On Transformation & Loving Kindness

by Rev. Aaron Payson

Suzuki Roshi, I’ve been listening to your lectures for years,” a student said during the question and answer time following a lecture, “but I just don’t understand. Could you just please put it in a nutshell? Can you reduce Buddhism to one phrase?” Everyone laughed. Suzuki laughed. “Everything changes”, he said. Then he asked for another question. (https://www.thedailybuddha.com/everything/)

This month’s Soul Matters Theme is Transformation.  The story above from the Buddhist tradition reflects one important lesson of transformation which is that it is perpetual.  “Everything changes.” says the Sage. To which one might add, and change is the only constant.  

The lesson from Suzuki Roshi reflects the heart of the Buddhist teaching of impermanence which one learns in Buddhism requires a life stance of non-attachment, the perpetual art of letting go, of honoring without striving to own or cling to a particular manifestation of existence whether it be a person, place, object, situation, or way of feeling for example.   One wonders, then, how to honor that which one ought not to strive to possess. One important teaching that spans most religious traditions is the application of “the Golden Rule.”


What is often translated as “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” suggests that the arbiter of loving kindness begins with the self, that we must first understand what we wish to happen to ourselves and therefore understand what is important to others.  

Another rendering might be “Do unto others as they would have done unto themselves.” wherein the impetus for loving kindness is an awareness of another’s desires and deepest needs.  

These orientations toward self-awareness and other-awareness are at the heart of the teaching which begins with the experience of perpetual transformation and leads to opportunities to love and support each other.  

It is up to each of us to decide where to begin that journey.