Buddhism teaches that the only way to achieve happiness is by practicing love. Happiness cannot exist without love as it can only flow through true love. True love is so powerful that it can cause healing and transformation in our lives and can as well bring deep meaning to it. It can also help us discover innate traits and potentials that we never knew exist both in ourselves and in the people around us.
According to Buddha, there are four elements called Brahmaviharas which are the sources of love and which can bring about universal love. Not only is the practice of true love beneficial, but it will also us give us the ability to change suffering to love for people around us. They include:
- Maithri (or love);
- Karuna (or compassion);
- Mudita (or joy) and
- Upeksha (or equanimity).
When we practice these traits, they cause a limitless growth within us and so are termed, ”Immeasurable.”
According to Buddha, the practice of these elements are not reserved for Buddhists. People from different religions and roots can freely practice them. Our roots define us, and there is no way we will be happy if cut off from them.
Below is an explanation of the four elements of true love:
This means love or loving-kindness. It refers to our willingness and ability to spread joy and happiness all around us. This infers that we must observe the people around us closely to properly understand their nature and their needs. True love is difficult to give to a person that is not understood. Understanding people helps us to know their fears, strengths, weaknesses, pain, and needs and so we may be able to proffer solutions to them.
Sometimes, we may believe that we are offering better things than what people require from us, but love doesn’t work in that way. If you force your partner to socialize more in his/her interest, against his/her will, you are not showing true love because you are forcing them. A deep understanding of someone is what will help you fulfill his/her needs.
This means compassion and is the ability to lift the burdens of people you love, relieving their suffering, pain, and sorrow. Compassion also means “together in suffering” and is somehow different from Karuna. Buddha teaches that one can relieve suffering without necessarily having to partake in it because too much suffering crumbles one’s spirit.
Compassion can be learned by listening deeply, looking deeply and being genuinely concerned about the world in which we live. Our every word thought or compassionate action can transform lives, liberate people, build the level of confidence, kill their doubts and even settle conflicts between them. A compassionate heart can save loved ones from suffering.
Mudita means joy, and there exists a little difference between it and happiness.
Joy pertains mostly to the mind, but happiness is concerned with the mind and the body. Buddha uses a classic example to illustrate this: when we are travelling on a desert and we see water, we feel joy, but we are only going to achieve happiness on drinking it.
We will be able to feel joy when we have a full awareness of the moment and the beauty surrounding us. The smallest things can be a source of our joy. Mudita is best described as a state of joy brought about by contentment and peace.
Upeksha can best be described as even-mindedness, fairness, equity, non-attachment, a mind of ‘letting go’ and one that is non-discriminatory.
‘Upa’ is translated as ‘over,’ while ‘iksha’ translates to ‘mountain.’ It means that one needs to stand as if over a mountain in order to give an unbiased assessment of a situation.
Love that is favorable to one party, biased, unfair, discriminatory and inequitable, is not true love. We must treat everyone equally, and we must not treat people as being inferior to us. Essentially, Upeksha is a state of mind where there is no dividing line between ourselves and others.
True love can only be exercised through a combination of these four qualities. The stumbling block to exercising them is, however, the fact that people see love in different ways, especially through what the media says or what their friends say. We can only know true love when we are fully committed to this endeavor.