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.
There are eleven chapters in this book, and each but the first one (which serves as a broad introduction to the subject) provides a teaching followed by practical instruction in the form of one or more exercises or meditations. This enables you to actually take the principles taught by the author and start applying them to your own life as you read. Of course, lovingkindness isn’t something that you develop once and then forget about, so you will probably want to return to the book (and continue to practice many of the meditations and exercises it provides) for years to come.
Lovingkindness is something that you practice for the benefit of all sentient beings, and it is important to remember that you yourself are one of those beings. The first few chapters of this book will help you to be kind to yourself, understand the benefits of practicing lovingkindess and work on your anger and aversion. If this was where the book ended then it would still be well worth the cover price, but of course lovingkindess extends to others too, so subsequent chapters help you to expand your perspective until you have the same attitude of unconditional love towards everyone. Chapters 7 through 10 of the book focus specifically on developing compassion, sympathetic joy, equanimity and generosity, and then the final chapter Living Our Love wraps everything up beautifully.
The author shares plenty of her personal experiences as she teaches in this book, and when you consider just how much experience she has (over 25 years of practicing Buddhist meditation as well as co-founding the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts and teaching around the world) you will appreciate just how valuable Lovingkindness is. We here at Buddhist Book Reviews consider this to be the definitive book on developing lovingkindness and we heartily recommend it.