Yoga Sutra 12: Loving Kindness

A series of talks by Michael Stone about chapter 3 of The Yoga Sutra a text written by mysterious author(s) often named Patanjali in the second century. Notes by MH include reveries and imaginings. Centre of Gravity Fall 2011.

Chip Hartranft: 3.24: “Focusing with perfect discipline on friendliness, compassion, delight, and equanimity, one is imbued with their energies.”

This line refers to the teaching of metta or loving kindness. As a young man I was never interested in metta, I was interested in getting concentrated. On the third evening of a long retreat the teacher asked us to open our hearts and cultivate loving kindness towards someone we loved. I would tune out this chatter, thinking the teacher was getting soft and losing focus, this was only adding language to a place that was at last getting quiet. It felt like a backwards step. But over the years I dropped this view and opened my heart. One of the ways to become concentrated, in fact, is through metta practice. Metta comes from a term for friendship – you can’t really talk about love, kindness or friendliness separately from one another in Sankrit, they’re all part of the same package.

The practice of metta begins by extending loving kindness to someone you love. Then you extend loving kindness to yourself. Then to someone neutral, and then to enemies. This acknowledges that everyone in your life is precious, even the enemies that have caused us so much pain.

You love everyone as hard as you can until you heart is like honey and people get stuck in it. Loving kindness is not like falling in love because it’s not an accident. It’s another way of saying: if someone else is happy, I’m happy. Metta is an intention without craving or clinging.

You begin with a very quiet mind, and our mind tends to flow into habit patterns of greed and selfishness, but loving kindness practice re-routes the habit patterns into love.

There’s a guy fishing in a little boat and he’s approached on the waters by another guy in a very large boat who tells him: if you had a bigger boat you could catch more fish. Why would I want to do that? Well, then you could buy a whole fleet of boats and you could catch so many sellable fish that you could retire. What would I do then? Go fishing.

Friendliness is the new black dress, kindness is the new cool. At the core of all of our hearts is the desire to be happy, to be loved and to be friendly. Even the worst judge and politician feels this. Self centered happiness is a dead end. Buddha nature recognizes the shared wish to be happy. It widens out to include others.

Jeremy Rifkin
The Empathic Civilization by Jeremy Rifkin: compassion is basic to our nature. Empathy is a way we become part of other people’s lives. Transcendence means reaching beyond oneself, to participate and belong to larger communities. When we sit on a cushion we join a community and the community within us. Most people are caught in narratives of self centeredness. When fear or anxiety arise, how can we bring loving kindness to that? To make space for fear and anxiety so they’re not so different from normal waking consciousness, and how to realize that it’s not your fault. My self centeredness feels threatened by becoming part of a community.

“If human nature is as the Enlightenment philosophers claimed, then we are likely doomed. It is impossible to imagine how we might create a sustainable global economy and restore the biosphere to health if each and every one of us is, at the core of our biology, an autonomous agent and a self-centered and materialistic being.

Recent discoveries in brain science and child development, however, are forcing us to rethink these long-held shibboleths about human nature. Biologists and cognitive neuroscientists are discovering mirror-neurons-the so-called empathy neurons-that allow human beings and other species to feel and experience another’s situation as if it were one’s own. We are, it appears, the most social of animals and seek intimate participation and companionship with our fellows.

Social scientists, in turn, are beginning to reexamine human history from an empathic lens and, in the process, discovering previously hidden strands of the human narrative which suggests that human evolution is measured not only by the expansion of power over nature, but also by the intensification and extension of empathy to more diverse others across broader temporal and spatial domains. The growing scientific evidence that we are a fundamentally empathic species has profound and far-reaching consequences for society, and may well determine our fate as a species…

In the first industrial revolution characterized by print and ideological consciousness, empathic sensibility extended to national borders, with Americans empathizing with Americans, Germans with Germans, Japanese with Japanese and so on. In the second industrial revolution, characterized by electronic communication and psychological consciousness, individuals began to identify with like-minded others. Today, we are on the cusp of another historic convergence of energy and communication-a third industrial revolution-that could extend empathic sensibility to the biosphere itself and all of life on Earth. The distributed Internet revolution is coming together with distributed renewable energies, making possible a sustainable, post-carbon economy that is both globally connected and locally managed.

In the 21st century, hundreds of millions-and eventually billions-of human beings will transform their buildings into power plants to harvest renewable energies on site, store those energies in the form of hydrogen and share electricity, peer-to-peer, across local, regional, national and continental inter-grids that act much like the Internet. The open source sharing of energy, like open source sharing of information, will give rise to collaborative energy spaces-not unlike the collaborative social spaces that currently exist on the Internet… The new divide is generational and contrasts the traditional top-down model of structuring family life, education, commerce, and governance with a younger generation whose thinking is more relational and distributed, whose nature is more collaborative and cosmopolitan, and whose work and social spaces favor open-source commons. For the Internet generation, “quality of life” becomes as important as individual opportunity in fashioning a new dream for the 21st century…”

5 benefits of loving kindness practice
1. You will sleep better. A loving heart is the best sleep aid, and it has no bad side effects.
2. Non-human beings will also like you.
3. Fire, poison and weapons will not affect you (2600 years ago there were no bombs or rifles. This line refers to mind over matter, if you practice loving kindness the fear that arises from conditions that threaten you can’t gain a purchase.)
4. The mind comes into concentration easier (it’s hard to have enemies or build walls (when you build high walls it can be exhausting having to maintain them). When you get quiet the feeling tone is kind and joyful, and then hindrances aren’t there so much. The difference between meditation and concentration is the lack of hindrances.
5. At the time of death you won’t struggle, you’ll be able to forgive (even yourself)

If you practice loving kindness daily like flossing your teeth then you’ll die with ease. Then you can be with friends or family who are dying. When you’re dying and you have unresolved issues then it’s hard to allow yourself to be fully in the dying place. Via loving kindness we find the more child-like parts of our nature that just wants to be playful and caring.

The Next Buddha
The Buddha was named Shakyamuni – muni means sage, shakya was his clan. The Buddha who will succeed him is Maitreya, the Buddha of infinite compassion. This Buddha is not concerned with enlightenment but compassion and friendliness, signaling a new evolutionary trend for humanity. Thich Nhat Hahn says: the next Buddha will be sangha.

Loving kindness is one of the four brahmaviharas, or divine abodes. They are loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. Each has a near and fear enemy. The far enemy of loving kindness is hatred. The near enemy is attachment (to a result, to yourself, to an idea). When we love with clinging, eventually the love fades and all we’re left with is the clinging. And then you go to court.

Loving kindness can also be a sword to cut unwanted energies or people from your life. Sometimes the most compassionate, the most loving thing you can do is to say no. It’s not so much about feeling love all the time, it’s an intention. Perhaps a better translation for metta would be: good will. It’s not about being nice or feeling one way or another. You can practice loving kindness while angry, jealous, sad or happy. Loving takes time. When there’s pain or if you’re upset can you bring loving kindness to these sensations/feelings? How wills you keep yourself warm tonight?

Loving kindness is non-violence. It is the practice of ahimsa. When talking about the yamas Patanjali was drawn to negation (non-violence, non-stealing, not lying) because it recognizes that there’s going to be violence, stealing, lying.

In Sailing Home, Norman Fischer writes that the real depth of loving kindness comes in the power of waiting. Especially now that we can send stupid emails so quickly. How can use social media with non-violence, with ethical principles, with loving kindness?