It is much easier to love all mankind then it is to love any particular man or woman.
It is much easier to be in love with our fantasy of what mankind is than to have to love a man or woman as he or she is. .....really loving mankind is in fact loving each man and woman as we love the Buddha (or what we imagine the Buddha to be).
It is possible to abuse a meditation practice to the detriment of relationships. It is possible to leave our significant others behind in our quest for an individual enlightenment. It is one aspect of any Mahayana practice (and Zen is a Mahayana school) to vow not to enter Nirvana until everyone else has entered first. It is my contention that a good place to start is where you are. One should be more concerned with loving care for one's significant other, child or parent then one is with themselves and their individual practice of meditation. One should not sacrifice one moment more to meditation than one needs to get by while failing to attend to our families needs and our responsibilities to those who depend on us, or take care of us.
I have seen many Zen students caught up in the zeal that results from seeing changes in themselves that they forget that it is not really about themselves. It is in fact impossible to forget yourself when all you think about is yourself. There is a big difference between knowing
yourself, and only thinking about yourself. Yes we need to study ourselves to forget ourselves, but only thinking of ourselves will never lead us to forgetting ourselves.
If the changes from your meditation practice do not result in you becoming a better father, mother, son or daughter, partner, employee or boss, or a better Zen teacher if that is your choice of path then your practice is a worthless dead end. It is after all, all about seeing others go ahead in the Zen schools, not about running ahead yourself. It is about where you are right now, not where you should be, or will be if only. It is not about seeing the man who became filled with road rage and wound up causing the death of others as separate from us, as different from us, (thank whoever that we are not in jail with such a bail like that for a reason like that...after all if we had been formed by the forces that shapedthat man We would have done so much better), but rather it is seeing this person as a fellow suffering being, and taking what steps we can right around us to relieve the suffering of those around us who might end up as strung out and frustrated as this man if we do not carefully attend what is going on with them.
Yes we might need to sit down and get calm where we are right now, but we should not spend one minute more in such a practice than we need to be able to stand up and take care of all that is around us, including family, friends, fellow workers, bosses and employees.
Happy New Year,