The Importance of Metta in Modern Society

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Metta is rendered as loving-kindness; it is a pure state of love with no any sensual desires. It has the sense of wanting other’s benefits in one way or another. So it is a kind of love, a genuine desire for the welfare of all beings. “It is pure love and pure desire for all beings, including ourselves”[1].

It is loving-kindness, metta, the whole world needs today. It is said that metta is likened to a platform that is able to afford the power of unity for everyone. Famous Sayadaw with metta meditation in Myanmar, U Uttamasara in name, said that there is nothing that is as good as metta in the world. From the Buddhist point of views, metta is a powerful tool to bring all sentient beings together, without slightest discrimination of man, god or animal and so on. Every sentient being is in deed thirsty for love, metta. We also need love from others but we are forgetful to give our loving-kindness to others.

The Buddha laid stress on metta by saying thus: “Oh bhikkhus, by just cultivating metta at the moment of snaping, you become worthy of having alms-food donated by everyone”[2]. As a bhikkhu, we have to be mindful of staying with metta as much as possible. Even if we are lack of metta one day at least, we are in debt to the donors who supply us with foods, lodgings, clothes, medicines, etc.

When metta is cultivated, developed, and much practised, there are eleven advantages of metta as follows:

  1. One who cultivates metta sleeps in comfort,
  2. He wakes in comfort,
  3. He dreams no evil dreams,
  4. He is loved by human beings,
  5. He is loved by non human beings,
  6. He is guarded by deities,
  7. Fire, poison and weapons do not affect him,
  8. His mind is easily concentrated,
  9. The expression of his face is serene,
  10. He dies unconfused and
  11. He will be reborn in the Brahma World after death.[3]

When we review these advantages, the first nine of them are the advantages we may expect and experience in this very life as direct good results of metta with no need to wait for the blessings in the next. Number ten is the result we encounter at the moment of death and the last is the one we can get after death. Therefore, metta is very helpful to us while we are being alive, at death moment and after death as well.

The Way to Develop Metta

When you start pervading metta to every being, you keep your mind of loving-kindness to radiate every angle of the world, then this universe and other universes, saying in mind or with voice thus: “May all beings in countless universes be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful.[4] May all beings fulfill with good wish.” This is the gist of radiating loving-kindness, metta.

The way of metta meditation should be understood as described in the Patisambhidamagga to be successful only in one whose mind has reached absorption. There are

(a)  five ways of unspecified pervasion (anodhisametta),

(b)seven ways of specified pervasion (odhisametta) and

(c)  ten ways of directional pervasion (disapharanametta).

(a)Five Ways of Unspecified Pervasion

  1. May all beings be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful. (Sabbe satta)
  2. May all breathing beings be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful. (Sabbe pana)
  3. May all creatures be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful. (Sabbe bhþta)
  4. May all persons be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful. (Sabbe puggala)
  5. May all those who have a personality be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful. (Sabbe attabhavapariyapanna)

(b)Seven Ways of Specified Pervasion

  1. May all women be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful. (Sabba itthiyo)
  2. May all men be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful. (Sabbe purisa)
  3. May all Noble Ones be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful. (Sabbe ariya)
  4. May all not Noble Ones be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful. (Sabbe anariya)
  5. May all deities be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful. (Sabbe deva)
  6. May all human beings be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful. (Sabbe manussa)
  7. May all in states of loss be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful. (Sabbe vinipatika)

(c)  Ten Ways of Directional Pervasion

  1. May all beings in the eastern direction be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful. (Puratthimaya disaya)
  2. May all beings in the western direction be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful. (Pacchimaya disaya)
  3. May all beings in the northern direction be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful. (Uttaraya disaya)
  4. May all beings in the southern direction be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful. (Dakkhi¼æya disaya)
  5. May all beings in the eastern intermediate direction be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful. (Puratthimaya anudisaya)
  6. May all beings in the western intermediate direction be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful. (Pacchimaya anudisaya)
  7. May all beings in the northern intermediate direction be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful. (Uttaraya anudisaya)
  8. May all beings in the southern intermediate direction be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful. (Dakkhinaya anudisaya)
  9. May all beings downward direction be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful. (Hetthimaya disaya)
  10. May all beings upward direction be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful.[5](Uparimaya disaya)

You should cultivate metta meditation according to whichever of these phrases is clear to you. When you develop metta through any one of these ways, you obtain the eleven advantages described above.

Metta in Daily Life

Here I should refer back to the gist of cultivating ‘metta-bhavana,’ “loving-kindness meditation,” as mentioned before: “May all beings in countless universes be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful. May all beings fulfill with good wish.”[6] These phrases are actually the translation of metta-bhavana cultivation method applied by my respected Sayadaw, U Uttamasara well-known with achievement of metta meditation in Myanmar in 1990s. He spent most of his time developing metta-bhavana and was of great success and became famous across the country as one who possessed metta. He once said, “Don’t say of any faiths and believers to me, everyone is pitiful.” When I heard of this word from him, I was so surprised that he could have kept the mind of metta in his heart to everyone whoever, good or bad. His metta really overwhelmed all kinds of beings in the world without discrimination of cast, race and religion.

Therefore, the method he developed throughout his life is so powerful, practical and applicable up to this day, so I want to introduce his method here. It is so simple with no difficulty for cultivating. When you want to send your metta to someone, then take the name of that person as an object of meditation, for example, Mr. Smith, and you say, “May Mr. Smith be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful. May he fulfill with good wish.” In this way, you have to just replace a name you want to send your metta, “May Mrs. Kathy be free from danger, anxiety, suffering, and be happy and peaceful. May she fulfill with good wish.” You may send your metta to everyone whoever using this way. Moreover, you may send metta to your family or any family, the people from a village, a town, a country etc., and a group of people, etc. This is the kind of metta meditation with special intention to someone you want to send. As long as you have developed metta in this way in a daily basis, you gradually come to experience more and more the warmness and friendliness of people associated with you than before you did not do that.

Before you go for a trip, you have to send your metta in advance to your direction to the town you want to go thus: “May all beings I have to meet along the way be free from danger, anxiety, suffering and be happy and peaceful, and so on”. You have to apply this method expanding “May all beings (I have to meet in Bagan, in NyaungOo, in Yangon, in Mandalay, etc., taking the name of the town or the place which is your direction of your trip.) be free from danger, etc.” After you have done so as completely as you want, finally you have to send your metta to all beings. You have to practise this kind of metta meditation at a sitting in a bus or in a train wherever and whenever you go, it is sure to be safe for your trip and you will be warmly welcome. If you have a shop or a store you have to send metta to all beings, especially those who come to buy something from your shop. This is metta with special purpose. When the time passes by, your shop or store will become popular among the customers because of your metta. When you are being hated, allaying your resentment towards that person, you can turn your mind with metta towards him/her in a special way; in this case, if you feel difficult to do so, you have to put one small stone in a glass, then pour pure water into it and you have to regard the stone as your enemy and send metta referring to it as if you are sending your metta to him directly. He/she comes to make a request to you or becomes friends each other soon.

          We have to keep metta in our heart getting rid of hate, that is a pure love for people. To make our metta more powerful, we should break down the barriers by practising metta meditation over and over again, accomplishing mental impartiality towards the four persons, that is to say, ourselves, the dear person, the neutral person and the hostile person. That means as we love ourselves, you should love others too. There is one Jataka story which reflects this characteristic of metta, it is the Culadhammapala-jataka. In that Jataka (Birth Story), there was an infant, named Dhammnapala; he is Buddha-to-be (Bodhisatta), in that story, his hands and feet were ordered to be lopped off like four bamboo shoots by his father, king Mahapatapa, and his mother lamented over him for such bad actions. Then, his father, still not satisfied, commanded that his head be cut off as well. But even then he had not the least trace of hate, since he had firmly resolved thus: “Now is the time to restrain your mind; now, good Dhammapala, be impartial towards these four persons, that is to say, towards your father who is having your head cut off, the man who is beheading you, your lamenting mother, and yourself.”[7] This shows the way to break down the barriers by practising metta meditation keeping with mental impartiality towards the four persons.

          When you are capable of developing metta to all people breaking down the barriers of enemy or friend day by day, firstly you will feel peaceful in your heart by yourself, secondly you will become more and more tolerant than before and finally you will become a good natured person. The people you associate with also become tolerant and polite. Therefore, we should have the mind of metta basically to every being all the time, that is to say, we should create a lovely, warmly and peaceful society based on metta, without quarreling or fighting each other in order to make peace to the hostile world. Metta is a single powerful weapon to make peace because even the ordinary metta can change people to become a good natured person, from enemy to friend.

          Dr. Ashin Parami (Lecturer)

ITBM University

The paper read at China India Myanmar Buddha-dhamma Forum for Research, Collaboration and Future Development, Aureum Palace Hotels & Resorts, Bagan (17-18, 12, 2014), as a speaker, with the title of “The Importance of Metta in Modern Society.

[1] The Four Foundation of Mindfulness, 3rd ed. 2004, p.248.

[2] Amoghan ratthapindan bhuñjati, A.I.p.9.

[3] The Path of Purification, Bhikkhu Ñanamoli,p.331.

[4] Sabbe satta – avera hontu, abyapajja hontu, anigha hontu, sukhi attanan pariharantu.

[5] The Path of Purification, Bhikkhu Ñanamoli,p.337.

[6]နတ္လူသတၱ၀ါအားလံုး ေဘးရန္ ေၾကာင့္ၾက ဆင္းရဲကင္း၍ ကိုယ္စိတ္ႏွစ္ျဖာ ခ်မ္းသာၾကပါေစ။ ေကာင္းက်ိဳး လုိရာဆႏၵ ျပည့္၀ၾကပါေစ။ (ေတာင္တန္းဆရာေတာ္ဘုရားႀကီး ဦးဥတၱမသာရ၏ ေမတၱာပို႔ဆုိ႐ုိး)

[7] The Path of Purification, Bhikkhu Ñanamoli,p.328-9.

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