B. Alan Wallace, 25 Sep 2012

As opposed to meditations on suffering and impermanence, loving-kindness offers a gentle remedy for attachment, the near enemy of empathetic joy. The basis is seeing loveable qualities in oneself and others. Where low self-esteem is prevalent, we must start with loving-kindness for ourselves as this practice cannot be done meaningfully by skipping ourselves.
Meditation: loving-kindness. There are two methods for cultivating loving-kindness: 1) meditation and 2) kind and loving actions. Start each meditation with settling body, speech, and mind in the natural state as an act of loving-kindness for yourself. Direct your attention inwards to yourself as someone worthy of finding genuine happiness. If you can, attend to the lumunious nature of awareness. Seeing yourself from this perspective, what is your vision of truly fluorishing, your heart’s desire, your greatest happiness? With each out breath, 1) arouse the aspiration, may I be truly well and happy, 2) light from an orb at your heart chakra fills your body and mind, dispelling all obscurations, and 3) experience that very well-being here and now. Now bring someone close clearly to mind, and repeat the practice with the out breath. Now move on to another person, gradually moving outwards to those who are more distant. Finally, release all appearances and rest in that awareness.
Q1. These practices have been bringing out a lot of memories and emotions I wasn’t even aware of.

Meditation starts at: 5:31

Download (MP3 / 22 MB)



This morning we return to the meditative cultivation of loving kindness and among the four immeasurables you may recall that this is the one that serves as the natural remedy for empathetic joy that goes astray, namely, it falling into just

hedonic fixation, frivolous, a kind of frivolity, just totally focusing on mundane concerns driven by attachment. So this clearly is very relevant to just straightforward practice of shamatha. When we consider that excitation by definition is driven by attachment going all over the place in search of some kind of stimulation. Loving kindness actually is a very gentle antidote for that, just as it’s an antidote for hedonic fixation which is the near enemy or the false facsimile of empathetic joy. That if when we really arouse the sense of loving kindness and bring our wisdom to it, not just, “May I be happy.” but. “May I be truly happy, may I find genuine happiness.” And envision this, then actually it draws the awareness in to the cultivation of the heart and mind, which means away from the hedonic fixation and away from excitation. So, a very gentle approach to focus on impermanence, nature of suffering and so forth. This is kind of like the tough cop. Bad cop, good cop, you know? Good cop: loving kindness. We can either do it the easy way or the hard way, you know? Right? We’re going to subdue that attachment one way or another. The nice way is with loving kindness. The tough way is, “You’re gonna die!” [laughter] And there’s six types of suffering and eight types of suffering and three types of suffering. And I’d like you to dwell long and hard on all three of them before you get back on to that excitation wagon. [snarl sound] [laughter]

That’s all very well, but how do we cultivate loving kindness? And we go back to Buddhaghosa we may recall the immediate catalyst, the trigger, the cooperative condition for the experience of loving kindness is seeing the lovable quality in the person one is attending to. Now if we follow the teachings of the Buddha as recorded in the Pali Canon, follow the Theravada tradition as recorded by Buddhaghosa, we start with ourselves which gives some of us a rather daunting challenge. [laughs] Can you find anything in yourself that’s lovable? For some that may be easy, for which I congratulate you. This is not narcissism. It’s finding something lovable in yourself which is any good basis, finding and attending to the lovable qualities in others which arouses a sense of loving kindness.

But what I’m about to say probably would never need to be said in Tibet, in traditional Tibet. They would just think, "What are you tlaking about? But in our modern society where low self-esteem and all of the synonyms for that are so prevalent, one may look within and say, I’m sorry I’m seeing an aging body, wrinkling, poor digestion - nothing particularly lovable there, it’s just a mass of flesh, bone, tissue. That’s what I hear from the Buddhas, anyway. And I look at my mind, a mountain of mental afflictions, lightly seasoned with virtues. I really don’t see much to work with there! [laughs] And so if you look within and you just don’t see anything to trigger, you know, really see something lovable, not attractive, that’s for attachment but something truly lovable then you might want to consider, "Does anybody love you? Anybody at all? [laughs] Hello? [laughs] You know, does anybody love you as in loving kindness, genuinely care for you, have affection for you, and so forth. So if you can’t imagine your own lovable qualities, then consider that other people love you and that they’re not insane. [laughter] You have to take that one on faith. And consider what do they see lovable in you. You know? Do a boomarang effect. One way or another, either by looking within, or looking without and then looking from their perspective back on you.

There really is no way to meaningfully skip ourselves, beneficially skip ourselves as we seek to cultivate a sense of loving kindness that becomes boundless in which all the barriers are broken down. If the first barrier is for ourselves and we say, “Well never mind me, I’ll just extend loving kindness to you and you and you.” There’s just something like the core isn’t there. Right? So, it has to include ourselves. Which means we maybe need to kind of go deep, kind of go deep because we’re not looking at just mere attractive qualities, you know, or a person achieve this or achieve that. How noteworthy, how laudable, how admirable. That’s not it.

So, let’s return to loving kindness starting from ourselves, extending outwards. We’ll follow the classic approach of the Theravada tradition. Please find a comfortable position.


(6:38) According to Buddhist tradition there are two indeed, two ways of cultivating loving kindness one is doing so meditatively and the other is through action, acting in a loving and kindful way. So let’s begin with the second note, the second approach and that is with the spirit of loving kindness do yourself a service, render an act of kindness by settling your body, speech, and mind in their natural states.

(10:24) And now direct your attention inwards upon yourself as a person, and one who is worthy of finding freedom from suffering, mental and physical, and worthy of finding genuine happiness. According to your ability attend to your essential nature, the pure and luminous nature of your own awareness which becomes veiled by mental afflictions and other obscurations but is by nature pure.

(11:40) According to your ability seek to view yourself from that perspective and from that perspective pose the question. What is your vision of truly flourishing, your heart’s desire what would bring you the greatest happiness and fulfillment?

Then with each out breath arouse this aspiration, this aspiration of loving kindness that you may indeed realize such wellbeing, such happiness, such fulfillment by cultivating its causes. With each out breath arouse the yearning, may I be truly well and happy and imagine light flowing from this incandescent orb of light at your heart with every out breath filling your entire being, body and mind, dispelling all obscurations, all afflictions, all that impedes you from realizing your deepest potential. With each out breath, breathe out this light of loving kindness filling your whole being.

(14:50) And with each out breath imagine experiencing such wellbeing here and now. Move boldly into that realm of possibility. Imagine it to be actual right now.

(17:03) Then bring to mind someone who is very dear to you, and in whom you very easily see lovable qualities, for whom affection arises spontaneously, bring this person clearly to mind attending especially to the lovable qualities within this person.

(18:00) And with each out breath arouse the same aspiration, may you like myself find the happiness you seek, may you realize your heart’s desire and cultivate the causes that lead to such fulfillment. May you like myself be well and happy.

(19:00) With each out breath imagine the light from your heart embracing, suffusing this person. Imagine with each out breath this person realizing here and now the joy and fulfillment that is this person heart’s desire.

(21:00) Then allow the appearance of this person to fade back into the space of your mind and now at your own pace, in your own way, attend to another person who is dear, and another, gradually moving outwards to those who seem a bit more distant from you but with the recognition that each one is equally worthy of finding happiness and freedom from suffering.

(28:43) Then release all appearances and all aspirations and let your awareness rest in its own natural purity and luminosity, knowing itself.

Important comments after Meditation:

One of you wrote a personal note, which I shall certainly keep anonymous simply commenting, with a bit of elaboration, that through this practice a lot of emotions, memories, just mental stuff was arising of which this person was quite unaware coming as something of a surprise. It seemed to be suppressed for a very long time. I’m addressing this to all of us here, including on the podcast because I’m sure that person is not alone. That shamatha tends to do that, right? Any type of intensive meditation will. But this one, the practice of shamatha, all three of the methods we’re doing, they’re so uncluttered; that is they’re not giving us mantras and visualizations and doctrines and philosophies and so forth to think about and keep us busy, it is just the opposite and so in that total lack of busyness, I mean how busy you have to be to watch your in and out breath or let alone to watch the mind and let it go into free flow, oh my goodness. Or bringing the awareness right into awareness and then seeing still memories and so forth arising?

And so sometimes that can be a bit overwhelming, not mention a bit shocking when one sees that one has a much broader repertoire of desires, mental afflictions, emotions and so forth than one perhaps had thought. And it really shows the lie of the notion that when we leave here (mind center) we’re returning to a world that’s somehow more real than where we are right now .

It’s very easy to live an extremely artificial, superficial, phony life just by keeping busy all the time and keeping on focusing on little things. Like, “Oh, the cost of bananas has gone up by five cents, this really concerns me.” And ruminating about that on the way home. And then, “Who left the dirty dishes in the sink? Well I know who, gosh how many times I have to tell …? Ah, well let’s watch the news. [laughter] That’s the most handsome man in the world? I don’t think so, I don’t think so.” That’s the real world, right? I’m sorry, I have to beg to disagree.

But it’s by keeping our minds totally filled with the little things from day to day to day to day, you just grow old and die without growing wiser, without growing more mature, without knowing reality as it is. You’re just getting more wrinkles and poor digestion and then die. I don’t see anything particularly real about that. Right? I’m speaking from personal experience here. [laughter]

So this is pretty real. We’re seeing something of the reality of the mind which so easily gets glossed over not only by the media that keeps on telling us, “Don’t worry, it’s just the brain. We’ll fix it with a drug.” Not only with all the activities, the work, the work, the work and then the entertainment and then going comatose. You know? But just when we’re so actively engaged with the outer world, for the moment what we attend to is reality. It’s not so much that we’re suppressing it, we’re occupied with other things, which other people are occupied [with] and it is almost entirely external.

And here we are, there is not a whole lot happing externally, it is a pretty quiet place. And there we are sitting in our rooms and then we see, “Ho! There’s a lot going on internally.” It might bear witnessing.

So what to do when we do on occasion feel overwhelmed?

Well, first response: be loving, be gentle with yourself, recognize those emotions and all the stuff that’s coming up. They are not you. They are configurations, they are habits or formations of your mind but they are not you. Attend to them but also give yourself a breather, go out for walks, get exercise. Let your awareness become spacious and then keep on coming back to loving kindness, the practice we just did.

Loving kindness is your best friend. Loving kindness for yourself, loving kindness for others, your best friend in solitude, your best friend when you’re with other people, your best friend when you are a child, an adolescent, adult and when you are in your death bed you couldn’t ask for better companion. So, yay loving kindness!

Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Revised by Mark Montgomery

Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Posted by Alma Ayon


Ask questions about this lecture on the Buddhism Stack Exchange or the Students of Alan Wallace Facebook Group. Please include this lecture’s URL when you post.