This is what should be done By one who is skilled in goodness, And who knows the path of peace: Let them be able and upright,“Karaniya Metta Sutta: The Buddha’s Words on Loving-Kindness” (Sn 1.8), translated from the Pali by The Amaravati Sangha. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 2 November 2013, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/snp/snp.1.08.amar.html .
The sutta starts with a “simple” requisite. What must we be, to practice well? If you have not noticed it already, Buddhism is about our way of living and how we take responsibility for ourselves.
We do not pray to Buddha and hope that he will fix our problems in life. We live wisely in accordance to the principles of Dharma. By doing so, we influence our future by actively creating good karma NOW. In short, we work for the desired results.
To practice well, we do not depend on Buddha but depend on our effort. And in this metta practice, we have to start off the practice by being a good person. Someone with kindness in our heart.
It is actually very logical.
We cannot be thinking and saying “May you be well and happy”, and then continue being a bad person. That would be hypocritical, wouldn’t it? The loving kindness must come from a true and sincere heart.
Therefore, the most important factor that will make this practice successful is to be skilled in GOODNESS. This can be divided into 2 pairs and in another word subdivided into 4 parts.
- DO GOOD
- AVOID BAD
Do Good means to let good arises.. We consciously make an effort to do good, say good and think good things. If we have not done that before, we make an effort and try to do it. For example, if we never meditate before, we want to make an effort to give it a try.
Once we have started doing it, we want to keep it going. That means we try to do more. Keep it going. Make it a habitual thing. That is the 2nd part of DO GOOD.
As seen from above, do good is not limited to benefitting others. We can also do good for ourselves. In this example meditation is good for our mind. Only when we learn to take care of ourselves, can we be in a position to take care of others.
It goes without saying that doing good includes deeds that help others. We should start simple by being good to people whom we interact with.
Avoid bad is the opposite. Whatever bad habits that we have, we make a concious effort to stop doing it. We review our behaviour and mind, then consciously make an effort to stop. That is the 1st part of avoid Bad.
For example, if we tend to complain and whine about situations in life, we stop doing that. It is creating negative karma through our speech.
Next we prevent bad from happening. We avoid doing any bad things that we have never done before. In another word, we do not even want to start or give it a try. Naturally, we need wisdom to distinguish good from bad.
When we are mindful of our thoughts, it becomes easier for us to grasp which of the 4 parts we are practicing. are we stopping an existing bad habit or are we trying to block off a tempting bad action? Are we trying to develop a new good habit or are we trying to maintain it?
The forerunner of bad starts with our thoughts. Our thoughts can be easily manipulated by others, including TV and pop culture.
Next, we need to know the Buddhist definition of Good versus Bad. Remember, our every thought, speech and action is Karma. Good begets good and bad brings misfortune. To practice metta and become a magnet for good fortune, we cannot be bad or evil. Not even in our mind!
However, definition of good and bad is subjective. Each culture and religion teaches different things. In Buddhism, we just need to think along the 5 precepts.
- We avoid harming other sentient beings. Killing others or hurting them physically is bad. Preserving life and protecting life is good.
- We avoid stealing from all sentient beings. We try to practice charity.
- We avoid sexual misconduct.
- We avoid harmful speech and try to only say things that benefit others.
- We avoid intoxicating ourselves and others.
From the above principles, we can generally conclude that GOODNESS means
- Non-violence in action, speech and thought
- Non-covetousness in action, speech and thought
- Non-lustfulness in action, speech and thought
- Non-frivolousness in action, speech and thought
- Non-heedlessness in action, speech and thought
I don’t know about you but all these can be pretty daunting for a beginner. When I first started Buddhism, these goals seemed like trying to be a saint. The trick is to avoid any expectation upon ourselves. Treat it like a game or a hobby. We just practice whatever we can. Practice means trying and trying until we become. Even a small candle can brighten a dark room. No effort is too small.
Once we start our practice, the universe will respond.
May all be well and happy.