What Does It Mean to Love Everyone?
By Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
The supreme command of all higher ethical and religious systems is to love everyone as one’s neighbor, or even to love everyone as oneself. But how is it possible to love everyone? Can love be commanded, and if it can be, what kind of love is it that responds to a moral command? At first glance, it seems that the demand to love everyone can never be fulfilled, that it lays upon us an impossible burden.
In our everyday experience, the circle of those we love is limited, and whenever love arises toward anyone, it does so on the basis of close association, not in compliance with a moral injunction. I may live in an apartment building shared by hundreds of people, many of whom I see on the elevator day after day, and yet I may feel complete indifference toward them. I may live in a densely populated neighborhood and pass my neighbors on the street or in the shops, yet hardly do I manage to even nod “good morning” to any of them. When I travel in New York City, I sit in a crowded subway car and look upon my fellow passengers as mere empty faces, hardly recognizing them as people in their own right. And there are some that I meet who treat me roughly, spitefully, even with contempt. How then can I be expected to love people all around the world, much less those who are openly hostile toward me?