Can there be love without object or focus?

A student writes:

In your Apramanas booklet it says: “Eventually this compassion becomes one with Reality, it becomes one with the Dharma.  At that point it is called the love and compassion that has no focus.  It has no focus in the sense that there is no subtle process of grasping that makes things seem real that are not real.  Instead, Awareness rests in itself and Clarity and Sensitivity act spontaneously for the benefit of others.”

It can sound contradictory to have love with no focus – acting spontaneously for the benefit of others. Does it mean there’s no grasped focus of other, but there are still distinct beings to love? Can you say more about this?

Lama Shenpen replies:

This love without focus is very profound. It is not something we can adopt as our practice or say to ourselves we should practise this way, as if there is something wrong with our practice if we’re not doing so. 

It is what happens as our understanding of Emptiness deepens and we will find we get glimpses of the possibility of love without focus, although we will still need to keep returning to love with focus until our realisation becomes stable.

We might get experiences (called nyams) of all-pervading love for all beings, but to stabilise this takes a long time.

However, we do already intuit that love is without focus don’t we?  We intuit that it is not in time, that true love is forever and changeless, non-conditioned and so on. 

We can even feel inspired with faith in the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas simply by somehow opening intuitively to their all-pervading and universal love for all beings. Somehow we can intuit their presence and it can affect us quite deeply. 

We can even intuit this when we hear others are praying for us. People with no religious beliefs who are even quite sceptical about religion can still feel grateful for our prayers and for our holding them in our hearts and remembering them.

I think this all relates to love without focus – we remember people or say their names and dedicate punya for them and something happens even though we don’t really know how to focus on any of that.

On one level it’s just thinking and ideas, on another level we intuit that where nothing else helps, that just might help.

Lama Shenpen Hookham 

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