Lesser love is greater love, individual love is universal love. Below is an explanation and a meditation exercise to help you feel universal love for all beings.
It’s a rare thing for me to be touched by a movie nowadays or for me to gain any meaningful insights from them. But recently I watched a movie here in China, in theatres, called Journey to the West.
The movie is about a wannabe monk demon-hunter who tries using nursery rhymes to trap demons. It’s quite entertaining and maybe the best movie I’ve seen in the past year, so I recommend a watch.
Something I’ve often thought about is the connection between so-called “lesser (individual) love,” the love for your spouse or lover, the love for your children, and other individuals in your life, and “greater (universal) love,” the universal love for all living beings.
Many often think that lesser love can be a hindrance, an attachment that prevents someone from attaining greater love for all. This is a big reason many monks tend not to marry (although some do in Tibetan Buddhism especially).
Does it get in the way of us finding our love for all living beings, distracting us, or misleading us?
The movie illustrates many points and these are the insights I gained after some deep thought after the film:
Lesser Love is Greater Love
Most of us feel the need to find love, a partner, somebody to cherish and hold for the rest of our lives. But for many Buddhists this can sometimes post a problem: is this love an attachment to the mundane world hindering enlightenment? Does it get in the way of me finding the truth and the universal love for all beings?
The truth is that lesser love is greater love. In fact, loving somebody dearly and fully can provide individuals with a rare glimpse of universal love. If you can truly love somebody by living for them, loving them for who they are and not an idea of who they are, accept and cherish somebody unconditionally, then you’re on the right path to universal love.
By loving one person completely and surrendering to the magnificence of love, you can use these glimpses to help grow the love within your spirit and begin to know more about the world and a love for all beings.
What is Greater Love?
We can gain unconditional love for an individual by truly understanding them, standing in their shoes, and accepting him or her. Greater love is feeling that love for everyone and all living beings and it’s possible to use lesser love to feel greater love.
Think of somebody you love unconditionally. Maybe it’s your parents, your child, your lover, or somebody else. If there’s not somebody in particular you can think of, think of an innocent you could feel unconditional love for–somebody with a mental disability, an elderly person with dementia, an innocent baby…
Now feel the love for that person, let the warmth of your love wash over that person as you visualize him or her in your mind. When you feel comfortable and the feeling of unconditional love has filled you, I want you to spread that love to others whom you find it easy to give your love to.
Gradually continue the exercise, spreading the love to your friends and family, and then strangers. Next begin to feel love for those who have wronged you, know that they are people too with their own shortcomings and motivations. Do not feel animosity or anger against them, but love the good within them, since everybody has some good. Or maybe you love them because nobody else will, or because you feel like they need your love.
Those who have done wrong and terrible things are the ones who need your love most. It is time to spread your love to them.
Once you have spread your love to them, you can feel love for all living beings–the giant redwood trees, animals and insects in nature, spirits and those you’ve lost. Let your love spread out from you to all living beings and sit in the comfort of the love. This is the feeling of “greater (universal) love.”
Through your lesser love, you can feel and find greater love. Good luck.
More on Meditation
If you want to learn more about meditation or try other meditation exercises, you can check some of my older articles below:
Body Awareness Meditation
Meditation and Its Benefits