The Heart of Valentine’s Day 

by | Feb 13, 2024 | Blog

As Valentine’s Day approaches, we are reminded of the joy of love – of giving and receiving love from people we cherish and hold dear.

Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh (popularly known as Thay, Vietnamese for “teacher”)  teaches that love begins with understanding and accepting ourselves before we can love another. Thich Nhat Hanh embodies love in his whole being – his teachings, the way he looked at you, the way he breathed, the way he walked.

In his book Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, Thich Nhat Hanh taught, “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” 

In True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart, Thich Nhat Hanh teaches the four brahmavihārā:

“According to Buddhism, There are four elements of true love.

The first is maitri, which can be translated as loving-kindness or benevolence. Loving-kindness is not only the desire to make someone happy, to bring joy to a beloved person; it is the ability to bring joy and happiness to the person you love, because even if your intention is to love this person, your love might make him or her suffer. Training is needed in order to love properly; and to be able to give happiness and joy, you must practice deep looking directed toward the person you love. Because if you do not understand this person, you cannot love properly. Understanding is the essence of love. If you cannot understand, you cannot love.

The second element of true love is compassion, karuna. This is not only the desire to ease the pain of another person, but the ability to do so. You must practice deep looking in order to gain a good understanding of the nature of the suffering of this person, in order to be able to help him or her to change. Knowledge and understanding are always at the root of the practice. The practice of understanding is the practice of meditation. To meditate is to look deeply into the heart of things.

The third element of true love is joy, mudita. If there is no joy in love, it is not true love. If you are suffering all the time, if you cry all the time, and if you make the person you love cry, this is not really love—it is even the opposite. If there is no joy in your love, you can be sure that it is not true love.

The fourth element is upeksha, equanimity or freedom. In true love, you attain freedom. When you love, you bring freedom to the person you love. If the opposite is true, it is not true love. You must love in such a way that the person you love feels free, not only outside but also inside.”

We suggest that one practice that you could do to welcome and celebrate Valentine’s Day is to wish loving-kindness and compassion to yourself and others around you. 

May I be peaceful, happy and light in my body and in my mind. 

May I be safe and free from accidents. 

May I be free from anger, unwholesome states of mind, fear and worries. 

May I know how to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and compassion. 

May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself. 

May I learn how to nourish myself with joy each day.

May I be able to live fresh, solid and free. 

May I not fall into the state of indifference or be caught in the extremes of attachment or aversion.

— Guided Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh

We wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Chade-Meng Tan

Meng is an award-winning engineer, international bestselling author, movie producer and philanthropist. His work has been nominated eight times for the Nobel Peace Prize. (Read Meng's story)

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