“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
HH the XIVth Dalai Lama
Kindness is the intention to be friendly, caring, generous, benevolent, considerate, respectful, fair, and affectionate to all. It is one of the ten paramitas (excellences) of the Theravada school of Buddhism, and the first of the four brahmaviharas (spiritual qualities) of the Mahayana. The cultivation of kindness is a principal Dharma practice.
Kindness signifies friendship and non-violence as well as a strong wish for the happiness of others. Kindness is in fact a very specific form of love —caring for another, independent of all self-interest— and thus is likened to one’s love for one’s child or parent.
The object of loving kindness is to love without attachment. Traditionally, the practice begins by cultivating loving kindness towards oneself, then one’s loved ones, friends, teachers, strangers, enemies, and finally towards all sentient beings.
Those who cultivate kindness are always at ease because they see no need to harbor ill will or hostility. Teachers often recommend meditation on kindness as an antidote to insomnia and nightmares. It is generally felt that those around a kind person will feel more comfortable and happy. Radiating kindness contributes to universal love, peace and happiness.
Kindness Meditation: The Practice of Loving-Kindness
Kindness meditation is an excellent way to calm a distraught mind, as it is an antidote to anger. One who has cultivated kindness will not be easily angered and can quickly subdue anger that arises, being more caring, more loving, and more likely to love unconditionally.
In the practice of kindness meditation, one recites the Prayer of Kindness in order to evoke boundless warm-hearted feelings. The strength of these feelings is not limited to or by family, religion, or social class. Indeed, kindness is a tool that permits one’s generosity and compassion to be applied to all beings and, as a consequence, one finds true happiness in another person’s happiness, no matter who the individual is.
The six stages of kindness meditation involve cultivating loving-kindness towards:
- A good friend (avoid persons to whom you feel sexually attracted, or that are much younger or much older than yourself, or who are dead)
- A ‘neutral’ person (someone with whom you might come in contact often, but who does not give rise to strong positive or negative emotions)
- A difficult person (avoid persons who have recently harmed or offended you, unless you are very well grounded in awareness)
- All four (view them as equals, equally deserving of loving-kindness)
- All sentient beings
Prayer of Loving Kindness
May I be free from fear. May I be free from suffering.
May I be happy. May I be filled with loving kindness.
May you be free from fear. May you be free from suffering.
May you be happy. May you be filled with loving kindness.
May all beings everywhere be happy and filled with loving kindness.