Weekend Meditation ~ On the Kindness of Others

buddha kindness


In thinking about the opportunities people have offered us,

we can develop happiness and wisdom.

by Katy Brennan


Even when we’re alone, we are deeply connected to others, benefiting directly from their kindness. Thinking this way—and formally meditating on the kindness of others—can help us to feel not only less lonely, but more fortunate and grateful.

Initially, in considering the kindness of others, we develop a sense of gratitude, which is wonderful. But if we go deeper and truly consider how much we rely upon the actions of others in every moment of our lives, we can cultivate an abiding awareness of interdependence and what Buddha referred to as the “dependent arising” nature of all phenomenon. In this sense, meditating on the kindness of others helps us to develop both happiness and wisdom.

On this first level, we can bring to mind the overt acts of kindness and generosity from which we have benefited. Very naturally, this will help us to feel loved and comforted.

In her bestselling book, Random Acts of Kindness, Dawna Markova points to this feeling we get when we open ourselves up to receiving kindness. “Kindness is twice blessed.” She writes, “It blesses the one who gives it with a sense of his or her own capacity to love, and the person who receives it with a sense of the beneficence of the universe.”

Depending upon what’s been coming up in our lives, focusing on being embraced by a loving world may be very easy to do, or it may require some investigation. We may sit down for this meditation feeling less than well cared for, perhaps even abused. We may feel isolated and alone to one degree or another and with everything we have in the world we have personally worked hard for, we may feel as if no one has given us anything.

The feeling of isolation is the flipside of the independence that we cultivate, particularly in the United States where being self-made is considered a virtue. But it is a myth, and a painful one. How does it feel to be a rock and an island?

In truth, we have others to thank for our very existence: namely, our parents. Whether or not we feel they’ve been expressly or overtly kind to us, and whether or not we even know who our biological parents are, they gave us life. Likewise, our education, understanding, skills, experience, are all opportunities offered to us by others. In fact, others, past and present, have provided for all of our day-to-day needs. Consider the dwellings we live in, the roads we walk, bike, or drive along, and bikes themselves, trains, planes, and automobiles…many people worked very hard and endured great difficulties to create these things.

We may feel as though this is not “kindness” per se, because these people were just doing their jobs, just as we do our jobs and make money to provide for ourselves. This may bring us back to a notion of separation and independence from others—back to that cold, hard place of being an island unto ourselves. But where does money come from? Who provides us with employment or does business with us? Even our work relationships can feel very warm and friendly to us when we consider how much we depend upon them for all of our material protections and enjoyments and how they sustain us.

Even when someone intentionally hurts or offends us, we can actually perceive a benefit, or kindness, in their actions…if we think in terms of our spiritual progress. By helping us to see the actual cause of our suffering (our fragile sense of self, our insecurity, our sense of isolation or disconnection, etc.) the offense or resulting hurt feelings can encourage us to move forward along our spiritual path towards growth and understanding.  In our meditations, it’s up to us to find the gift in whatever comes up. In this way, we can cultivate an appreciation for even the utterly unintentional kindness of others.

In his book, Universal Compassion, a modern commentary on Training the Mind in Seven Points, a 12th century text by the great Tibetan bodhisattva Geshe Chekhawa, Geshe Kelsand Gyatso writes, “ If we check carefully, it becomes clear how others help us through their kindness. By checking in this way, we should come to the conclusion, ‘I must cherish other living beings because they are so kind.’ With this determination, we should try to generate a mind that holds all beings equally dear, and then sustain this loving mind in a single-pointed meditation.”

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