Our Pristine Mind: A Practical Guide to Unconditional Happiness (2016)
A Good Heart: The Companion to Pristine Mind
16. TRUE LOVE
HAVING TRULY UNDERSTOOD and recognized that everyone—our friends, family, neighbors, fellow human beings, and all living beings—are just like we are, we are now much freer to love them. Love can be defined in many ways. True love is the sincere wish for others to have happiness and the conditions necessary for complete and enduring happiness.
We want others to enjoy life, to have a successful journey through each stage of life, to have meaningful work, and to have wonderful relationships. Love means wanting all good things in this world for all others. It arises even with the most mundane of experiences. Something as small as wanting someone to have a good trip is love. Wanting our friends and family to eat healthfully so that they live a long, full life is love. Wanting someone else to have the good experiences we want for ourselves is love. Wanting others to have a good experience when they are meditating, so that they reach enlightenment quickly, is love.
The way to develop a good heart is to aspire to reach the point where this experience of universal love imbues our every thought, action, and attitude. We try to make this a visceral and active inner experience. We make it the experiential filter through which we see everyone. We already have this attitude within us, but it is obscured by our ordinary mind.
Again, this is not just “the right thing to do.” We can say instead that it is a practical strategy for both day-to-day happiness and spiritual attainment. It is an essential component of the mind-set to attain enlightenment. Without both Pristine Mind and a good heart, the enlightened state is unreachable.
The kind of love we develop with a good heart is unconditional love. Without the understanding that we are all the same, our love is contingent, it depends on circumstances. For example, when we love someone, typically it is because that person is someone like our girlfriend, boyfriend, or spouse. That kind of love may or may not be conditional. If that person becomes estranged from us and is no longer our lover or spouse, and we no longer love them, then it is conditional love.
But the love of a good heart is universal; it is always unconditional. It is not based on a special relationship. If it is the love for a spouse or partner, and if that love does not change when the relationship ends, then it may be true love. It has to do with recognizing that everyone is just like us and wanting everyone, including the person we are no longer with, to have happiness and the causes of happiness. That is true unconditional love.
True love is always inside us as part of our permanent state. It is not dependent on circumstances. It is not even dependent on circumstances like compatibility, trust, and other factors that can change with time, whether suddenly or gradually. It just is. Whether you are involved in an intimate relationship or not, whether you are together or apart, your love—your sincere desire that the other person be happy, and have all the life circumstances needed to be happy—remains.
If we have this kind of perspective, our love is much deeper, and the experience it causes inside us is profound and very uplifting. We are not focused on that inherently ill-fated quest centered on me, me, me. There are an infinite number of ways to make others happy and to help them have the conditions for happiness. We can give someone good advice, help someone find a job, or provide someone with a good ambience for meditation. This is true love. And as a wonderful side effect, when we make others happy, doing so makes us happy as well.
We all have different notions of what romantic love is. Romantic love is a mental event, often a possessive form of attachment. Ordinary romantic love is not open and relaxed, but narrow and tense. Due to its nature as a form of desire, it can easily lead to anger, jealousy, and rejection. Once we have unconditional love based on a good heart, however, then all forms of love, including romantic love, become more positive and enduring, open and generous. Love becomes less ego-centered. It is rich and inspiring. It provides the lift we need to achieve an enlightened mind.
Romantic love is only truly positive when it is based on a good heart, including the wish for everyone to be happy. A selfless and open-minded perspective on romantic love makes loving relationships more workable and enduring. Without it, “love” is just a form of self-centered desire. Wanting someone as if they were property to possess does not make us a good lover. If we have a good heart, then we are a great lover.
Sometimes relationships and connections deteriorate and end badly. This occurs almost always because one or both partners do not have an attitude of true love that takes precedence over whatever petty annoyances their ordinary minds experience. The relationship may be based on some motive that we mistakenly think is love. Often, it is based on physical or emotional attraction alone. Enduring love is not based on this type of love. If love does not have this enduring characteristic, it is always unhealthy and based on cravings for security in the world of ordinary mind. This is why so many relationships end with great disappointment and suffering.
This does not mean that all relationships should necessarily last forever. What it does mean is that regardless of how long the romance or relationship lasts, and even after it ends, this characteristic of unconditional love remains. On a very practical level, this makes it easier to work out our communications with our partner without needless drama and conflict.
The more we have true love, the better and less complicated our relationships are. We have a larger perspective. The relationship does not deteriorate into a fight for dominance between two egos. We deal with everything that comes up from the perspective of true love. That is the basis of a much more enjoyable, fulfilling, and nurturing relationship. Without this element, love is not genuine.
If our love is a wholehearted caring and interest in other people’s happiness and well-being, it is much deeper and makes our relationship more stable. Our relationships then are not just based on fleeting sentiments. There is more sincerity. Because of this, problems do not occur in our relationships very often, and even when difficulties do occur, they are easier to resolve. This deeper understanding of love makes a powerful difference in our connections and interactions.
There are many different misguided interpretations of love. In the extreme examples, people are emotionally, sexually, and physically abused, sometimes even murdered, by those who claim to love them. Terrible crimes happen in the name of “love” every day. Why does romantic love turn bad?
The answer is that such love is not based on the kind of true love we are discussing here. People are unable to experience this selfless attitude as a basis for their love. Romance becomes exclusively egocentric. When the ego does not feel happy and gratified, it becomes enraged at the person it depended on for such good feelings. Of course, other people can never provide the gratification that the ego seeks.
The situation of two people trying to connect with each other can be complicated because their choices and experiences in the relationship are driven by egocentric feelings. Each feels the other person exists only for them and that all aspects of the relationship should be a reflection of their own wants and demands. Their connection is not based on a wish to enjoy the world together. They do not have a wish to really give the other person happiness. It is based on “I want.” When such wishes are frustrated, it is easy for the two people to upset each other. Then the relationship deteriorates and, in extreme cases, it can even become dangerous.
It is necessary for both people in a relationship to have a good heart. Then their relationship will be healthier and more fulfilling. Even if they decide not to stay together, having this perspective is helpful to them both. Love does not mean that loved ones never separate, but it does mean that if they stay together, they stay together very harmoniously. Even if they break up, they do so harmoniously. Therefore, any kind of love, especially romantic love, is best when it is based on a good heart.
A TRULY OPEN MIND
In true love our mind and our heart are open to everyone. We are not prejudiced toward any particular individual, culture, or group. We are truly open to all beings. The most sublime experience comes when we sincerely want all beings to be happy. We wish for all beings equally to have happiness and the conditions for happiness.
This does not necessarily mean that we have no conflict with other beings. It just means that having conflict does not signify that we do not love someone. Conflict is created from a disagreement that arises between two people. Genuine love simply transcends that conflict. No matter how much conflict we have with someone, if we still want happiness and the causes of happiness for them, then our love is still unconditional; it goes beyond circumstances.
We may, for example, find conflict or difficulty with one of our parents or siblings. There may even be many times when we do not want to spend much time with them. Yet, still, we want happiness for them. Even if I do not want to spend time with someone, if I want happiness for them, I still love them. I still want happiness and the causes of happiness for them because I have love. It has nothing to do with the conflict. Love is a permanent state that transcends the ups and downs of the relationship. I do not think, “We disagreed; therefore I do not care about her happiness anymore.” We may strongly disagree on any number of topics, or we may even be fighting, but still I want the other person to be happy.
If we have an open mind, it means we have a flexible, adaptable mind. We do not get worked up over little things. The more we have the perspective of a good heart, the less reactive we are to situations that some might find provocative. That does not mean we do not get upset at times. We may get upset, but we still have understanding and continue to hold best wishes for that other person. Our love is a permanent state that never leaves us. We have an open-minded perspective that makes it easier for us to forgive and forget. We do not hold grudges.
This is the open-minded, enduring, and universal kind of love that we must cultivate if we are to have intimate connections with loved ones, communicate effectively with others, and attain ultimate enlightenment.