[Takes 7 mins to read]
With Valentine’s Day celebrated on 14 Feb in many countries across the world, here’s a Buddhist perspective on Love. Firstly, Nichiren Daishonin did not set any moral rules about anything in life so there are no ‘do’s and don’ts’ at all about things like sex before marriage, contraception, fidelity, sexual orientation or divorce.
Perhaps the other big difference from the traditional romantic Western view is that real Love in Buddhism is not about walking ‘into the sunset’ with ‘The Man/Woman’ of your dreams; even though a whole advertising industry has developed over decades to make us believe that meeting ‘The One’ is the answer to all our problems.
Here are 10 guidelines that can help us develop fantastic relationships. I’ve pulled them together from 29 years of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo and getting great guidance from SGI leaders. I’ve also drawn on powerful insights and breakthroughs that my clients have had during coaching sessions (relationships are probably the most frequent topic that people ask for help with.) I feel a little cautious about publishing this post as a list of ‘10 tips’ because I do not wish to trivialise this profound and sometimes complex topic. Also each one of us is unique and we all have our own individual lessons or insights to learn. Anyway, in no particular order, here goes:
- Your partner is not there to make you complete, even if you do call them your ‘other half’. As Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote: “Love is not two people gazing at each other, but two people looking ahead together in the same direction.” That means two people coming together to foster each other’s spiritual growth and happiness and move together towards shared goals in life.
- Love in Buddhism is all about personal growth, human revolution and making the world a better place. I love these words by Maronite Catholic Kahlil Gibran in his bestselling book ‘The Prophet’: “And stand together yet not too near together for the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
- Because life is precious, nurture a deep desire to unconditionally respect your partner’s life – and your own, whatever challenges you may be facing right now. Ultimately, says Buddhism, a current of deep mutual and self-respect is more important than the surface waves of romantic love.
- Do not make your partner your ‘religion’ or your ‘object of worship’, your happiness is always ultimately your own responsibility, not theirs.
- To be happy, both of you must become deserving winners in your relationship, not needy victims.
- Always put more energy into changing yourself than into trying to change the other person in your life (which doesn’t work…) And expect more from yourself than from your lover. Remember that your partner may stir up stuff from the depths of your life, so be grateful – Thank the Spoon! Move your own life instead of ‘shouting at the shadow (partner)’ when things get tough. Then the shadow will also move. This is the Buddhist principle of esho funi or the ‘oneness of life and your environment’ – incidentally esho funi gives the full story on the ‘Law of Attraction‘ – more of this another time.
- Always argue with a view to making progress rather than just to proving that you are right.
- Learn to laugh about and treasure your differences more than you argue about them. For example, see if you can follow Daisaku Ikeda’s guidance to see your partner’s ‘nagging’ as the ‘sweet song of a bird’ who cares about you! Non-judgemental mindfulness techniques can also help here.
- When you feel hurt by the ending of a relationship and you naturally want to build a wall of protection around you, remember that when you lock the world out, you lock up the love inside you too.
- Leave a difficult relationship learning as much as you can from it and changing the karma that attracted it into your life, otherwise you’ll repeat the same pattern over and over again in your love life. As famous author and coach Joe Vitale says, “get the lesson and you no longer need the experience.”
It is easier said than done to implement these principles, some of them I still struggle with a lot, but I am definitely making progress the more I chant and the more my life grows.
Finally, I asked my friend, awesome singer songwriter (check out the link) and fellow Buddhist Meri Everitt for a young women’s perspective on this topic and she sent me loads of good guidance, which I paraphrase here:
- When you argue, remember that, as Nichiren said: ‘winter always turns into spring’.
- Everything has equal value, the love and the arguments… they are all part of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.
- Be grateful to your partner when you find them annoying because it makes you chant and study and grow and ultimately attain Buddhahood, because on a day when it’s all going smoothly you might not have bothered to make the extra effort.
- And finally, remember that flowers don’t run around desperately chasing bees. Bees chase flowers. So young women just have to flower and nurture their own lives and then the bees will come along!”
Loads of love… (and more importantly :-), deep respect…)