Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Learning "Loving Kindness" (metta)

Acharya Buddharakkhita, Metta: The Philosophy and Practice of Universal Love (Wheel 365); Dhr. Seven, Ananda, Crystal Quintero, Amber Larson, Pat Machperson (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly

Inhale love...exhale gratitude...
The Buddhist word metta (Pali, maitri in Sanskrit) is a multi-significant term.

It means loving-kindness, friendliness, amity, goodwill, benevolence, fellowship, concord, inoffensiveness, and non-violence.

The commentators define metta as the strong wish for the happiness and welfare of others (parahita-parasukha-kamana).

Metta by Sharon Salzberg
Essentially metta is an altruistic attitude of love (openheartedness, agape) and friendliness as distinguished from mere amiability based on self-interest.

Through  Buddhist metta one refuses to be offensive. One renounces bitterness, resentment, and animosity of every kind, developing instead a mind/heart of friendliness, accommodation, and benevolence that seeks the well-being and happiness of others.

True metta is friendliness is free of self-interest. It evokes within a warm-hearted feeling of fellowship, sympathy, and agape/love that grows boundless with practice and overcomes all familial, social, religious, racial, political, and economic barriers. Metta is a universal, unselfish, and all-embracing love.
Metta practice [the goal of this essay] makes one a pure font of well-being and safety for others. Just as a mother gives her own life to protect her child, so metta only gives and never wants anything in return.

That's not metta, silly. That's sexy love!
To promote one's own interest is a primordial motivation of human nature. When this urge is transformed into the desire to promote the interest and happiness of others, not only is the basic urge of self-seeking overcome, but the mind becomes universal by identifying its own interest with the interest of all. By making this change one also promotes one's own well-being in the best possible manner.
Metta is the protective and immensely patient attitude of a mother who forbears all difficulties for the sake of her child and ever protects it despite its misbehavior. Metta is also the attitude of a friend [the Buddha being said to be the fest of all possible friends] who wants to give one the best to further one's well-being.

Welcome, venerable sir, your holiness. - Thanks.
If these qualities of metta are sufficiently cultivated through metta-bhavana — the meditative cultivation of boundless universal love — the result is the acquisition of a tremendous inner power that preserves, protects, and heals oneself and others.
Apart from its higher implications, metta is a pragmatic necessity today. In a world menaced by all kinds of destructiveness, metta in deed, word, and thought is the only constructive means to bring concord, peace, and respectful mutual understanding.

Indeed, metta is the supreme means of doing this, for it forms the fundamental tenet of all the higher traditions as well as the basis for all benevolent activities intended to promote human well-being.
Ecstasy of St. Theresa by Bernini
The present booklet aims at exploring various facets of metta in theory and in practice. The examination starts with a study of the popular Karaniya Metta Sutta, the Buddha's "Sutra of Universal Love."

In connection with this theme, we will also look at several other short texts dealing with metta. The explanation of metta-development (bhavana), meditation on universal love, will give the practical directions for developing this type of contemplative reflection as set forth in the main meditation texts of the Theravada Buddhist tradition:  
Sutra of Universal Love: Karaniya Metta Sutta
1. Karaniyam atthakusalena Yan tam santam padam abhisamecca
Sakko uju ca suju ca
Suvaco c'assa mudu anatimani

Who seeks to promote one's own welfare,
Having glimpsed the state of perfect peace,
Should be able, honest, and upright,
Gentle in speech, meek, and not proud.
2. Santussako ca subharo ca
Appakicco ca sallahukavutti
Santindriyo ca nipako ca
Appagabbho kulesu ananugiddho

Contented, one should be easy to support,
Not over-busy but simple in living.
With tranquil senses, let one be prudent
And not brazen, nor fawning on supporters.
3. Na ca khuddam samacare kinci
Yena viññu pare upavadeyyum
Sukhino va khemino hontu
Sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatta

Also, one must refrain from any karma
That gives the wise reason to reprove.
(Then let one cultivate the thought:)
May all beings be well and secure and
May all beings be happy!
4. Ye keci panabhut'atthi
Tasa va thavara va anavasesa
Digha va ye mahanta va
Majjhima rassakanukathula

Whatever living creatures there be,
Without exception, weak or strong,
Long, huge, or middle-sized,
Short, minute, or bulky,
5. Dittha va yeva adittha
Ye ca dure vasanti avidure
Bhuta va sambhavesi va
Sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatta

Whether visible or invisible,
Those living far or near,
The reborn and those seeking rebirth,
May all beings be happy!
6. Na paro param nikubbetha
Natimaññetha katthacinam kanci
Byarosana patighasañña
Naññamaññassa dukkham iccheyya

Let none deceive or decry
Another anywhere;
Let none wish others harm
In resentment or in hate.
7. Mata yatha niyam puttam
Ayusa ekaputtam anurakkhe
Evampi sabbabhutesu
Manasam bhavaye aparimanam

Just as with her own life
A mother shields from harm
Her own son, her only child,
Let all-embracing thoughts
For all beings be yours.
8. Mettañ ca sabba-lokasmim
Manasam bhavaye aparimanam
Uddham adho ca tiriyanca
Asambadham averam asapattam

Cultivate an all-embracing mind of love
For all throughout the universe,
In all its height, depth, and breadth —
Love that is untroubled
Gone beyond hatred and enmity.
9. Titthañ caram nisinno va
Sayano va yavat'assa vigatamiddho
Etam satim adhittheyya
Brahmam etam viharam idhamahu

As you stand, walk, sit, or lie down,
So long as you are awake,
Pursue this mindfulness with your might:
It is deemed the Divine State here.
10. Ditthiñca anupagamma silava
Dassanena sampanno
Kamesu vineyya gedham
Na hi jatu gabbhaseyyam punar eti'ti

Holding no more to wrong views,
With virtue and vision of the ultimate,
And having overcome all sensual desire,
Never in a womb is one reborn again.
2. The Background to the Metta Sutta
Kwan Yin in Marble Mountain
The historical background that led the Buddha to expound the Karaniya Metta Sutta is explained in the commentary written by the great commentator Buddhaghosa, who received it from an unbroken line of Buddhist elders (theras and theris) going back to the days of the Buddha. ...

Indeed, such is the power intrinsic in the Metta Sutta.

Mystic St. Francis spreads metta
Whoever with firm confidence will recite the sutra, invoking the protection of the devas and meditating on metta, will safeguard oneself in every way and also protect all of those around, and will make spiritual progress that can actually be verified. No harm can ever befall a person who follows the path of metta.

3. Three Aspects of Metta
The Metta Sutta consists of three parts, each of which focuses on a distinct aspect of metta.
  1. The first part (Lines 3 to 10) covers that aspect which requires a thorough and systematic application of loving-kindness in one's day-to-day conduct.
  2. The second part (Lines 11-20) expresses loving-kindness as a distinct technique of meditation or culture of mind (development of the heart) leading to samadhi — higher consciousness induced by meditative absorption (jhana).
  3. And the third part (Lines 21-40) underlines a total commitment to the philosophy of universal love and its personal, social, and empirical extensions — loving-kindness through all bodily, verbal, and mental actions/activities (karma).
India's Polish Catholic saint, Mother Teresa
Metta has been identified as that specific factor that "ripens" the accumulated merit (punna) acquired by the ten ways of acquiring merit (dasa-punna-kiriyavatthu) [similar to the Ten Courses of Wholesome Action to acquire good karma], such as the practice of generosity, virtue, and so on.

Again, metta brings to maturity to the ten exalted spiritual qualities known as "Ten Perfections" (paramis, paramita) the Bodhisatta ("Buddha-to-be") developed to become "the Buddha."
Trees can talk and teach. Can we hear them?
The practice of metta can therefore be likened to bringing into being a great tree, from the time the seed is sown to the time the tree is heavily laden with delicious fruits and sends forth its sweet fragrance far and wide, attracting a myriad creatures to it to enjoy its tasty nutrients.

The sprouting of the seed and the growth of the plant are, as it were, brought about by the first part of the sutra. In the second part, the tree -- robust and developed -- is fully covered with fragrant and beautiful flowers, riveting all eyes upon it. More

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