 10 years finally came together and made sense. All the things I had learned that worked, and all the things that didn’t work, and why. I learned over many years that the one thing that people need most to recover from addiction and mental illness is connection with others. But the element that was missing the most from all the practices I have done is Love.
Much of what is included in the Four Pillars is already found in Buddhist practice, and if you watch the video below, you will hear a lot of Buddhism. Buddhist practice can help prepare the ground for love by removing the obstacles that get in the way of love. But I heard something else that I haven’t heard much of in most Buddhist teachings: the practice of Love itself. It’s an actual practice that you can learn to do, and if you watch the video posted below, they will tell you what the practice of Love is and how to do it.
There are Buddhist practices you can do that sound like they’re about love. Metta Bhavana or ‘loving kindness’ meditation. Tonglen. The Brahma Viharas or Four Immeasurables. All of those are practices that you do by yourself, as meditations. But the one thing that stands out in this video is the simple revelation that love is something you share with another person. Duh. Seems obvious, right? Love is a relationship. You can’t do it alone sitting on a cushion. That’s not practicing love, that’s rehearsing for a future performance of love, maybe, someday, you might do should you ever leave your shrine room, retreat center, cave or monastery in the forest.
Love is something you do with another living person, right in front of you.
See the amazing video here:
I wish I had the one grand it costs to take this course, but as with everything else in the world of western spirituality, I can’t afford it. But eventually this will become a book that I can buy and a video series that I can download for free. That’s how these things usually go in the webby world. Meanwhile, I will watch the video again and practice all the elements as I have understood them so far, as best I can.