This is the Second in a five part series. Here are the links to all parts:
Last week I described a personalized version of one of(Exalted Release of Mind) the two main methods taught by the Buddha that I’ve learned here at Bhavana. This week I’ll talk about the other, “Immeasurable Release of Mind”.
“What, householder, is the immeasurable deliverance of mind? Here a bhikkhu abides pervading one quarter with a mind imbued with loving-kindness,likewise the second, likewise the third, likewise the fourth; so above, below, around, and everywhere, and to all as to himself, he abides pervading the all-encompassing world with a mind imbued with loving-kindness, abundant, exalted,immeasurable, without hostility and without ill will.“ – MN 127 Anuruddha Sutta
The exerpt above is the most commonly found description of metta practice by the Buddha in the Pali suttas. It involves pervading( to spread through and be perceived in every part of.) six directions with metta. These six directions are the four cardinal directions(N,S,E,W) plus above and below.
You could also say from this sutta selection that it seems indeed that what is described is a starting out of immeasurable release of mind(directional) and ending up with exalted(abides pervading the all-encompassing world), and indeed it is sometimes taught that these two can be practiced together in such a way. This is how I learned at Bhavana and this is in fact, how I did guided meditations for the Buddha Center, as one can flow right into the next. You can take the directions from this post to begin with and then move into the directions of exalted metta after.
Also a quick note on the pali word Loka, which is translated as “world”. Loka can mean anything from the earth all the way up to the universe, multiverse, different planes of existance etc. So when you see “world” it behooves us to think much larger then just this planet, developing metta for all beings truly means ALL beings.
Ok, so lets get down to the actual method of practice. This is again how I was taught here at Bhavana society during the Metta retreat a few years back and how I’ve practiced.
Just like in exalted metta, you are starting with metta for yourself. Remember the airplane safety speech analogy from last week, you cannot give what you don’t have, so develope those thoughts and feelings of loving kindness for yourself first(as always!).
Once you are filled with metta, we can begin the process of “pervading” it out. There is again both a visualization that can be involved as well as words. Again remember that in metta you can make the practice your own, if you don’t care for the words and visualizations given, experiment with your own. You may find that visualizations don’t work, but words do, or the opposite, or that you like both, etc. Again it’s not the method that matters so much as the feeling and mental state of abiding in metta.
“When you do metta be like sun who sends rays to all equally” – Bhante Seelananda
In Immeasurable Metta we are doing directional, as opposed to the spherical of exalted. I’ll describe step by step using both as I was taught. The quote above can provide a hint to the visualization part.
Now that we have metta pervading our being, lets not be selfish! time to share it with all beings. Visualize a bright beam of light, perhaps similar to the rays of a sun, emanating from you and moving off into each direction as we move through them individually, until all directions are bathed in the light of your metta.
May all beings in my Front direction, be well, happy, and peaceful
May all beings in my Right direction, be well, happy, and peaceful
May all beings in my Left direction, be well, happy, and peaceful
May all beings in my Back direction, be well, happy, and peaceful
May all beings in my Above direction, be well, happy, and peaceful
May all beings in my Below direction, be well, happy, and peaceful
Thats it for the words, pretty simple. You can use whatever words that feel most appropriate to you, but the basis is “may all beings in X direction”. I like to use my four section “ may all beings in x direction… find happiness, find peace, live in friendship with each other, find release.”
Visualization wise I of course have personal flourishes to the beam of light. I visualize in my head the beam shooting from me, then I see the earth as the beam shoots out into space, with a grid of light extending from it, covering(pervading!) the whole of each direction. Think of it like a radar “sweeping” a section of physical space.
Remember to take each direction as it’s own section, you are not going through each direction in a line under 10 seconds etc. Just like in exalted where you are spending some time with each “level”, you want to spend a good amount of time with each direction,not just rush through it.
That is it for Immeasurable, fairly simple and straight forward. I’ll be back next week with some more topics releated to metta.