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The Third Mindfulness Training: True Love
Listen to this talk:
The Third Mindfulness Training: True Love (21 min.)
Transcript of a talk delivered by Terry Cortes-Vega
April 24, 2016 - Dallas, Texas

So, I am so happy that you have taken on the study and practice of the Five Mindfulness Trainings. That song that we just sang was so beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes. It sounded so pretty the way we were singing it. That is a practice song that really reflects these Five Mindfulness Trainings, because the Trainings are to bring peace and ease and lovingkindness and joy and happiness and health, well-being to ourselves. That is what these Trainings are for—to bring them to ourselves, and also to bring them to all beings, to all people, even those people we might wish something a little less wonderful for, and to all animals and plants and minerals, to Mother Earth. So this is an environmental practice as well. The Buddha introduced it 2,600 years ago.

And all Buddhist traditions follow these five precepts. The Buddha taught it, not one of his disciples in these 42 generations that are between the Buddha and us. It came straight from the Buddha, these five precepts. But the Buddha, who usually was pretty long-winded—gave long sutras, long sermons—in this case, it is easier said very clearly: don't kill, don't steal, don't commit adultery, be kind with your words, don't gossip and lie and be ugly with your words, and don't take drugs and alcohol. It's pretty clear. But each Buddhist tradition has taken those five precepts and worded them—kind of added teachings to them. And our teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, has made them really relevant for our modern times so that when you read them, they are quite long now. They're actually a little Dharma talk. Each one is a little Dharma talk. But they speak directly to our own experience, our own challenges in our lives.

So, we've asked Liz if she will read the third Training, which is the Training we are going to focus on tonight. If you want to follow along, if you have that—it is so wonderful that everybody got a copy. Can folks take them home, Bobbie?

Bobbie: Yes. Absolutely.

Terry: So you don't have to turn them in at the end of the day. A free souvenir of the evening. She's going to read them. If it distracts you to read along with her, then do not do that. She will read it out loud for us.

Liz: The Third Mindfulness Training: True Love. "Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. Knowing that sexual desire is not love, and that sexual activity motivated by craving always harms myself as well as others, I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without true love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. Seeing that body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness—which are the four basic elements of true love—for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others. Practicing true love, we know that we will continue beautifully into the future."

Terry: So, when we say True Love, we are usually thinking about romantic love, thinking about our sweethearts—in my case, thinking about Gustavo. But when the Buddha talked about True Love, he was talking about the love of all beings, which includes, of course, romantic and sexual loves. So, this Training speaks first about our sexual energy, and then it speaks of the four aspects of True Love that apply to all of our relationships—our sexual relationships, as well as our nonsexual relationships. In this Third Training, we are asked to commit to three things: first, to commit to being aware of the suffering that we can bring about in our love relationships—suffering for ourselves and for others—and then we are asked to commit to protecting individuals, including ourselves—protecting ourselves and children, as well as individual adults and couples and families. And then the third commitment we are asked to make in this training is to commit to preventing ourselves and others from being wounded by love.

So, let's look at those first three commitments in terms of our sexual relationships. So first, we commit to training ourselves to be aware and mindful of our sexual energy, our sexuality, so that we will not cause harm to ourselves or others. Using our sexual energy to manipulate or seduce others causes harm. Using our sexual energy to gain power over others causes harm. Identifying ourselves by our sexuality can harm ourselves and others, and sexual activity motivated by craving always harms ourselves and others. So our first commitment is to train ourselves to be mindful of our sexual energy.

Mindfulness means the energy that allows us to look deeply at our bodies, feelings, perceptions—at our thoughts, at our words, at our actions. So we train ourselves to notice our habitual thoughts and patterns of thought about sex and our sexuality. We train ourselves to look at our physical actions, our gestures, how we sit and stand, the way we look at others, how we smile or frown, when and how we touch others. And we train ourselves to be aware of our speech, of the way we use our words.

I spent a good portion of my career traveling around to school districts and universities—this is in the 1970s—to train administrators to be aware of their sex-role stereotyping. And looking now in 2016, I can see that I did not do a very good job of bringing an end to sexism. So with the light of mindfulness, we recognize which of our actions cause harm and which do not, which are not harmful.

So our second commitment is with awareness, we are able to commit to protecting the safety and integrity of ourselves, of children, of individual adults, of couples and families, and society from the harm caused by our sexual energy. And then our third commitment is practicing True Love, we are able to prevent ourselves and others from being wounded by our sexual energy. Practicing True Love is a very strong way to maintain or restore stability and peace in ourselves and others.

In this Training, we vow not even to engage in sexual relations without True Love and a deep, long-term commitment. This is what Thay, our teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, says about a long-term commitment. He says, "The expression ‘long-term commitment' helps people understand the word love. In the context of True Love, commitment can only be long-term. ‘I want to love you. I want to help you. I want to care for you. I want you to be happy. I want to work for your happiness. Oh, just for a few days.'" "Does this make sense?" our teacher asks.

Well, how do we practice True Love? The Buddha taught us that there are four characteristics of True Love. These characteristics apply to True Love for ourselves, our sexual partners, our children, our family, our friends, to all people everywhere. They also apply to the earth and to all the animals and plants and minerals to live here. So the first aspect of True Love is maitri. The word maitri has roots in the word mitra, which means friend. So in the Buddhist context, the primary meaning of love is friendship. Maitri, then, is the intention and the capacity to offer joy and happiness, friendship, love to ourselves, to our sweethearts, to our family, our friends—to all people everywhere. To Donald Trump, to the leaders in Syria, to other leaders other places. Also, this maitri, offering joy and happiness and friendship, applies to our earth as well. To develop that capacity, we train ourselves to practice looking deeply and listening deeply so we know what to do and what not to do to make others happy. For example, we have not always practiced maitri with the earth, and so our earth is suffering.

So the second aspect of True Love is karuna, not only the intention, but the capacity to relieve and transform suffering and lighten the sorrows of ourselves, our sexual partners, other people, and all beings. Karuna is usually translated as compassion. So our compassionate words can give comfort, confidence, destroy doubt, help someone avoid a mistake, reconcile a conflict. Our compassionate actions can save a person's life or lead someone into a wholesome direction. Even a compassionate thought has benefit since thoughts lead to words and actions.

The third element of True Love is mudita, which means joy, a joy that is filled with peace and contentment, a joy for the happiness of others, and a joy for our own happiness. True Love has to bring joy to ourselves and the ones we love. If our love doesn't bring joy to both of us, it is not True Love. Even little things can bring us and others joy, such as being aware of our eyesight. Our teacher also says that not having something can also bring us joy, like not having a toothache, not having to cough.

The fourth element of True Love is upeksha, which is harder to explain. Some of the words used to explain upeksha are equanimity, nonattachment, nondiscrimination, even-mindedness, freedom, letting go. Upe-, U-P-E, means over, and ksh means to look. So the idea is that you climb the mountain to be able to look over the whole situation, not clinging to one side or the other. Upeksha, then, is the ability to see everyone as equal, not discriminating between ourselves and others. In order to practice upeksha, we have to put ourselves in the other person's skin and become one with her or him. Without upeksha, our love gets possessive. If our love has attachment or discrimination or prejudice or clinging in it, is not True Love. True Love allows you to preserve your freedom and the freedom of your beloved.

The Dalai Lama said this about the importance of cultivating the practice of True Love. The Dalai Lama said, "Compassion and love are not luxuries. As the source, both of internal and external peace, they are fundamental to our continued survival of our species." Let me read that again. "Compassion and love are not luxuries. As the source, both of inner and external peace, they are fundamental to the continued survival of the species." So may the fruit of our steady practice of the Third Mindfulness Training: True Love benefit ourselves and all beings, which includes our teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh.

So, if we just listen to these teachings, and we do not use them as tools for transforming our own happiness, then they are useless. Our time spent listening to them is wasted. If we do not put these Trainings to use in our daily life, it is better to stay home and play cards with your sweetheart. That would be a better use of your time because then we would be actually practicing True Love. So let's share now with each other: How do you actually practice True Love with your loved ones, your sexual partners, or your family or friends, your children, or the wider world? What encourages you and makes it easy to practice these four elements of True Love? Or what discourages you and makes it hard to practice friendship, compassion, joy, and equanimity? I invite you to share specific examples of your experience and your understanding because this is how we make these Trainings tools. This is how we make these Trainings come to life, not just Sunday school, but how does it really work in our lives?

Transcribed by Jessica Hitch

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