This is the Third in a five part series. Here are the links to all parts:
We have previously discussed the two main modes taught by the Buddha in the Pali Canon. In this third part to the Student of the Path series on Metta, I wanted to discuss a few other ways of mentally practicing metta.
Walking Meditation – If you already have walking meditation as part of your practice, you can easily include metta into that practice. You can incorporate the metta phrases of your choice into each step you take, of course this will also be determined in whether you are walking at a normal pace or very slowly. Often times for myself when I practice metta while walking I visualize pulses of metta shooting out from each foot step and going into eternity, I don’t do different levels as there is just not enough time, so it’s just pulsing metta out to all beings everywhere in all forms of existence. You can also do metta while doing the standing meditation breaks between walking periods. As always experiment and find what works best for you.
I had said before that the Buddha never really taught metta meditation towards any ONE specific person in general, which is mostly true. I waited to this third installment to add in two rare occasions where metta towards an individual IS actually taught.
AN 4.67 Ahina Sutta : By a Snake
In this sutta a monk is killed by a bite from a snake and the disciples go to the Buddha to tell him this. The Buddha said :
“Then it’s certain, monks, that that monk didn’t suffuse the four royal snake lineages with a mind of good will. For if he had suffused the four royal snake lineages with a mind of good will, he would not have died after having been bitten by a snake.
He then goes on to teach metta in an interesting way that really connected with me as someone who has spent a lot of time out in the woods by himself.
I have metta for footless beings,
metta for two-footed beings,
metta for four-footed beings,
metta for many-footed beings.
May footless beings do me no harm.
May two-footed beings do me no harm.
May four-footed beings do me no harm.
May many-footed beings do me no harm.
May all creatures, all breathing things, all beings — each & every one — meet with good fortune. May none of them come to any evil.
There have been plenty of times while practicing up in the woods here at Bhavana, especially at night, when I have recited this metta. Ever since first hearing this sutta at the Metta retreat a few years back at Bhavana, it has always stuck with me.
AN 5.161 speaks of using metta for aversion towards a particular person. It is the first thing to do on the list given by the Buddha, with the last resort being to ignore/forget the person:
Bhikkhus, there are these five ways of removing annoyance, by which annoyance can be entirely removed by a bhikkhu when it arises in him. What are the five?
Loving-kindness can be maintained in being towards a person with whom you are annoyed: this is how annoyance with him can be removed.Compassion can be maintained in being towards a person with whom you are annoyed; this too is how annoyance with him can be removed. Onlooking equanimity can be maintained in being towards a person with whom you are annoyed; this too is how annoyance with him can be removed. The forgetting and ignoring of a person with whom you are annoyed can be practiced; this too is how annoyance with him can be removed. Ownership of deeds in a person with whom you are annoyed can be concentrated upon thus: “This good person is owner of his deeds, heir to his deeds, his deeds are the womb from which he is born, his deeds are his kin for whom he is responsible, his deeds are his refuge, he is heir to his deeds, be they good or bad.” This too is how annoyance with him can be removed. These are the five ways of removing annoyance, by which annoyance can be entirely removed in a bhikkhu when it arises in him.
I have found personally in my practice when there is a single person who is bringing up lots of aversion in my mind, I focus on them and give them metta, wishing them happiness, success, peace, freedom, etc. I’ve found that this does very much so reduce the aversion I have regarding this person.
And last but not least…
Perhaps the most famous sutta regarding metta is the Karaniya Metta Sutta, which is recited daily in most Theravada monasteries, including here at Bhavana before lunch. This in itself is a metta practice as it teaches us what is to be done directly:
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, Straightforward and gentle in speech, Humble and not conceited, Contented and easily satisfied, Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways. Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful, Not proud or demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing That the wise would later reprove. Wishing: In gladness and in safety, May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be; Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none, The great or the mighty, medium, short or small, The seen and the unseen, Those living near and far away, Those born and to-be-born — May all beings be at ease!
Let none deceive another, Or despise any being in any state. Let none through anger or ill-will Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life her child, her only child, So with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings; Radiating kindness over the entire world: Spreading upwards to the skies, And downwards to the depths; Outwards and unbounded, Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down Free from drowsiness, One should sustain this recollection. This is said to be the sublime abiding. By not holding to fixed views, The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision, Being freed from all sense desires, Is not born again into this world.
The commentarial story behind this sutta was created after the Buddha’s final passing, but none the less I’ve found it to be beneficial in my practice. The long story short is that a bunch of monks went into this forest to meditate and the devas(deities) who lived there were none too happy about it. The first night they created all kinds of horror movie style images like headless corpses walking through the woods that scared the monks away. They went to the Buddha and told him what happened, and that is when he gave the above metta sutta, after which the monks returned and with metta for all the beings of the forest were not molested further.
That’s it for this week. I’ve decided this will be a five part series, so I’ll be back with how to practice metta in speech and action next week.