This is a revisit of the topic because I am one of the captains for The Life Expedition Program this year.
Metta Meditation is the first thing that I learned as a beginner and I am still practicing hard. This is because it is difficult to love without expectation. Many people brush this meditation aside as “basic” but few can really achieve unconditional loving-kindness. Not to mention, attaining Jhana through this method.
Metta is important because it is :
- A positive mental energy
- To love and be kind without any conditions, we need to be selfless.
- Once we learn to be selfless, we worry less
- When we worry less, we rest better
- When we rest better, we can meditate and sleep better.
The Buddha said in the Metta (Mettanisamsa) Sutta:
1. “He sleeps in comfort. 2. He awakes in comfort. 3. He sees no evil dreams. 4. He is dear to human beings. 5. He is dear to non-human beings. 6. Devas (gods) protect him. 7. Fire, poison, and sword cannot touch him. 8. His mind can concentrate quickly. 9. His countenance is serene. 10. He dies without being confused in mind. 11. If he fails to attain arahantship (the highest sanctity) here and now, he will be reborn in the brahma-world.https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an11/an11.016.piya.html
May you be well and happy
This verse is used throughout the meditation. It’s almost like a mantra during meditation. When we verbalise this phase in our minds, we need to try and generate a genuine sense of GOODWILL. (wanting the subject of our reflection to be well and happy)
What makes one well and happy? Naturally, it includes having good health, sufficient food, safe shelter, etc. This is known as mundane wellness and happiness.
In addition to that, one will have wellness and happiness when one is no longer afflicted by Craving, Aversion, and Ignorance. In order for that to be possible, one must encounter Dharma. Once we understand this, we will be motivated to learn and share Dharma without any conditions.
Although, we understand the conditions for wellness and happiness; as mentioned above; We should not let our minds roam in accordance with those thoughts. If we do that, then we are no longer meditating but fantasising. For example, we should not start wishing our subjects of meditation various good conditions. If we do that, then it becomes a form of prayer.
The objective of Metta Meditation is to generate a genuine sense of goodwill in our minds that is filled with love and kindness, without attaching any conditions to it. Conditions mean wanting something in return. Therefore, the mental energy generated by Metta is completely wholesome and good. We want that wholesome energy or mental inclination to establish itself in our minds.
The subjects in Metta Meditation
Ownself – We always start Metta Meditation with ourselves as the subject of meditation. This is because it is the easiest for the majority. (There will be exceptional cases, but let’s not discuss them now) When we wish ourselves wellness and happiness, that goodwill is genuine and without conditions. (make sense?) We need to familiarise our minds with that genuineness pertaining to goodwill.
Loved ones – Once we are comfortable with generating unconditional goodwill toward ourselves, we apply that same sense of goodwill toward our loved ones. Again, the meditation instructions are structured for the majority. In that manner, we generate our loving-kindness to our parents and siblings. The rationale for this is that most people find, this is the second easiest group of people that we can love unconditionally. Then followed by our children and spouses.
There is no “correct” sequence. During our meditation, we should focus on the flow of our goodwill (loving-kindness). Do not worry that there is a proper sequence to follow. Sometimes, our husband/wife may come into our mind first if we had a lovey-dovey moment the previous night. Sometimes they get thrown to the very last because we had a heated argument the night before. Loved ones refer to our close kin and family.
Sometimes, one may have a very bad relationship with parents or siblings. In those situation, it is extremely difficult to generate goodwill toward them, therefore, we place them at the very end.
Friends & Associates – This group of people refers to those whom we often deal with. For example, friends whom we catch up with frequently, colleagues, classmates, teammates, etc. People who play an important role in our daily life but not our closest kin.
Strangers – This refers to familiar faces we see every day. For example, the cashier at Starbucks where we grab our coffee every morning. The office janitor. Neighbors whom we are not close with.
As you can observe, the subject (group of people) for our meditation is “further away” from us as we proceed along. The rationale of the meditation is therefore to focus on people with whom we can develop genuine loving-kindness and goodwill first. Then try our best to sustain that sense of genuine goodwill to people who are “further away” from us.
Enemies – This refers to people with whom we are averse. There is no right and wrong, The important thing is to be truthful with ourselves. When we incline our minds to recall someone we hate or dislike, the image of such and such a person will pop up. We do not need to feel ashamed of it. Sometimes, our boss appears, and sometimes our spouse appears. More importantly, we should try to gather our mental energy and generate a sense of genuine goodwill toward them.
For some people, this category may cover an entire race of people, people of color, or people of certain sexual orientations, etc.
What if I do not have anyone to hate? Congratulation, that is good. Then simply omit this step.
This concludes the 1st type of Metta Meditation. The objective is as follows
- Ability to generate genuine goodwill (Pure Loving-kindness) in our minds
- Direct that genuine goodwill towards our subject of meditation (various types of people in our life)
- Bring this kind-heartedness beyond meditation
The last objectives means to keep Metta in our minds when we are not engaged in formal meditation.
Tips: When meditating on various groups of people as mentioned previously, do not linger our minds on any particular person. The flow of our metta should not be too fast, nor should it linger on anyone. So if you had just fallen madly in love with someone, make sure that your mind do not linger on him/her.
Usefulness of Metta
Metta meditation is actually a survival skill for forest-dwelling monks and nuns. This is because they spent their time in dense forests where wild animals roam. For example, wild elephants, tigers, snakes, etc. Animals tend to attack when they felt threatened. Thus, metta meditation helps protect the monks and nuns because wild animals do not feel threats from a successful metta practitioner.
But we do not dwell in forests, how is metta useful?
While we do not dwell in natural forests, we dwell in concrete jungles; and we dwell with various “animals” in our modern world. When we practice Metta in our minds, people will tend to let their guard down when they interact with us. This helps to promote interaction and relationships in general.
May all be well and happy.