Empathetic Joy: Using our Mind as a Best Friend (+ great Q&A incl. a deep question about love and attachment).

B. Alan Wallace, 08 Jun 2010

The story Alan narrates at the very start of this episode comes because there was a dog outside the teaching hall, and as we were coming in for the lecture he would try to get in between our legs, or at least just stick his head in. He clearly looked very determined and excited to learn about Mudita, and it was hard to get Alan inside the teaching hall sans-dog. Moving to the actual lecture, Alan explains today’s practice, in which we cultivate empathetic joy towards others both in terms of hedonic pleasure and then of genuine happiness. Alan gives several examples of each, and notes, also with great examples, that we can learn to use the mind just like we learn to drive a vehicle. It can go from our worst enemy to our best friend.

After the fairly silent practice [again, if you want more verbose practices refer to the beginning of the podcast series], we went into very interesting questions. The first ones were by Enrique, based on The Vajra Essence and returning to yesterday’s point on achieving Shamatha through the union of Shamatha and Vipassana. Alan talks about close Vipassana-style insights that can arise through the Shamatha practice of Settling the Mind, and quotes another mysterious (you’ll see why) passage from (possibly) the Vajra Essence.

In the last half of the session, we have a very meaningful question about how to distinguish between true love (or loving kindness) and attachment, and the relationship that grief from loss has to attachment. Alan starts by talking about the delicate and difficult act of throwing out attachment while retaining love, and we learn the origins of the phrase “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.” Who said we only learn Dharma? Alan also covers the examination of a relationship both from the coarse and subtle levels, and the delicate interplay and entanglement of feelings, highlighting the toxicity of attachment even in happy relationships, and proposing a “reality check.”
He also integrates a question from Tsapel, and shows how to cultivate Loving Kindness both from the monastic perspective and within ordinary society. We reflect that if you were “incomplete” and your relationship with “your other half” makes you “complete” then you are bound to suffer, and end on the importance of recognizing the difference between genuine Loving Kindness (or Love) and attachment and not mistake one for the other.

Enjoy these very profound reflections. This quite artistic photo from Malcolm shows our friends and silent (or sometimes not so silent) fellow sentient beings :) I had to include them in the podcast before sending out more sky photos!

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