Lovingkindness : the revolutionary art of happiness

by Sharon Salzberg

Other authorsJon Kabat-Zinn (Foreword)
Paperback, 1995




Boston : Shambhala, 1995.


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.… (more)

Media reviews

Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg is, in our opinion, one of the best Buddhist books ever written on the topic of lovingkindness (metta). Not only does it provide the reader with all of the background information needed to understand what lovingkindness is (which makes the content accessible to everyone) it also delivers plenty of instruction on actually practicing lovingkindness and cultivating more love, compassion, joy and equanimity in our own lives.

User reviews

LibraryThing member IonaS
Sharon Salzberg has practiced Buddhist meditation for many years, so the book provides much information about Buddhism. Though reading the book requires focus and concentration, I found it to be enlightening and inspiring. It also absolutely exudes lovingkindness, which is a main factor attracting me to a book, though I was not previously familiar with the term.

Lovingkindness is a translation of the Pali word “metta”, which is the first of the brahma-viharas, or the “heavenly abodes”. The others – compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity - “grow out of metta, which supports and extends these states”.

The author is open about her own shortcomings and episodes that have contributed to her development, and provides us with many personal stories that add to the book’s readability.

The Buddha presented the metta meditation as an antidote to fear. A mind involved with lovingkindness cannot be overcome by fear. Lovingkindness overcomes the illusion of separatenesss and all its accompanying states - “fear, alienation, loneliness, and despair – all of the feelings of fragmentation”.

When we feel love, we can allow ourselves to be fully aware of the entirety of life – both pleasures and pains. “Love can uproot fear or anger or guilt, because it is a greater power”.

Metta begins with loving ourselves. We ourselves deserve our love and affection. We must focus on the goodness in others, and will thus forge a connection to them. The force of metta “allows us to cohere, to come together within ourselves and with all beings”.

What I most appreciated in the book was the numerous exercises. The first exercise advises us to call to mind kind or good actions we have done, or qualities we appreciate about ourselves. In the second exercise we practice befriending ourselves by repeating phrases relating to what we wish for ourselves.

There are four phrases generally used:

“May I be free from danger.”
“May I have mental happiness.”
“May I have physical happiness.”
“May I have ease of well-being.”

I personally have chosen the phrases:

“May I be healed, completely healed.”
“May I fulfill my life purpose.”
“May I be loving.”
“May I be blissful.”

We begin by reflecting on the good within us or our wish to be happy. Then we repeat the four phrases we have chosen, again and again. After doing this exercise I feel really good.

In later exercises we repeat the chosen phrases directed towards others – a benefactor, a neutral person, a difficult person, difficult aspects of oneself, all beings, all females, all males, all enlightened beings, all those in ignorance, etc, etc.

There are chapters on facets of lovingkindness, hindrances to lovingkindness, working with anger and aversion, developing the compassionate heart, the power of generosity, etc, etc. (There is also a useful exercise on compassion for those who cause pain.)

I found this to be a most wonderful book, which I will need to re-read several times. I greatly recommend this well-written and absolutely inspiring book to all those who wish to develop a loving heart. I will be looking out for other books by this author.
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LibraryThing member kimolver
I surprised myself once when I took part in a values clarification exercise. I always thought honesty was my number one value. I believe very strongly in honesty and integrity but what I realized after completing this values activity was that if push came to shove, I would choose kindness over honesty every time. The highest value by which I live my life is kindness. That is not to say, I'm right and if you would choose honesty or any other value that you would be wrong. It's simply to say that in my life, I have chosen kindness as my highest purpose.

Therefore, when I saw a book entitled, Loving-Kindness, you can imagine it caught my attention. I was not surprised to enjoy reading it. Ms. Salzberg takes Buddhist psychology and simplifies it to a way of living that resonates with me and I'm sure it will with many of my readers.
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LibraryThing member Shinsengumi
Sharon Salzberg introduces the power and peace of the ancient Buddhist philosophy of lovingkindness. The author teaches readers the historical background, philosophical underpinnings, and techniques designed to promote a more objective, compassionate approach to existing with oneself and the world.
LibraryThing member bookmindful
I really need to finish this book. The parts I have read have been really helpful.
LibraryThing member Velmeran
Sharon has a great deal of helpful information included in this text. I highly recommend it. So why not give it more stars? Maybe it just needs some time to sink in and be digested. I will be reading this again.
LibraryThing member kukulaj
This is a delightful book on the four immeasurables, or the four Brahma-viharas: love, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Salzberg does an excellent job of distinguishing each of these from it's near enemies, e.g. love versus attachment. Salzberg also shows how the cultivation and expression of these attitudes is at the root of the Buddhist path to liberation.

Salzberg doesn't get into history and politics - this is a very practice-oriented book. Given that Salzberg is working out of a Theravadin tradition, it must have been tempting to use the long heritage of this practice - at one point Salzberg quoted Buddhaghosa, who pretty much defines Theravadin orthodoxy - to counter the usual Mahayana claim to owning compassion. Salzberg just leaves all that unspoken. She even quotes some non-Buddhist sources. This is not a sectarian tract.

This is a great book for any Buddhist practitioner. It doesn't assume much background, but even a long time meditator is sure to come away with some fresh persepectives.
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