Love Meditations and Hatred Meditations
A love meditation is one in which your attitude is simple appreciation of the dynamics of life. You are enjoying the flow of breath, the flow of energy in the body, the flow of thought, and the interplay of silence and motion. As a spontaneous side effect of this, you get relaxation, clarity and energy. I am a great proponent of love meditations, because all the people I work with need to cultivate their love for life.
A hatred meditation is one in which you use the relaxation and focus to tweak your circuits in specific ways, often by cultivating distrust, distaste or disgust with some aspect of life. Or you might tweak your circuits to create dissociation or detachment from yourself and the world. Instead of hatred, you could say "medicinal," which means toxic but in a way designed to do more good than harm.
Basically, love meditations are for people who work for a living and have families.
Monks and nuns need to kill their ambition and desire for personal love. So they usually do a mixture of love and hatred meditations, enough love to stay alive, but also enough hatred and detachment to keep their passions turned down to a very low level.
There also may be times when a householder is called to do a hatred meditation – there may be a medical necessity, as when an arm or leg has to be amputated. The Dalai Lama said at a conference, "Religion something like medicine, when no pain no need medicine; same thing religion."
Hatred meditations can be subtle, like practicing "detachment." And they may seem virtuous, like washing your hands with a bleach solution or Lysol. The damage accumulates over time and depends on the mixture.
Unfortunately, these distinctions are not labeled as such. So let's make a few distinctions, bring some discrimination into the area. In Sanskrit, discrimination is viveka, the ability to perceive differences.
"Breaking Up" With Life
Hatred meditations are similar in structure to the way we think of ex-lovers and ex-husbands, people we used to love but now try to create distance from. Have you ever broken up with someone, and then months later you hate them or think disgusting thoughts about them?
Monks and nuns "break up" with everyday life, and even "break up" with the person they used to be. They shave their heads and change their names and take vows to never have sex again and never have a penny to their name and always obey their Superior. So hatred meditations are very important to monks and nuns. And since monks and nuns have been the custodians of the meditation wisdom for more than two thousand years, of course almost everything we know about meditation is "meditation for monks and nuns."
This sounds counterintuitive, I know. "But I thought monks and nuns were made of sugar and spice and everything nice, and just went around blessing people!" Yes, that may be true, but it is no mild thing to take a vow of celibacy, poverty and obedience. You have to kill out your sexual urges, your ambition, and your uppityness, your independence.
Cultivating Disgust for Women
In a talk the Dalai Lama gave at UCLA in June, 1997, he read the following text:
"Most attachment to women comes from
the belief that womens bodies are pure.
But in actuality there is no purity
in a womans body at all.
Her mouth is a vessel of impurity,
with putrid saliva and gunk between her teeth;
Her nose is a pot of snot, phlegm and mucous,
and her eyes contain eye-slime and tears.
Her torso is a container of excrement,
holding urine, the lungs, liver and such.
The confused do not see that a woman is such;
thus, they lust after her body.
Like unknowing persons, who have become attached
to an ornamented vessel filled with filth,
Unknowing and worldly beings
are attached to women."
How can you not love this guy? What an adorable face.
The Dalai Lama was reading from the Precious Garland of Nagarjuna, who is sometimes revered as a "Second Buddha." Here is a link to a recording of the lecture. The above quote is from page 32-33 of the edition of the Precious Garland that was specially produced for the Dalai Lama's series of lectures. This book was handed out to people as they entered the auditorium.
The editorial review of The Precious Garland states, ". . .one of the most revered Mahayana Buddhist scriptures: the Precious Garland by Nagarjuna. Written more than 1,500 years ago, its advice is still lucid and fresh. As counsel for a king, the text is the polar opposite of Machiavelli's The Prince; it elucidates reality, announces the way to cultivate personal virtue, and suggests ways to implement that virtue in public policy. . . . belongs with the most inspiring of spiritual scriptures."
Book Description: Nagarjuna is renowned for his penetrating anaylsis of reality."
The reading of this text was part of an Empowerment of a Meditational Practice.
Can you see now that there are love meditations, that cherish and celebrate life, and hatred meditations, that cultivate disgust? Most meditation teachings are some mixture of nutritional and medicinal, as if you went to a restaurant and they served you delicious food that they secretly added antibiotics to.
When asked about the anti-life nature of this teaching, His Holiness said, "It's for monks."
During His Holiness' visit, a man said, "I want to become a Buddhist," and The Dalai Lama replied, "Please don't. Stay in your own religion, and meditate." In fact, often he encourages people to stay with their own religion. He has said again and again that "it is better to stick with the wisdom traditions of one’s own land than to run from them pursuing in exotica what was under your nose all the time."
I have no idea why the Dalai Lama does anything – and I am not qualified to speculate. I would not be surprised, however, if he selected Nagarjuna's text to read as a warning to Americans to wake up and not be so gullible. What is amazing is that there was almost no discussion of the implications of what he was saying. People love him so much that they ignored the text and just soaked up his presence.
If you are a householder, even listening to this text is like being blasted by x-rays. For some people, this may be healing. For those who are on the edge, thinking about becoming monks or nuns, this may push them over. One wonders what all the women in the audience made of it. "Even the Dalai Lama thinks women are disgusting!" Some people may become radiant, others may just get radiation sickness.
Or, as one bulimic psychotherapist I spoke to said, "It is interesting to see this type of pathological thinking, basically bulimic/anorexic ideology, presented as scripture. It makes me think that Nagarjuna, and others, may have had severe eating disorders and body image disorders."
Buddhist saints tend to be rich, complex, multidimensional characters. They kill people. Seduce women. Live wild lives. Then they meditate. Their lives would make great soap operas: DESPERATE HORNY MONKS.
Nagarjuna is said to have so good at magic that he could turn himself invisible, and he used to sneak into the king's harem and seduce his wives. The king, however, was getting suspicious, and had powder spread on the floor. One night Nagarjuna brought several friends with him, and they were discovered by their footprints. Nagarjuna's three friends were hacked to pieces, and he was saved only because he took a vow to "adopt the spiritual state." Questions need to be asked here: did Nagarjuna sell out his friends and save himself? Anyway, he then went on to become a Buddhist scholar and give us teachings such as we see above.
So meditation is BYOD, Bring Your Own Discernment. Don't even begin to naively absorb teachings because they sound cool. Always ask, "Is this for me? Is this life-supporting for my life?"
As Buddha is said to have said,
Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.
Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.
But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason
and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.
This is fearlessness, and it is love.
This sounds quite investigatory and empirical to me. A call to practice discernment. But I know a fair number of Buddhists – and very, very few of them have the kind of wide-open fearless mind that Buddha is talking about here. The Buddhists I have met over the past 30 some years seem to believe in tradition. They BELIEVE in whatever is published in meditation texts. They believe that monks from Asia know what Americans need in terms of meditation. They believe in Buddhism, and they believe in imitating the mentality of 500 B.C. They believe this even though there is little evidence, and even though they are really just being superstitious. The Buddhists I meet tend to be very nice people, sort of bloodless, as if they are on a heavy dose of Valium, and they tend to look malnourished, from their faddish vegetarianism.
Or a longer version:
Ma anussavena: Do not believe something just because it has been passed along and retold for many generations. [Simpler: Do not be led by what you are told.]
Ma paramparaya: Do not believe something merely because it has become a traditional practice. [Do not be led by whatever has been handed down from past generations.]
Ma itikiraya: Do not believe something simply because it is well-known everywhere. [Do not be led by hearsay or common opinion.]
Ma Pitakasampadanena: Do not believe something just because it is cited in a text. [Do not be led by what the scriptures say]
Ma takkahetu: Do not believe something solely on the grounds of logical reasoning. [Do not be led by mere logic.]
Ma nayahetu: Do not believe something merely because it accords with your philosophy. [Do not be led by mere deduction or inference.]
Ma akaraparivitakkena: Do not believe something because it appeals to "common sense". [Do not be led by considering only outward appearance.]
Ma ditthinijjhanakkhantiya: Do not believe something just because you like the idea. [Do not be led by preconceived notions (and the theory reflected as an approval)]
Ma bhabbarupataya: Do not believe something because the speaker seems trustworthy. [Do not be led by what seems acceptable; do not be led by what some seeming believable one says.]
Ma samano no garu ti: Do not believe something thinking, "This is what our teacher says". [Do not be led by what your teacher tells you it is so.]
Kalamas, when you yourselves directly know, "This is [these things are] unwholesome, this is blameworthy, this is condemned or censured by the wise, these things when accepted and practised lead to poverty and harm and suffering," then you should give them up.
Kalamas, when you yourselves directly know, "These things are wholesome, blameless, praised by the wise; when adopted and carried out they lead to well-being, prosperity and happiness," then you should accept and practise them."
- Gautama Buddha, Kesamutti Sutta, the fifth sutta (sutra) in the Book of Threes (Mahavagga) in the Gradual Sayings (Tika Nipata).
Buddha's 84,000 Techniques
I think that Buddha was a meditation genius, just inventing one technique after the other. He said that he gave 84,000 different techniques for the different kinds of people. (also, take a look at this report, The One Gate to 84,000 Dharmas, from a Buddhist convention). An example of a nutritional meditation Buddha gave can be found in the Anapanasati Sutta, more . . .