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Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness

Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness

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by Sharon Salzberg

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Throughout our lives we long to love ourselves more deeply and find a greater sense of connection with others. Our fear of intimacy—both with others and with ourselves—creates feelings of pain and longing. But these feelings can also awaken in us the desire for freedom and the willingness to take up the spiritual path.

In this inspiring book,


Throughout our lives we long to love ourselves more deeply and find a greater sense of connection with others. Our fear of intimacy—both with others and with ourselves—creates feelings of pain and longing. But these feelings can also awaken in us the desire for freedom and the willingness to take up the spiritual path.

In this inspiring book, Sharon Salzberg, one of America's leading spiritual teachers, shows us how the Buddhist path of lovingkindness can help us discover the radiant, joyful heart within each of us. This practice of lovingkindness is revolutionary because it has the power to radically change our lives, helping us cultivate true happiness in ourselves and genuine compassion for others. The Buddha described the nature of such a spiritual path as "the liberation of the heart, which is love." The author draws on simple Buddhist teachings, wisdom stories from various traditions, guided meditation practices, and her own experience from twenty-five years of practice and teaching to illustrate how each one of us can cultivate love, compassion, joy, and equanimity—the four "heavenly abodes" of traditional Buddhism.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Salzberg exposes the warm beating heart at the center of Buddhism."—New Age Journal

"Reading Salzberg's book produces the sense of having been gifted abundantly."—Sylvia Boorstein, Turning Wheel

"Sharon Salzberg's book illuminates the heart of lovingkindness like a lamp in the darkness, like the clearing of the fog, like a sunrise on a beautiful morning—it brings light so that all those with eyes may see."—Jack Kornfield, author of After the Ecstasy, the Laundry

"Lovingkindness is a profound exploration of the deepest meanings of love, empathy, and caring. It offers psychological insights of real spiritual value and practical utility."—Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence

Product Details

Publication date:
Shambhala Publications
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
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File size:
1 MB

Read an Excerpt

1: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness

connect."—E. M. Forster

can travel a long way and do many different things, but our deepest happiness
is not born from accumulating new experiences. It is born from letting go of
what is unnecessary, and knowing ourselves to be always at home. True happiness
may not be at all far away, but it requires a radical change of view as to
where to find it.

meditator at one of our first retreats found this out in a very pointed way.
Before we established the center of the Insight Meditation Society, we had to
rent sites for long meditation retreats. For our first one, we rented a
monastery with a beautiful chapel. In order to turn the chapel into a
meditation hall where we could sit on the floor, we had to remove all the pews
and store them in a large back room. Owing to a shortage of sleeping
accommodations, one of the meditators slept in a corner of that back room for
the duration of the retreat.

the course of the retreat this meditator began to experience a lot of aches and
pains. Feeling quite annoyed and disturbed by them, he spent a long time
searching the monastery for the perfect chair, one that would allow him to sit
without pain. Unable to find it, he decided that his only recourse was to sneak
into the monastery workshop at night to build himself a chair. He meticulously
planned how he would do this without being discovered. Then, confident that he
would soon have the solution to his problems, he went to the workshop to look
over the tools and materials available. Back in the room where he was staying,
he sat down on one of the pews stored there and set about designing the
absolutely perfect meditation chair, guaranteed to end suffering.

he was sitting there working, he realized that he was feeling happier and
happier. At first he thought the happiness came because he was creating the
unheralded, revolutionary, perfect design. Then suddenly he realized that, in
fact, he was so happy because he was remarkably comfortable sitting on one of
the pews. He looked around and saw that there were about three hundred of those
pews right in his own room. What he was looking for had been right in front of
him all along. Instead of taking that tortuous mental journey, he could have
just sat down.

we take quite a journey—physically or mentally or emotionally—when the very
love and happiness we want so much can be found by just sitting down. We spend
our lives searching for something we think we don't have, something that will
make us happy. But the key to our deepest happiness lies in changing our vision
of where to seek it. As the great Japanese poet and Zen master Hakuin said,
"Not knowing how near the Truth is, people seek it far away. What a pity! They
are like one who, in the midst of water, cries out in thirst so imploringly."

happiness comes from the experience of pleasure—the satisfaction, for a little
while, of getting what we want. Such happiness is like the temporary
appeasement of an unhappy, insatiable child. We reach out for the consolation
of a momentary distraction, and then we are upset when it changes. I have a
friend who is four years old. When he gets frustrated, or does not get what he
wants, the hallways of his house echo with his cries: "Nobody loves me
anymore!" We as adults often feel the same: when we do not get what we want—or
when we get what we want, only to have it change—it seems as though all the
love in the universe has been withdrawn from us. Happiness becomes an either/or
situation. Just like the four-year-old, our interpretations and judgments
obstruct clear seeing.

is just as it is, despite our protests. For all of us there is a constant
succession of pleasurable and painful experiences. Once I was hiking with
friends in Northern California. We had decided beforehand to follow a certain
trail for the first three days, and then to retrace our steps for the next
three. On the third day of this arduous hike, we found ourselves on a long,
steady downhill slope. After several hours of this, one of my friends, suddenly
realizing what all this walking downhill implied for the next day when we would
be retracing our steps, turned to me and said glumly, "In a dualistic universe,
downhill can mean only one thing."

unrelenting flux of life's changing conditions is inevitable, yet we labor to
hold on to pleasure, and we labor equally hard to avoid pain. So many images
from our world tell us that it is wrong to suffer; advertising, social mores,
and cultural assumptions suggest that feeling pain or sadness is blameworthy,
shameful, humiliating. Underlying these messages is an expectation that somehow
we should be able to control pain or loss. When we experience mental or
physical pain, we often feel a sense of isolation, a disconnection from
humanity and life. Our shame sets us apart in our suffering at the very times
when we need most to connect.

transitory happiness carries a subtle undercurrent not only of loneliness but
also of fear. When things are going well, when we are experiencing pleasure and
are getting what we want, we feel obliged to defend our happiness because it
seems so fragile, unstable. As though our happiness needed constant protection,
we deny the very possibility of suffering; we cut ourselves off from facing it
in ourselves and in others because we fear that it will undermine or destroy
our good fortune. Thus, in order to hold on to our pleasure, we refuse to
recognize the humanity of a homeless person on the street. We decide that the
suffering of others is not relevant to our own lives. We cut ourselves off from
facing the world's suffering because we fear it will undermine or destroy our
own happiness. In that highly defended state, we withdraw into so terrible an
aloneness that we cannot experience true joy. How strange our conditioning is:
to feel so alone in our pain, and to feel so vulnerable and isolated in our

some people, a single powerful experience may propel them out of this
isolation. Ashoka was an emperor in northern India about two hundred and fifty
years after the time of the Buddha. In the early years of his reign, this
powerful emperor was bloodthirsty and greedy for the expansion of his empire.
He was also a very unhappy man. One day, after a particularly terrible battle
that he had launched in order to acquire more territory, he walked on the
battlefield amid the appalling spectacle of corpses of men and animals strewn
everywhere, already rotting in the sun and being devoured by carrion-eating
birds. Ashoka was aghast at the carnage he had caused.

then a Buddhist monk came walking across the battlefield. The monk did not say
a word, but his being was radiant with peace and happiness. Seeing that monk,
Ashoka thought, "Why is it that I, having everything in the world, feel so
miserable? Whereas this monk has nothing in the world apart from the robes he
wears and the bowl he carries, yet he looks so serene and happy in this
terrible place."

Meet the Author

Sharon Salzberg is one of America's leading spiritual teachers and authors. A practitioner of Buddhist meditation for over thirty years, she is a co-founder of the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies and the Insight Meditation Society, and she directs meditation retreats throughout the United States and abroad.

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Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Buddha said: 'None of the means to acquire religious merit has a sixteenth part of the value of Loving-kindness.' After reading this book, I believe it. It is essential for anyone, Buddhist or not, who wishes a better knowlegde of the Brahma-Viharas or sublime states: Loving-Kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy & Equanimity. The author writes with a warmth and understanding that goes well with the subject matter. I go back and read chapters often and find inspiration every time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book. I struggle with anxiety and i can say that this book really makes since. Great for anyone!
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