Always Well Within

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How Wide Is Your Love?

How wide is your love and compassion?

That’s the topic for today’s reflection.  Most of us love in a partial way.  We easily feel warmth and compassion for those close to us, but have more trouble when it comes to people who we perceive as irritating, unkind, or negative in one way or the other.  In short, people we dislike.

Great spiritual teachers encourage us to love everyone.  To do so, we need to cultivate a sense of impartiality and see everyone as equally deserving of our love and compassion.  Impartiality means “giving up our hatred for enemies and infatuation with friends, and having an even-minded attitude toward all beings, free of attachment to those who are close to us and aversion for those who are distant.”  – from The Words of My Perfect Teacher by Patrul Rinpoche

How wide is your love?

Impartiality is not easy, but it can be gradually accomplished if we make this our aspiration and regular practice.  I was deeply inspired by the following quote from the Dalai Lama, which demonstrates this profound sense of impartiality, and chose it as the basis of our reflection today.

“On a recent trip to Europe, I took the opportunity to visit the site of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.  Even though I had heard and read a great deal about this place, I found myself completely unprepared for the experience.  My initial reaction to the sight of the ovens in which hundreds of thousands of human beings were burned was one of total revulsion.  I was dumbfounded at the sheer calculation and detachment of feeling to which they bore horrifying testimony.  Then, in the museum which forms part of the visitor center, I saw a collection of shoes.  A lot of them were patched or small, having obviously belonged to children and poor people.  This saddened me particularly.  What wrong could they possibly have done, what harm?  I stopped and prayed—moved profoundly both for the victims and for the perpetrators of this iniquity—that such a thing would never happen again.  And, in the knowledge that just as we all have the capacity to act selflessly out of concern for other’s well-being, so do we all have the potential to be murderers and torturers.  I vowed never in any way to contribute to such a calamity.” – from Ethics for a New Milennium by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Please take a moment to reflect on impartiality.  Let’s each consider what steps we might take to push out the boundaries of our love and compassion to include those toward whom we might feel neutral and, gradually, even toward those we dislike.

I would love to hear your thoughts on impartiality.

If you liked this article, please share the link with others.  Thanks very much! Sandra

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35 Comments

  1. Hi Sandra:

    I am new blog reader. I read your blog the other day and today Sundays post really touched my heart and soul.

    Therefore, I decided to write. let me say your writing style is awesome, it felt like you are directly telling me about the impartiality that can come up while loving everyone.

    It is a good idea to love everyone with the same passion. But human nature does not allow it.
    Right now I am double minded on this idea. But once I will think about it reason it in my mind and know the difference between love with impartiality, for everyone. then I can come to a decision. I knew loving everyone is the best.

    I like how you have ended your blog post , very professional and cal of the blogger.

    Keep up the good work and enjoy your Sunday

    My Sunday post “Online Networking And Your Personal Network To Blog Sites”

    Fran Aslam

  2. Sandra,
    As I read the words of the Dalai Lama, and just the thought of the concentration camps – it reminded me as well of the book “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl – and his own personal experience from being a prisoner within these camps. I can’t fully grasp what this must have been like – how terrible it was (as much as I know it to be deeply terrible). And then – the words that we all have the capacity to be good or be bad in this world – wow. Those are words that have landed upon my heart. Not so much in that I think I could become the murderer – on a much more personal level – how many times have I “murdered” someone’s thoughts, actions, etc – by my actions (…actions that don’t reflect love)??

    Sandra, thank you so much for sharing this – and for me dig deeper into what love truly means, and how it can be an even more meaningful part of my life…

    • Lance,

      Thank you for your very heartfelt response. You bring a very deep perspective to the conversation: “…how many times have I “murdered” someone’s thoughts, actions, etc – by my actions” Thank you for thinking so deeply and by so doing showing us yet another way to understand this quote and bring more love into the world. Vicktor Frankl’s book also had a big impact on my when I read it many years ago.

  3. This reminds me of a conversation I had with a deeply spiritual person. She told me that it is the rapist who needs our prayers, as much as the victim. This principle can be applied to all crimes, no matter how horrific — rape, mass genocide, terrorism.

    “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22

    Forgiveness has no limit, and when we know this, we have freed ourselves from pain and anger.

    Kathleen

    • Kathleen,

      This is a wonderful quote from the bible, its message so clear and so profound. Thank you so much for sharing it. I’m touched by how all the great spiritual traditions emphasize the same message of love and forgiveness. How wonderful that all this wisdom is so readily available to us! Such profound love and forgiveness does not necessarily come easily for us, but I believe it’s within our reach if we simply decide on it and practice. This is a beautiful insight, “Forgiveness has no limit, and when we know this, we have freed ourselves from pain and anger.” It is the true way to find freedom!

      • varuni chaudhary

        forgiveness has no limit, and when we know this, we have freed ourselves from pain and anger.”
        Love and forgiveness does not come easily for us, but i believe it’s within our reach if we simply decide on it and practice
        i have found these words very inspiring.
        v

  4. Hi Sandra,

    To cultivate impartiality in myself I meditate on our One-ness. If somebody acts out in an aggressive manner, they are suffering. Since they are connected to me, I must feel their suffering.

    It’s tough to realize this mindset in the heat of the moment but with practice, effort and deep meditation it’s easier to turn off the strong negative reactions and see the truth in every situation.

    Thanks for sharing your insight and the Dali Lama’s words, inspiring 🙂

    Ryan

    • Hi Ryan,

      I like your approach. You are right – it takes repeated practice, but is definitely possible. Thanks so much for your comment.

  5. There was an article in the newspaper today saying that extremism and xenophobia is on the raise here in Europe. I wish the paper would have cited your post instead, Sandra. Of course we should not shut our eye´s to negative trends, but we should promote love at every opportunity. That way we might change the negative trends to positive ones.

    Thank you!

    • Hi Tom, That’s sad, but I agree that we need to be aware of negative trends in society. It gives us more impetus to our own aspiration to love as you suggest your self. Thank you for telling us about this. All the best to you!

  6. To see the effects of a lack of impartiality look at the American political system at the moment. All one sees in partisanship or as your quote says, “aversion for those who are distant.” In this case distant can mean distant politically.

    We have set up barriers to compassion, sharing, and a sense we are all in this together. The belief in a common good is rapidly disappearing. As Tom says in his comment, it is too bad the attitude expressed in your post, Sandra, isn’t the one we read about.

    Have a blessed day and remember we are only here for a short while. Spending it building bonds of love is so much better than building walls of hate and distrust.

    • Hi Bob,

      I agree with you Bob. The way modern life is organized with so much emphasis on autonomy and independence we tend to forget that we are interconnected with others.

      I love your reminder that we are only here for a short while and thus to focus on love instead of hate. This is one of the wonderful lessons that we can garner from impermanence. Thank you so much for your moving comment.

  7. This is wonderful. Sometimes I try asking myself, “Is Hitler someone who, if alive today, would deserve forgiveness and love?” I think as enlightened individuals, we would need to say “Yes, yes, he does.” Sure, the acts he committed were atrocious and morally wrong. But he is human, and in some sense I believe he was following what he thought was right, however misguided it was.

    • Hello Steven,

      I agree that everyone is deserving of our love and forgiveness, although I realize how challenging this can be when the crimes are so horrific. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  8. (Cooking in Mexico ) “This reminds me of a conversation I had with a deeply spiritual person. She told me that it is the rapist who needs our prayers, as much as the victim. This principle can be applied to all crimes, no matter how horrific — rape, mass genocide, terrorism.”

    I do agree that it’s good to pray for everyone, you can pray for them to be guided to a better way for example. But I wonder if you are saying that the rapist should be shown the same level of compassion as the victim? If so then I don’t agree with it. I think rapists, murderers and terrorists need to be treated ”justly” but with a good does of ‘reality’. I don’t believe that means they, are at that time, deserving of floods of love and compassion.

    A better way I think is to look for and offer solutions. If a man is a rapist then he is wrong in his actions and highly unlikely that love and compassion from my side is going to fix the problem – solutions might. Perhaps focussing on research into why/how this happens, getting the person into a program to help them change and/or gainful employment. But when providing these things my thoughts would be that it’s for society, for the community, that I am doing it. Not for the poor rapist who just can’t help himself and is pushed by his sad mind to rape women.

    I must point out that I am not suggesting hate either. It’s better not to hate, but I don’t see any benefit in such a big focus on love when it comes to those who commit crimes against humanity. Forgive, sure, but focus on solutions and action, not on compassion for them. In my experience those who act wrongly will continue to do so, particularly while we offer them the format for it (tolerance, love no matter what, compassion etc) and no better solutions.

    @ Steven – “Does Hitler deserve forgiveness and compassion?” Personally I wouldn’t bother wasting my time on generation of love and compassion. If he were alive today, hopefully he would be jailed to prevent more destruction and then we could focus instead on (as I’ve mentioned) understanding how it happened so as to avoid this in the future and de-programming etc. Then at least he might be of some help to humanity (and himself in the process) while he lived out his last years.

    • Thanks for sharing your perspective, Majeeda. I fully appreciate how you feel that love and compassion may not be appropriate emotions to express to those who have committed such heinous crimes. Let me just say though that I don’t believe that having love and compassion means turning a blind eye to the reality of a situation or suddenly setting all criminals free.

      All the great spiritual teachers from all faiths and traditions have told us to love everyone without discrimination. Perhaps there is something to understand about this that is beyond our conventional beliefs. The basic tenet in Buddhism is interdependence, which means that everything that occurs is due to causes and conditions and results from our past actions. Therefore, no single person or factor is fully to blame for whatever occurs. That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions by any means just that there’s far more to the picture than might meet the eye.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  9. Great topic for a Sunday.

    As for the width of my love, everyone is worthy and deserving of love, and of my love. It doesn’t matter the color of their skin, their religious beliefs, of if they like me. Jesus welcomed everyone to his table and that’s good enough for me.

    Alex

    • Hello Alex,

      So nice to see you here and to hear your perspective. It’s interesting that in the Buddhist tradition that I follow the image that is used for partiality is a banquet given by a great sage where all everyone is invited without distinction. So similar to Jesus welcoming everyone to his table. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment.

  10. Sandra,
    My love is as wide as I allow my heart and arms to open..which is fully…
    I relate through heart connections..not your outer shell, nor what you choose to share, but your inner Being..If there is something I do not understand, I open my heart to it so that I may celebrate it as I do all else..
    Like Lance, I do wonder when in my own “less than” moments, how my words or actions may have ‘killed’ the hopes or dreams of another..touched a spirit in a less than way..so I am mindful of my energy and how I share it..As well, how I share it with my own self..
    Unconditional is the key..with others, and with me..

    • Joy,

      It’s inspiring to hear about your path of unconditional love and heart conditions. We all make mistakes sometimes when we are less kind to others, it’s part of simply being human. Aspiring to greater mindfulness does indeed help keep us on track. Thank you for sharing your joy.

  11. Sandra,
    This is such a moving Sunday reflection.
    As I read the lines by the Dalai Lama…I was so overcome with emotion..i cant help but sob thinking about those little patched shoes. On another level..I did stop and pray for them too..and for all those souls who lose their life, for no fault of their own.
    Love heals all…and it cant be impartial. If we truly want to be love in action, then so should our thoughts…after all..it all starts with a thought a feeling ..
    Thank you for sharing this sweetie!
    So much love,
    Z~

    • You have such a big heart Zeenat! Yes, it all starts with a thought, with our thoughts we make the world. And we can master our thoughts. Thank you for your prayers for all those who have suffered so immensely. Love, S

  12. Hi Sandra. Neutrality is easier to accomplish than forgiveness or love. Love is a tumultuous emotion and influenced by our narrow world view. I like the Dalai Lama for his calm, but honest approach. He feels all emotions, but he tempers his reaction with mindfulness. Jesus has taught me that our emotions are our greatest gift, but he cautioned, “when does passion become frustration, and frustration become anger and violence?” These are all things we’re in control of. Our differences shouldn’t divide us, they should empower us to question, and ultimately evolve.

    • Hi Simon,

      These are potent points. It’s so true that someone like the Dalai Lama is actually showing us how to reveal our deepest humanity, not transcend being human. I noticed to his honesty in noting the revulsion he felt at the death camps, but how he is in control of his emotions instead of being enslaved by them.

      But don’t you think love is only tumultuous when it’s ego-based, limited love – not when it’s unconditional, impartial love? That is the natural expression of the true nature of our mind. You’re absolutely right, neutrality is easier than forgiveness or love, but all the great teachers say to forgive and to love. As Jesus said, “Forgive them, they know not what they do.”

      Thank you, Simon. These are deep.

  13. Hi Sandra

    A couple of things trike me about this reflection…

    When people seem least deserving of love, usually they need it the most. Lovelessness is a vicious circle.

    Love is something that needs to be exercised, like any part of our body, mind or soul. The more we give it, the more we have it. Conversely, we tend to think about love in limited physical terms (scarcity mentality)… the more we give the less we have.

    So I tell myself I should give abundantly, drawing from the infinite reservoir that does exist within, and that becomes more accessible and apparent in my own being the more I call on it.

    • Ali,

      You really hit on a core point – how we need to practice and cultivate love and compassion in order to gradually eradicate our less than desirable habits. I love your image of the infinite reservoir and your confidence to give abundantly, feeding both yourself and others. Very beautifully said.

  14. Hi Sandra,

    I was thinking of how easy it is to take for granted those people who are close to us and yet sometimes we treat acquaintances or strangers better. We accept their faults more easily than the people closest to us. It’s easier to give love and patience to them, than it is sometimes to give it to our own family. I do agree that the people who seem to be the least deserving, are usually the people who you need to be the most patient and loving with. Impartiality is very hard, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth at least trying to be.

    A very thought-provoking article that I enjoyed reading.

    Thanks,
    Karen

    • Hi Karen,

      I agree with you fully. This also came to my mind when I was creating this post. It’s true, we often take those closest to us for granted and are mindlessly rude or uncaring toward them. Whereas we may be touched by a complete strangers circumstances. I don’t think there are any fast rules, but usually when push comes to shove it’s the people we are closest to that we will go the extra mile for. Impartiality isn’t easy and as Ali points out love is like a muscle that needs exercise. First, we need to decide we want and will do the exercise though!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  15. Sandra, I love how you challenge us with this question because it is a powerful one. We tend to sink into complacency with many things, including love, when really love has the power to reach farther and wider than we can imagine.

    After reading the Dalai Lama’s quote, it reminded me of the powerful impact the Holocaust museum in Israel had on me when I visited a while back. The photographs, the names that no longer are but never forgotten, the piles of human bones. These are not exaggerations but rather simple and profound statements on the absence of love. We can do so much better.

    • Hello Belinda,

      Complacency is a challenge, isn’t it? Thank you for telling us about your visit to the Holocaust museum in Israel. This is a beautiful insight: “These are not exaggerations but rather simple and profound statements on the absence of love.”

  16. What a powerful post, Sandra. Wow.
    I really loved the quote by Patrul Rinpoche, and of course the Dalai Lama never ceases to give me pause.

    Similar to Belinda’s experience, I visited what remains of the Dachau deathcamp while I was stationed in Germany. Those moments will never be erased from my memory, truly transformative moments. I don’t think I’ve ever cried in public as much as that day. To see these desperately sad atrocities made me feel small.

    In those moments, though, I feel my heart opened. I now love more fully and openly to help ease the pain from moments such as this. As for impartiality, Rinphche’s quote helped me understand the flip side, to remember that infatuations/attachment can be just as damaging.

    Sorry for my lengthy response, but you really hit upon something poignant for me in this post. I can see others feel similarly. Keep up the great work, Sandra, and congrats for the mentions of you over at Annabel’s site and Tess’ site, too. I second their emotion!
    ~xo

    • Lori,

      Your words touched me deeply bringing tears to my eyes. I’m so fortunate to know people like you. Thank you for sharing your experience at Dachau and the strong effect it had on you which has now touched me so strongly too.

      I’m very tired and its late so I will leave it there for now. But really, I can’t thank you enough for your comment. And thanks for the congrats too.

  17. Dear Sandra, I just love this piece. It is something I am thinking a lot about in my own life, a lot lately. My recent post even looks at this but from a different angle. Regardless, it is something that I realize once it becomes part of who I am and is no longer something I have to think about, I will feel more free than I’ve ever felt in my life. I am already noticing that just from the ways that I am applying in my life now. It is not always easy and it requires a more vast perspective and inner strength and courage and a willingness to be more open, and sometimes uncomfortable. I like that because those things make me grow even more. It’s easy to judge and only love those who love us fully and easily. But I want more than that, so I stretch even when it’s uncomfortable. This is a beautiful and powerful piece Sandra. I am so grateful for it. For you. Robin

    • Hi Robin,

      Isn’t our synchronicity interesting? Lately, we’ve had two times when our posts were similar without prior planning. When I read your post on Attitudes that Have Destroyed Nations, I found it very powerful in a number of different ways. For one, opening our self up to seeing the world differently. But also your conclusion of deciding to practice extending the limits of your love – the topic of this post – further to include those who hurt or judge you is simply incredible. Everything you write here about the process is so inspiring.

      It’s late and I need to sleep so I will stop there. All my love to you.

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