Universal love – the wish for everyone to be happy and have the causes of the happiness – arises from understanding how our lives are totally connected with everyone else’s (See What Is Love?).
To develop love, we need to appreciate our interconnectedness. Everything we eat, use and enjoy comes from the hard work of others. Just think of the thousands of people in various corners of the world involved in the creation of the electronic device on which you’re reading this right now. Reflecting deeply on this makes us feel connected and grateful toward everyone, leading to a sense of deep happiness within us. We’ll then naturally have concern for the happiness of others; these feelings are the basis for universal love.
Developing Love with Metta Meditation
We first need to develop loving kindness - often called metta - for ourselves. We start by deeply feeling:
How wonderful it’d be if I were happy.
I wish that I were happy.
May I be able to bring myself happiness.
Once we've experienced a strong desire for ourselves to be happy, we can apply the same thoughts, but towards our family, friends, strangers and even people we don't like:
- We next aim our love toward our loved ones and friends.
- We then extend it to all of the neutral people we encounter everyday.
- Then, we try to develop love for people we don’t like at all.
- Eventually, we aim our love to the entire world and all beings in it.
In this way, we can develop our sense of love to include not just the ourselves and the people around us, but all beings.
If we can actually do something to make others happy, then we should do it. If we’re not able, then we can imagine giving them whatever it is that will lead not only to their short-term happiness, but to their long-term well-being as well. This isn’t just about providing food and shelter for the homeless – after all, many rich and successful people are also miserable and need to be included in our wishes. Slowly, genuine love for our family and friends and every single being we encounter will arise naturally, bringing happiness to ourselves and others.