Unconditional Love? Not possible. An Exploration of Freedom and Love. Transcription of Part Three of Four Inter-Active Modules. Q and A.
On Sunday 5 March 2018, I had an interactive hour on screen with participants worldwide.
Organised by Realize Media (www.realizemedia.org), this course consists of a deep exploration of the Goal of Dharma/spiritual practice.
Participants can put a question to me in the hour-long exchange. You will see below a transcription of the questions and my responses. Occasionally, there is a little modification to make the responses clear for readers.
Each of the four modules engage in the integration of and consummation of the teachings into daily life.
Freedom from Clinging
Freedom and Truth
Freedom and Love
Freedom and Emptiness
A core purpose of the course is for each participant to have a ‘lightbulb moment.’
The Goal of all spiritual practice might be much closer than you think.
Link to video of Session 3
Good evening everybody.
We now have the third in the series of the four modules together on the Goal.
In the first session, we addressed clinging and the significant insights of the Buddha including the problematic aspects of clinging. There is the great priority of the freedom of the human being to bring out what is deep, insightful and important for the welfare of one and all. In the last week, we explored the relationship of freedom to truth. It is important to remember here that truth has a close connection with honesty, mindfulness, clarity of intention and concentration, along with the careful use of words.
In those cognitions of heart and mind, we employ the heart and mind to ensure as much as possible that we do not inflame a situation. This is what happens when there is clinging, either around the self, forms, methods, rituals, the field of pleasure and views and opinions.
First, we explored freedom through seeing through clinging. Second week, we explored freedom through knowing its deep relationship with truth. Today, we explore freedom of the heart and its relationship to the heart, especially love.
Amy said there is the opportunity to ask questions either in the written form or you can come on screen. Last week, we had one person, who came on screen and spoke to us of his touching story. You have this opportunity as well. Before beginning, we have five minutes of a meditation together. As a meditation teacher and dharma teacher, I do appreciate the deep significance of meditation.
As usual, do sit tall with a straight spine and with presence. I will sit with eyes closed. With the few minutes that we have together for meditation, we will highlight love. The Buddhist word for love has a three-fold meaning of love, friendship (Sanskrit is maitre/friendship) and loving kindness. The heart has a deep interest in love, friendship and kindness.
Let us close our eyes, if you wish, for a few minutes. Let the being be silent, still and present.
Turn the attention inwardly. Be mindful of any aspects of one’s life at present which has brought out or evoked love, friendship, kindness and to recognise that. We will explore these areas in relationship to liberation and the awakening of the human being.
First, the meditation. Sit in the stillness. Sit in the silence. Engage in a short reflection. What has brought kindness out of our being today or this weekend? What has revealed friendship? What has revealed love? This is the remaining minute or so of the meditation.
I will look to see if there are any questions from you on the side of the screen. I will endeavour to respond to any of your questions if you come on screen to share as well. While I have your good attention, I would like to give a few minutes to speak on the theme of love and freedom. I will quote from time to time the Buddha. I transcribed earlier this week the exchange that we had together last Sunday on freedom and truth. I placed your questions and the responses of this wallah onto the Christopher Titmuss Dharma blog. If you wish to have a read through the transcription from last week, please do so. I will endeavour to transcribe this week as well.
Let’s get to the theme. One of the most powerful, precious and beautiful human resources that we have is to experience love, to share love and offer wonderful acts of kindness. We can develop and cultivate deep friendship. The Buddha made a strong statement, and much-loved statement in the past 2600 years. He said to Ananda about the importance of love. He said that the whole of the spiritual life is lived for love, friendship and kindness. This is a strong statement.
There is so much emphasis on heartfulness of love, compassion, appreciative joy and the deep sense of inner peace of equanimity The Buddha emphasises happiness, joy, generosity, kindness giving, and service and Interconnectedness, He emphasised an expansive sense of things. This is a very heartful tradition but it’s not only a heartful tradition. The Buddha has comfortably used the language of God. He particularly uses the language of God with regard to love. He refers to love as ‘Abiding in God.’ The name for God in Pali and Sanskrit is Brahma, God the Creator is the same God as in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition.
To abide with God is to know a very deep sense of love. This thread of God runs through the teachings of the Buddha. Here is this love. Sometimes, we experience the obstructions love, such as fear, blame, anger, hurt, trauma, disappointment and much more. Our exploration of the human capacity to know and experience love is present when we give love the fullness of Interest, day in and day out.
Once we apply a steady concentration to love, it has to be completely appropriate to the human experience that we notice, that can pick up, on the non-loving times, – on the absence of friendship, on the absence of kindness and the absence of love. We will notice what situations that are the most challenging for us. What are the insights and the understanding which can transform situations so there is a renewal of the divine of the human being? It is called love. For those comfortable with religious language, it means we have a sense that God is close at hand. That exploration also points to a freedom in life.
One person is willing kindly to come on screen. You are very welcome.
It was my daughter’s 6th birthday today and we had eight kids at home. I observed this week there is a lot of love and service, but it does not always come with a sense of immediate well-being. The heart is not always open and giving is not always wonderful. There is a duty and feeling of integrity in meaningful action. But it is not that the heart is always open wide. I wonder if this is an obstruction? Do I have to work with that? Or is it always important to be in service and always giving with the heart?
This is an important point from you. We have a contrasting relationship with regard to others. It is your daughter’s birthday. The kids are around. There is probably chaos. Love does not necessarily have a strong heartfelt feeling in it. Love is not dependent on it. Love can manifest as a sense sometimes of duty, as you said. The mother or father wakes up in the middle of the night. The baby or little one wakes up screaming his or her head off. One does not wake up with a great deal of enthusiasm. “I have an opportunity to show my heartfulness for the little one. Love is not reliant on feelings. It does not have a dependency on feelings. Where there is a sense of duty and integrity with commitment and service, there is the expression of love, friendship and kindness.
A person can be an academic or an intellectual. Others may that he or she is not in touch with their heart. Keeping in touch with feelings is not a priority of the Dharma teachings. Sometimes the dedication to intellectual exploration…. (can show love). I can hear the little one.
Go on talking, Christopher.
Love can show as action, as the cognition of a situation, as theory, in the world of science, as well as in heartfulness. The Buddha said to send love, friendship and kindness in all the directions like a conch shell. If you have been to India, you will have heard the conch shell which goes in all directions full stop. Love can go in all the directions. It may go through the mind. It may go through the heart. It may go through speech. There are many avenues for love. We do not necessarily have to feel love to show love. That is the important thing. The little one is fine?
Yes. So is his father. Thank you, Christopher.
Dear Christopher, Can you elaborate on practical moments watching the moments when love is absent. What watching become a condition for love.
The teachings of love confirm what is divine and the preciousness of love. There are unproblematic experiences with no feeling, at the time, of love. The Buddha gives equanimity as having an equal significance to love in his teachings. I may not feel very loving, nor connected. I do not feel connected with work, friends, relationships and places. There is no pressure to have to be loving, Can I abide with equanimity, which is divine and therefore close to God – as a religious language. There are times when the inner life is neither a mind with no love, no kindness, no friendship and no equanimity.
This is a reactive state which is taking place, due to problematic going on. We wish to give attention to the problematic. There is an inflammation of the mind. That requires reflection. What is it that I didn’t see which led up to being worried, agitated, negative, bored or whatever. What is it that I didn’t see? What needs to change? I do not have to engage in loving kindness meditations. I may abide in the steadiness called equanimity. I trust in the steadiness of the being – without feeling especially loving or friendly. Out of that steadiness, a friendship and kindness will emerge. Love will be renewed. A sweet thought. A gentleness in the voice. A commitment to the other. A sharing of what we understand. That will come out of that equanimity. We do not have to put pressure on ourselves to be loving, kind or friendly all the time. As human beings we might need to be equanimous and not be loving. A question here.
Dear Christopher. I notice your scepticism to self-compassion .
Right on. This is an English understatement I would say.
I understand your reasons for this. I regularly observe and acknowledge my feelings to reduce my suffering, which sometimes takes the form of self-pity. The practice of self-compassion brings me back into a state, so I can act to reduce further suffering. I clearly see positive effects of self compassion.
I’m not going to challenge obviously the experience of the questioner. (telephone rings. Please ring later. I’m on the video. Thank you. See you later. Puts down phone). That was my daughter. She is in the car with the kids. We come back to your good question. I tend to be wary of the use of ‘self.’ I have a caution is through experience and the voice of the master, the Buddha. There are times when we explore our ‘selves.’ We apply a variety of meditations, such as heart meditations. I agree there is something generally wise, skilful and healthy about it.
Out of ‘self-compassion’ may come some kindness and compassion, which is shared with others. In the everyday world, this is all well and good. This approach of self-compassion and then compassion for other is not liberation. This is not a liberation teaching. There is still a duality or separation. There is self-compassion, self-help, self-improvement, self- enquiry and kindness to oneself. Out of that, a sweet thought arises kindness for the other. If there is any exaggeration of the self, such as self-compassion, self-improvement or self-help, it will be at the expense or the neglect of the other.
Can we engage in the exploration of life in which it is not about the self? We are not taking the ‘self’ as some ‘thing.’ The self is not me and the other or the other and then after me. Dharma offer a liberation teaching.
Love, friendship, kindness and compassion, as a liberation teaching, has no relevance of the ‘self.’ The goal is the realisation there is no fusion of self with the goal. That is the teaching. My small invitation to you is to keep trust with liberation, with the goal of the teaching. Thank you. A few people regularly ask me and email me on retreats about self-compassion. They pick up on the scepticism, as I just reflected. It is not a statement not to use self-compassion at all. I wish to express the limits of it. There is much more to be realised then what is found in that finite construct called self-compassion.
You mentioned that love and feeling are often meant to be the same, but they are not. I see that clearly. I wonder if the Buddha said what love is.
(Telephone rings again. Oh no. I’m on the phone. I’m on the video call. Please give me a ring later. Thanks a lot, or I will ring you later. Thanks for the call. Bye now). That man, who just telephoned, spent 27 years as a guest of Her Majesty’s Government. He got life imprisonment. He is a gay man, who killed his partner. A tragic story. We have been friends for 30 years ago when I had meetings in the early 1980s with men sentenced to life imprisonment. He and I keep the connection. Love is connection. Love is meeting with people.
To come back to the good question. The Buddha does not actually state what love is. He does not give love a specific definition. He implies and refers to the acts, based on the foundation of empathy with others, then love, friendship, kindness and compassion will come. The underlying thread running through love is this sense of empathy. An example. I do not wish others to violate myself, or harm myself, or kill myself. I have a recognition of that which means that I need to respect others in the way that I wish to be treated. This is empathy.
The statement points to an expansion of that empathy with no limits to it – no matter what the nation state demands, nor organisations or how often we might be told that we are foolish or naive. We set no limits to love. Love goes in all directions. Above, below, behind and in front. We explore love. This expansion of the being of kindness, of empathy, of love, brings us closer to freedom and reality. I will on it if questions come up about this.
We sometimes hear the language of ‘unconditional love.’ This language is not my cup of tea in terms of language. The term, unconditional love, gets used in certain spiritual, psychological and religious circles. These teachings do not make such a claim. There are two primary reasons. The first reason is that unconditional love falls into the world of idealism. An idealism expects a human being to abide in unconditional love. This means that nothing whatsoever can affect such love. It is unconditional. There is no condition either from within or without than can affect such love.
Like some of you, I have moved in the circles of religion, meditation, spirituality and the best of secular life in terms of human service, and great acts of kindness in charity, of work and what people offer to each other. I have not yet met a single human being, who lives in a state of unconditional love. I do not know anybody. I do not know anybody in this world who can live that way. The second aspect show the conditional factors of love. Love requires a sentient being with consciousness, a mind, a body and presence. Other sentient creatures as well can express kindness and love. Their kindness can express to other creatures as well. We’ve seen a few clips on Facebook. Love, kindness and friendship requires grounding and presence of the heart and mind – as a condition for love.
We expand kindness and friendship go in all the directions, with no wish to set any limits to it. The Buddha pointed out that love becomes limitless, boundless with no restrictions. The boundless, the limitless without restrictions are extraordinary close to freedom, and also close to authentic reality. Human beings have this remarkable potential to expand the heart and mind in all the directions with a great sense of freedom.
This freedom of expansion is intimately close to the reality which also has no limits no borders and no boundaries. Love, Friendship and kindness is intimately close with freedom which is intimately close with the authentic reality which is boundless, limitless immeasurable. We live on the edge of the infinite. It is remarkable how clear the sense of the immeasurable can come to us.
Let us come to the specific for a moment. In your meditations, you may have engaged in metta meditation, loving kindness meditations. You have felt the benefit. You will have felt the warmth of the heart. You will have felt a certain recognition that others matter as much as oneself. You will experience an appreciation of the other sentient kingdoms including the birds and animals, in the air, in the water, under the ground and on the ground.
Your expansion of love can affect what you do – your actions, diet, politics, animal rights, the agribusiness, the protection of the rainforest and much, much more. Freedom is in all the directions. It is social, personal, family, environmental, global and international.
To explore love and friendship, as a liberation teaching, a teaching of freedom. it is an immense challenge to go in those directions. It is in the small event that we place our trust and confidence. It is in the acts of kindness, generosity and giving and engagement for others, we have the capacity to move on and let go and forgive.
We know that movement of love, of the friendship, and its power. So, we expand to include the infinite the immeasurable. We recognise in the real application it comes down to the small situation. We offer love to another person. To the child. To the animal. To the group of people. To the Sangha. With the organisation or whoever or whatever. Those acts of the infinite are confirmed and revealed through the finite – for the one, or two, and the group. We must keep that in mind. We must be extremely clear about it or we will live in the romanticised view “oh I feel so kind to everybody.”
We find we cannot handle the next difficult person who comes into our life. We haven’t got the samadhi, the concentration, the presence or the clarity to attend to that one person. The one is the confirmation of the infinite. Truth is revealed through her, him, as well as the vast experience of opening up. Don’t forget.
We talk about these matters as individuals but how do we translate what we say here into a vision of society? Is that to be treated with caution as a path to ideology?
There are some interesting dialogues going on in the Buddha-Dharma world. There are networks and groups of people, who are committed to the Sangha, to meditation, to practising and the teachings. These groups really make a precious contribution. Some of us organise, practice and teach. We find inspiration by what we see in this world and the concern that comes. We find inspiration in the voice of the Buddha and his tradition of political engagement. We would rather take the risk of speaking up and express the critical voice of what we disapprove of. We make it clear that certain people in situations need to be held responsible and accountable. We take the risk to sound judgemental and negative. We take the risk to be questioned about our disapproval of whatever that might be about. It is an edge. We can sound idealistic, but I rather speak up and engage rather than hesitate because we are concerned about what other people might think or may miss understand our motivations and intentions. We need to take risks. The world is in a difficult place.
I sometimes have trouble to get my ego to settle down after doing a good thing for others.
Do you have any tips about how to keep feeling good and under control without my ego thinking I am wonderful?
It is a primary edge. Another kind of edge. We engage in some action or service for others. Perhaps, we receive from her, him or them gratitude, acknowledgement, recognition and feedback, which comes to us. It could seem like a return for what we have given I. I’ve given you this and this is what comes back.
It may be a task which we have engaged in which comes to completion. We feel really good about what we started, and we finished. The appreciation for our action and the feeling of completion does not have to have a trace of ego in it. Happiness can be a natural, healthy response to sharing, giving and response and the support of others. The outcome of the outcome of the recognition of the other brings out feeling of good. This is not ego. It is a natural response. Ego is an I-making activity (Sanskrit: aham-kara).
Ego is I am doing something because I will get something out of it for myself. Ego starts to make the priority to going on about “How good I am” and ow much I’m doing for others.” This is ego. Ego is an exaggeration of the importance of oneself.
Ego will place more projection and demand on others. When ego is making more demand on others, then others will be probably making more demand back or they withdraw. It’s not easy to engage in service with those on an ego trip. Give respect to your happiness and enjoyment and appreciation and your gladness for what you did. Be mindful as well.
If the love we have experience is limited or damaged in some way, then are we limited in turn in some way to how we can express love?
No, no. no. It is in spite of …. We’ve been engaged, and somebody has hurt you. You could be very small, a complete innocent act, an adult and innocent. You could have engaged in a painful dynamic which caused pressure. The outcome is pain. You feel hurt, traumatized, wounded and the heart, feelings in the chest in the body, feels really battered by events or the behaviour or withdrawal of another. This easily becomes the reference point for the view of the other. It does not mean to say that this reference point has to be there in the centre of the view.
In spite of the hurt, the wound, pain, anguish and disappointment, can I accommodate this? Can I not make this the reference for my view of the other? You are not saying to yourself this pain has to go away first. You do not have to tell yourself you have to let go of this before you can express love. Can you have the sense that there is another way of looking, which is different and expansive with no denial of what you feel, of the memory or the impact of the events. You are quite clear about it. You are finding a fresh way to respond. It is a great challenge. It is called love. It is called equanimity. It is called that which is divine about a human being. it is worth exploring. Oh, we only have 3 minutes left.
I have a friend who is complaining about everything and everyone. I’ve been hoping that she will change a little bit. I have stayed with her, but I now see her more and more seldom. I am afraid of her. What is the best way of breaking up? I want to be honest. I’m afraid that she will respond with misunderstanding and anger.
It sounds like you know the person here. Complaining… there is so much complaining which is going on. What is this complaining about? What is the anger and negativity? If you withdraw, the complaining will get more. The complaining is around possibly “I want your attention.” The complaints are forms of being nasty, horrible and reactive. negative reactive. This becomes a pattern, which is used to grab the attention of the other. The other can endure this for years. Before you backout, I would explore with this person. Is she willing to start a conversation with you, as an exploration? in which both of you have the motivation to talk with each other without a word of complaint. You could write to her. You could ring her up. You could say exactly in your text message. “I am sick to death of your moaning and groaning going on. It is not inspiring and exhausting. Get Me Out of Here. Before I go, could we meet? Could we have a coffee? For a few minutes.
“We come to that location with a single motivation. We will talk, both of us, without a complaint being made for 10 or 15 minutes if possible. If one of us does complain, let us point it out and we get back on track with a non-complaining relationship.”
When she is ready for that you meet. If she is not ready because of the intensity of the complaining, then say “, I don’t want to have this contact with you at present, then when you are willing to make a change of heart, then I am ready to meet with you. A clear email, or message to her from you. She knows the relationship has to shift to a new level. The old has gone on long enough. Stay with it. Be patient. Be kind. She might respond with kindness and friendship.
It is 18:01 here in Totnes, Devon. We have had a huge amount of snow. I took a lot of photographs. I could not get out of the front door I’ve not seen too much snow. It is the first time on 35 years of living in this house that the snow has been this thick. My friend told me that his grandmother told him that she is 90 and that she had never seen so much snow here in Totnes since she was 8 years of age. I think we call it climate change.
We talked about love. We’ve talked about metta – love, friendship and kindness. We recognise its various applications. Love expresses in culture, arts, music, stories and much else. This shows how important love is in life. Let us really be dedicated to love, friendship and kindness. Let us recognise when it is quiet in the being. Let this be rather calm and equanimous and steady. Let us recognise even when we feel disconnected. We may have issues to work with such as negativity complaining and reactivity. Let us recognise love includes duty and integrity. I do something I don’t feel like doing it, like good parents who wakes up in the night for the child, but one still does it. That is love. The expansive of expressions of love includes a greater sense of freedom. Freedom confirms expressions of love. Freedom is not doing what I want to do, not doing what I like to do. It is expressing something deep.
Expanding out of love begins to intimate the expansiveness of Reality. Authentic Reality is expansive. The Dharma points again and again to love, kindness, friendship and compassion. We open up the heart to know the expansive reality which has no limits nor measurement to it. That’s the Goal. Let’s make the Goal the centrepiece of daily life.
There are infinite expressions of Reality, which includes playing with little kids, a small act of service and giving support to the lonely, the deprived, the homeless, those in need and the networks of people around and much more. Let us stay steady with all of that.
Authentic Reality, Freedom and Love have an intimacy like wood and trees.
We’ve just passed 8 o’clock. I’m going to sign off with you.
Thank you for your good presence. Next week, we have the fourth of the four sessions. We will explore Liberation, Freedom and the Emptiness of I and my.
Happy time to you all. Much love and appreciation to you all. Our connections with the Dharma and the drama of life make this an extraordinary imperative to behold.