Recognizing greatness in others can only occur because we have that greatness within ourselves. As a husband, father, uncle, friend, artist, psychotherapist and meditator, I need that greatness—we all need that greatness, we all possess that greatness– in order to create beauty and meaning and inspiration that can give peace and strength to those who may benefit from whatever we create of art, and whatever we create of ourselves.
In my work and in my life, I try to be aware always of the three poisons—greed, ill will, delusion—because any one of the poisons can make it impossible to recognize and realize and use our greatness to create loving kindness and compassion and joy in our art and in our relationships..
Perhaps the most powerful antidote to the three poisons is what the buddha called “loving the world as a mother loves her only child.”
Years ago, I worked as a clinician therapist with a charming, but extremely paranoid, substance-abusing, lawbreaking and possibly dangerous individual who had the walls of his apartment lined with empty fishtanks, and who purchased every book he could find about Buddhism, but never read any of his collection. One afternoon, as I was counseling him, he dropped a book into my lap and insisted I look into it, a book he’d never read. Cracking open the pages of the book, my eyes lit upon The Eight Verses of Thought Training, a six or seven hundred years old Buddhist text. The Eight Verses floored me–within a few weeks I had memorized and incorporated them into my daily practice. This is the fourth verse: “Whenever I meet a person of bad nature, who is overwhelmed with negative energy and intense suffering, I will hold such a rare one dear, as if I had found a precious treasure.”
The greatness I had not seen before in that charming, paranoid, possibly dangerous individual had led him to collect books that he never opened, yet proudly showed to many people; one of those books changed my life, and through me, hopefully, the lives of others.
Loving those I find easy to love is a joy, and I learn from it, but learning to love those people most difficult for me to love, the ones I find seemingly impossible to love, has taught me infinitely more about my ability to dive deeper and deeper into the limitless love for myself and all beings that exists within me, a greatness of love that I now believe to exist within all beings.