...If we're looking at the experience of love as just anicca, dukkha, and anatta, that might seem cold-hearted. Objectivity, however, is merely the way of having things in perspective so that love is not something that blinds us. If we're attached to the idea of love, then we can be quite blind to its reality. We can get very inspired by talking about it or meditating on love - seeking it in others, demanding it or feeling somehow left out. But what is love in terms of our lives as we live them?
On an emotional plane you might want to have feelings of tremendous one-ness, or maybe aim the feelings at some particular person, wanting to have a special, loving relationship with another person. Or, love can be abstract - love of all human beings, love of all beings, love of God, love of something or some concept.
Devotion is from the heart, it's not a rational thing. You can't make yourself feel love or devotion just because you like the idea of it.
It's when you're not attached, when your heart is open, receptive and free, that you begin to experience what pure love is.
Loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, equanimity - the realm of the Divine Abodes, the brahma-viharas - these come from an empty mind. Not from a sterile position of just annihilating feeling, but from a heart that is not deluded, not blinded by ideas of self or others, or by passions of some kind or another.
...But when the heart is free from illusions of self, then there arises a loving quality in the pure joy of being. It's not expected to be anything or anybody; neither is it expected to last, or be permanent. It is not to be made anything of. It's just the natural way of things.
So when you contemplate in that way, that is the way of faith and trust and devotion.
When we talk about faith and confidence and trust, they're nothing you can really grasp. Faith is not anything that you can create. One can say the words, but to really have faith and confidence in Dhamma is to be willing to let go of any demand or affirmation or any attachment whatsoever. And that experience of faith comes to us as we examine and understand the Dhamma, or the true way of things...
If you're practising vipassana meditation and you're getting more frightened, or anxious, or tense, or feeling emotionally sterilised, then you're not doing it the right way. Perhaps you are using technique as a way of suppressing your feelings or denying things. So you end up feeling more tense, sceptical, uncertain. There is an attachment to some view about it.
The more we really see and understand completely the way things are, the more we have this quality of faith. This faith increases, it's a total trust.
...The path is something we cultivate. We have to know where we are and not try to become something that we think we would like to be; we have to practise with the way it is now, without making a judgement about it.
If you're feeling tense, nervous, disillusioned, disappointed about yourself or the tradition, or the teacher or the monks or the nuns, or whatever, then try to recognise that what is in the moment is enough. Be willing to just admit, to acknowledge the way it is rather than to indulge in believing that what you're feeling is somehow an accurate description of reality, or to feel that what you are feeling is wrong and you shouldn't be feeling like that. Those are two extremes.
But the cultivation of the Way is to recognise that whatever is subject to arising is subject to ceasing. And this isn't a put-down or cold-hearted way of cultivating the path, even though it might sound like it.
You might think you just have to let go of all your feelings and see that the love in your heart is just anicca, dukkha, anatta...
'Not getting attached to anything' can merely be a way of suppressing everything. It's not necessarily letting go or non-attachment, it can merely be a position you take.
And if you take that position and you operate from that position, all you're going to feel is negativity, stress. 'You shouldn't be attached to anything; you shouldn't love anything, you shouldn't feel anything -feeling anything is just anicca, dukkha, anatta.'
That means you're just taking the words and you're using it like a bludgeon, a big club to your mind. You're not reflecting, watching, observing, opening, trusting.
Metta practice is one of the beautiful devotional practices that is highly recommended in Buddha-Dhamma. Loving-kindness. As human beings we're warm blooded creatures. We do feel love. That is part of our humanity.
We like each other; we like to be with people; we like to be kind; we get enjoyment out of cooking food and giving it to other people. We enjoy helping.
You can see that with the custom of dana in the Asian communities. When Sri Lankan people come here with their curries, they light up. It is the joy of giving...
Try contemplating what would be the great delight of being the richest person in the world? What would be the truly delightful thing? To get what I want? No, it would be the opportunity to give it away, wouldn't it? That would be the true delight of being rich and wealthy - so that you could give it away, as dana, generosity. Whereas to be rich and not to be able to give it away would be a real burden. What a burden that would be, to be the richest man in the world and be selfish and hold onto it and keep it all to myself.
The joy of wealth is in one's ability to share it and give it without any kind of corrupt intentions or selfish demands.
So this is what is lovely about our humanity: we can experience this joy of giving. And it's something we all experience when we really give something, when we help somebody without any selfish request or demand for something back. Then we experience joy. It is certainly a lovely human experience - but we don't expect it to make us joyful for the rest of our lives.
The joy of generosity and kindness isn't permanent, doesn't make us permanently happy - but we don't expect it to. If we did, it wouldn't be dana any longer, it would be a deal we were making. It wouldn't be an act of generosity, it would be buying something.
Real joy comes from giving and not caring about whether anyone even knows or acknowledges it...
If I'm so concerned about being recognised and being appreciated, that you appreciate my generosity and my goodness, then that becomes a joyless state of mind.
...Sometimes the mind will go into a very negative state where all you feel is annoyance. Whatever people do doesn't seem quite good enough. When you're in that mood then everything seems wrong - the cats, the sun, the moon...the mind goes into division, separation, and negativity. You feel separate from everything you see, and no communion or union is possible as long as you are identified and attached to that attitude of mind.
When you are in a loving mood then it doesn't really matter whether somebody isn't feeling very good or they're not doing exactly what they should. There are always little things, little bits and pieces that aren't quite what they should be. But, when you're in a loving mood these things aren't so important.
So the loving experience comes because you're willing to overlook the personality differences and the discrimination that exists in the conditioned realm, for the feeling of communion, of union, of oneness.
We are uniting as brothers and sisters in a common experience of old age, sickness and death, rather than pointing out the differences, or who's better than whom.