Loving-kindness (mental element Lk)
Loving-kindness is a highly-evolved form of the element of non-hatred, which we have already discussed, so there is no element number assigned to it. However, it needs to be further explained to exemplify its divine nature, especially its part in the phenomenon of love.
Cultivating the element of loving-kindness means considering all living creatures as worthy of your love and kindness. Pragmatically speaking, it means becoming friendly, and choosing welfare over harm. The element of loving-kindness actually serves as a reason or root cause for the arising of love consciousness.
The easiest way to arouse love is to develop loving-kindness towards near and dear ones, as wells as towards those who are hateful and unfair. The moment we genuinely consider any person as worthy of our loving-kindness, love arises and cools down our anger and resentment. You can understand this experientially by applying it while having a heated argument with your spouse or partner.
Many people wonder whether it is really possible to develop loving-kindness towards someone who has hurt us deeply or towards those who are hostile. Many people outright reject the idea of making enemies into friends. To such people, I would like to humbly say that because loving-kindness exists in nature as a distinct mental phenomenon, and because its function is to choose welfare over harm, eventually it will remove all animosity, hostility, enmity, ill feelings, and ill will towards all beings if practiced ardently and consistently. It is just like water, which has the natural ability to extinguish fire.
Of course, it is not as easy to develop loving-kindness towards a hostile person as it is to develop it towards our child or a friend. In fact, if we try haphazardly to develop it towards our enemy, it fatigues the mind. Therefore it is necessary to follow a particular order.
Start developing loving-kindness towards yourself first. You are always the dearest person to you, whether you agree or not. Once you develop love for yourself, you will never harm another because you will realize that just as you are dearest to you, others’ selves are dearest to them.
You must learn to love yourself before loving another. This is the foundation of loving-kindness. Loving yourself does not mean becoming self-centered. It simply means not harming yourself in any way.
As we mature in loving-kindness, the sense of self begins to dissolve and the sense of love begins to evolve. It begins to expand and naturally extend to those who are dearest to us and then to those beyond. Eventually love evolves to such an extent that we begin to abide in love consciousness. In this way, loving-kindness gradually purifies all relationships beginning with our children, spouses, parents, siblings, and friends, then people we know favorably, people we don’t know, and at last our enemies, if they exist.
The divine quality of loving-kindness leaves no barriers. We cannot have hatred for an enemy when we are absorbed in loving-kindness. What arises in mind is only the welfare and happiness of all.
While developing loving-kindness towards a hostile person, feelings of hurt and resentment are bound to arise. In fact, such feelings may arise while developing loving-kindness towards even a spouse or parents. How can we ignore these feelings? Can we really get rid of all the hurt and resentment? The answer is yes, and I’m certain you’ll agree after practicing the loving-kindness meditations discussed in later chapters.
Loving-kindness is not fondness or personal affection towards another person, because, those things are contaminated with greed, hatred, and delusion. It is impossible to love and hate someone at the same time. Therefore, loving-kindness is not at all similar to romantic love or other love-hate relationships. Loving-kindness is also not at all similar to fatherly love, motherly love, brotherly love, friendly love, and so on, which are mostly rooted in selfish affection or fondness. In fact, selfish affection, fondness, liking, craving someone, and so on are like masked enemies of loving-kindness because they distract us from cultivating real love. Real love is not about feeling passionate or becoming crazy about somebody, or getting attached and bonding with someone. In order to avoid such failures at loving, we have to combine loving-kindness with equanimity.
Loving-kindness is truly auspicious because it makes our lives free of resentment, anger, hatred, and so on. When we consistently practice and cultivate loving-kindness and establish ourselves in it, we feel blessed. We abide comfortably in this world due to our harmless nature. We become dear to one and all. We win over all enemies. Our expressions become serene. Our presence carries tranquility and calmness wherever we go.
We become holy. We become divine.