Do we love others because we are all the same, or because of our differences?

A student writes:

When focusing on love for all beings in the Apramanas including those we may have difficulties with, is the aim to link into the same-ness of our essence? We love others because we are all Buddha by nature? So, we are not different. Or could that be too simplistic and coarse and potentially trying to smooth over the rough edges so we can conveniently ignore our triggers and grumbles? Instead, are we aiming to love all beings because we are all so different? We are unique, interesting, wonderful and not the same? Or is it some combination of the two?

Lama Shenpen replies:

Yes, we love others because we are all Buddha by nature and yes, just thinking that could be too simplistic and coarse.  That is because the thinking is too simplistic and coarse – not because the thought is false in itself. This is a very important point and applies to almost every situation in life.  Just thinking things without it really leading to a deeper experiential understanding doesn’t change much – but often that is where we need to start.  We hear a teaching, we like the sound of it and try to think like that and what then happens is we notice that we don’t really think like that at all – trying to think it is like a mirror showing us how far we are from actually thinking or feeling or embodying that teaching fully.

So, then we can start reflecting in a relaxed way about how we actually think and feel and aspire to a new and better way of thinking. Then noticing how little by little as we understand our experience better, we are able to let go of ways of thinking that obstruct our understanding – confusions and habitual tendencies that we can notice and start to let go of – out of friendliness to ourselves and others.

Gradually as we understand what Buddha Nature means – what Openness, Clarity and Sensitivity mean by listening and reflecting and meditating on the Dharma – gradually we come to understand little by little what Buddha really means, what Buddha Nature really means, what self and other really mean – and all the time something in our heart – the heart of our heart – starts to relax into a deeper more confident and trusting understanding of what Buddha Nature means and what the heart knew all along – that we are not separate from others so we can open to them and receive their love and they receive ours.

That is when we can really enjoy the richness of the differences as well as the sameness of the essence and really see ourselves in others and others in ourselves – not just a bland thought that smooths out differences and irritations – but an alive sense of being able to open to all experience and all beings.

Lama Shenpen Hookham

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