Sangharakshita (c) Alokavira_Timm Sonnenschein

On the power mode and the love mode

Love which is the positive form of the First Precept is no mere flabby sentiment but the vigorous expression of an imaginative identification with other living beings. ‘Love’ is in fact far too week a word for the positive counterpart of non-killing or non-violence. Just as killing represents the absolute negation of another person’s being, ‘Love’ represents its absolute affirmation. As such it is not erotic love, or parental love, or even friendly love. If it is love at all, it is a cherishing, protecting, maturing love which has the same kind of effect on the spiritual being of others as the light and heat of the sun have on their physical being.

Such ‘Love’ is, of course, quite rare. Violence is much more common, even though it only exceptionally takes the form of actual killing. Putting things in another way, it may be said that human beings operate much more frequently in accordance with the power mode than in accordance with the love mode. To operate in accordance with the power mode means, therefore, to relate to other living beings in terms of violence, or in such a way as to  negate rather than affirm their being. To operate in accordance with the love mode is the opposite of this.

The Ten Pillars of Buddhism

On the importance of expressing our love

We often consider we love other people. At least, we consider we love some other people. But if we examine ourselves, we find we never really express our love: we take it for granted that it is understood.

A familiar example is that of the couple who have been married for twenty or thirty years, and the husband never bothers to bring the wife so much as a bunch of flowers or a box of chocolates. If someone was to ask him, ‘Don’t you love your wife? You never take her so much as a bunch of flowers or a box of chocolates,’ the average husband would reply, ‘What’s the need? Of course I love her, but she should know that after all these years!’

This is very bad psychology. People should not have to take it for granted, or just imagine, that we do have feelings towards them. It should be quite obvious from our words and actions. Indeed, we should actually take steps to keep alive the spirit of love and friendship. That is why in all social life, and in Buddhist social life especially, such things as the exchanging of gifts, and the extending of invitations, are very much emphasized. It is not enough to sit in your own room, or even your own cell, radiating thoughts of love. Good and wonderful though that may be, it must come down to some concrete expression.

A Guide to the Buddhist Path

On fidelity

How does one sustain fidelity to one person? There are two enemies of such fidelity: a ‘near enemy’, attachment, and a ‘far enemy’, distraction.

Distraction could be described as something that forces itself on our attention when we do not really want to pay attention to it. We usually say that someone who yields too easily to the impressions of the moment has a weak character. They have very little continuity of purpose and, being so easily distracted, they don’t have much individuality either. Such a person cannot practice fidelity.

The near enemy of fidelity is attachment. It is called the near enemy because fidelity and attachment look very much alike, at least to the superficial observer. But where there is a neurotic degree of attachment to another person, there can be no fidelity, because there is no real self-awareness in that attachment, and therefore no real individuality.

All Bodhisattvas are embodiments of perfect fidelity. They are faithful to all beings, and their fidelity is without limit in time and space. They are, we may say, individuals in the fullest and highest sense.

Hence, if we want to be Bodhisattvas, if we want to be individuals, we should practise fidelity. We should be faithful to ourselves, to our word, to our promise. We should be faithful to our ideals, to our experience, to our work, to the path of human development. We should be faithful to other people: not just to our lovers, but to our friends, fellow workers, and teachers. And ultimately we should be faithful to the Three Jewels. Without fidelity there is no continuity, without continuity there is no development, and without development there is no spiritual life. Fidelity is a human need because development is a human need. And fidelity is part of human nature because development is part of human nature.

What is the Sangha?