Can You Feel the Love? Thich Nhat Hanh – How to Love

Can you feel the love?

Keeping Elton John out of this, when the emotional bank account is low, drained from winter and children and parents and life, I find consolation from the Vietnamese teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh.  In his book How to Love, the Buddhist monk and author informs us that there are four elements of True Love. In Sanskrit these are maitri, karuna, mudita, and upeksha.  (How to Love, Thich Nhat Hanh book link)

The Buddhist concept of suffering referred to does not equate to torture, though that can be an example; suffering arises from deep dissatisfaction whether that is physical, emotional, or spiritual.

Maitri – Loving Kindness

The essence of loving kindness is being able to offer happiness. You can be the sunshine for another person. You can’t offer happiness until you have it for yourself. So build a home inside by accepting yourself and learning to love and heal yourself. Learn how to practice mindfulness in such a way that you can create moments of happiness an joy for your own nourishment. Then you have something to offer the other person.

Karuna – Compassion

Compassion is the capacity to understand the suffering in oneself and in another person. If you understand your own suffering, you can help him to understand his suffering. Understanding suffering brings compassion and relief.

Mudita – Joy

When you know how to generate joy, it nourishes the other person. Your presence is an offering, like air, or spring flowers, or the bright blue sky.

Upeksha – Equanimity

We can also call it inclusiveness or nondiscrimination. In a deep relationship, there’s no longer a boundary between you and the other person. You are her and she is you. Your suffering is her suffering. Your understanding of your own suffering helps your loved one to suffer less . . . what happens to you happens to your loved one. (How To Love, Hanh)

These remind me of the Buddhist maxim that if compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete. Compassion must start with the self, and even though I can and do influence those around me, I must first nourish my own happiness.

Understanding, deep understanding and practice of the four elements of love is a little like chess: you can learn the rules in an afternoon, but it takes a life to master the game.  The problem I have is looking for peace outside of myself, from someone else or from somewhere else, a failed move every time.

Understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift you can give another person. Understanding is love’s other name. If you don’t understand, you can’t love. (Hanh)

The beauty of Hanh’s work is its simplicity.  Reading his words are comforting and bring peace and I find myself reading it again and again.

Here is his parable about love.

If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform.

Too often the heart is like a cup.  Hanh titled this story, Heart Like a River.

Apr 25, 2015

0 Comments

About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

Stay Up to Date

Rise above the tedium with the TreeHouseLetter. Always learning with a bit of fun.

Latest Posts

Small Delight: the Unexpected and the Good

3 Min read 1 Book rec * * I suppose it is the unexpected and the good which sustain us. The package arrived as media mail and I set the used copy on the counter. A week or so later, I began to read it, The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald. What I discovered in its...

Dirtman and Dillard on Signs of the Apocalypse

5 Min read Earthquake Eclipse 1 Essay rec AVAILABLE ON PODCAST SPOTIFY * “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;” Revelation 6:12 * Earthquake...

The Blue Hour

3 Min read Phases of twilight 2 Book recs 5 Regrets of the Dying * It is the darkness which gives that first burst of light its brilliance. * This weekend my daughter returned from spring break. Sitting in the TreeHouse very early that day, I read with a booklight on...

Deez Nuts*

5 Min read Nuts Nonsense Homage to a classic film Wordnerd alert Contronym AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify * One secret of life is that the reason life works at all is that not everyone in your tribe is nuts on the same day. Anne Lamott * I was organizing the pantry...

Who Does Not Prefer Civility to Barbarism?*

6 Min read 2 Book recs Average of five people you know Affection, love between parent and child Mrs. Fidget, a character trope AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify Every Action done in Company ought to be with Some Sign of Respect to those that are Present. George...

What Men Live By*

8 Min read 1 Short Story 1 Lecture series, The Four Loves On Providence A sacred oath * AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify * Friday was a cold, sunny day. The alarm was set for 6:15 AM and that would give me enough time to make it across the Hudson River before rush hour. I...

Topics

Inoculate yourself against the absurdity of life with a dose of the best ideas and writing. Always learning with a bit of fun.

TreeHouseLetter

Always learning with a bit of fun

 

 

Readers receive one to two letters a week, with 2 to 10 minute read time. Includes regular features:

 

The Music in Prose
Poetry for Emergencies
Toolbox

 

 

Be inspired by the best writing and ideas, and become better readers and writers in the process.

Thank you for joining! Please check your email for a confirmation.