This is the Fifth in a five part series. Here are the links to all parts:
We arrive at the final part of the metta series. So far we have seen multiple ways of practicing metta mentally, verbally, and physically. Those of us who practice metta know that the benefits are quite clear and evident, but let us go to the Buddha as he speaks about 11 benefits of Metta in the Mettanisamsa Sutta(AN 11.16):
“Monks, for one whose awareness-release through good will is cultivated, developed, pursued, handed the reins and taken as a basis, given a grounding, steadied, consolidated, and well-undertaken, eleven benefits can be expected. Which eleven?
-One sleeps easily -wakes easily, -dreams no evil dreams. -One is dear to human beings, -dear to non-human beings. -The devas protect one. -Neither fire, poison, nor weapons can touch one. -One’s mind gains concentration quickly. -One’s complexion is bright. -One dies unconfused and — if penetrating no higher — is headed for the Brahma worlds.
“These are the eleven benefits that can be expected for one whose awareness-release through good will is cultivated, developed, pursued, handed the reins and taken as a basis, given a grounding, steadied, consolidated, and well-undertaken.”
When one’s mind is filled with thoughts of good-will there is no restlessness, remorse, and mental agitation, so therefore sleep comes easily, with no nightmares and waking also comes easily.
When one’s mind is filled with thoughts of good-will, other humans, animals and fine material/immaterial beings like the Devas notice this and you become dear to them.The Devas protect those who are sincere practitioners and as for humans and animals, very few people are not affected by a person who’s mind is clear and full of good will, and their verbal and physical actions show it. You give that gift of fearlessness I spoke about in the 4th part of the series, and therefore humans and animals trust you.
I noticed this personally in my career in Child Protective Services. I cannot count the number of times a child or pet would instantly become friendly with me and the parent would say something to the effect of “wow my child/pet is usually not so trusting and calm of complete strangers”. I could also sit in a home, alone, with people who are considered some of the “most dangerous criminals” in society, and have no fear. There were hundreds of times in the 8 years I worked CPS that I was completely vulnerable, but never once was I physically threatened. It makes me wonder about the power of metta.
Now the next part, fire, poison, and swords cannot touch one, that is best to be seen as allegorical. According to Bhante G each one of the three should be see in the context of greed, hatred, and delusion. These three roots are a fire, they are a poison, they are a weapon. Those who fully abide in goodwill cannot be touched by these three roots, because a mind of goodwill is incapable of attachment and aversion.
From my own experience I tend to take this line also in that to a person with a mind and practice of good will, you’d be a lot less likely to meet with an attack, which lines up with the teaching of the Buddha that doing good deeds in the present makes it harder(not impossible) for past bad kamma to come to fruit. You are not superman, impervious to damage, but less likely to suffer from them then a person mired in ill-will.
The next one is “one gains concentration quickly”. This is not a factor of metta I have discussed because quite honestly it is something I have little experience with nor much book knowledge about. You can use metta as a means to Jhana instead of mindfulness of breathing. It makes sense since Metta will bring a calm, peaceful mind of letting go, which is a help in suppressing the hindrances therefore leading to Jhana, but I cannot claim experience with it so I’ll leave it at that.
“One’s complexion is bright”. A person who is well versed in metta is one who beams, who shines. There is an air about them. They might also always have a slight smile, with peace and goodwill in their mind there is no ill will, no negativity, to be shown outwardly in body.
The last two, one dies unconfused. There is no restless and remorse, nothing to cloud your mind. It is a clear calm and peaceful mind with no fear, you could not ask for a better way to die. And finally if one does not become awakened, they are reborn in the Brahma world. The Brahma worlds are the absolute highest heavens where there is much bliss and you will live in these heavens for many many eons before coming to another existence, not a bad side effect of metta.
So those are the benefits of metta as told by the Buddha. I’d like to close with some final remarks on metta and a bunch of links for those interested in learning more.
Firstly always remember the simile of the airplane safety speech, never forget yourself in metta and build the metta up for yourself and inside yourself first. I’ve gotten a few messages from people who speak about it being very hard to give metta to themselves as opposed to others. This is typical and is part of the practice, we are always hardest, most judgmental,and most negative on ourselves. Metta is a practice of building skillful mental habits of good will, and will not have instantaneous effects, keep at it and don’t quit.
If it remains an issue try not delineating between self and others, try “all of us”, which is what I most often do now. One day about 4 months ago as I was outside at night looking up at the stars and practicing metta as I always do, it came to me while doing my metta phrases… all of us….. It’s not yourself alone, it’s not others without you, it’s all of us, every being together including yourself, all of us is all of us. It was some of the most amazing metta I’ve ever experienced and from that point since I use “all of us” the majority of the time in my practice. This is you AND all other beings together. May All of Us find peace, may ALL of us find happiness, etc.
Don’t use this as an excuse to stop working on metta for yourself however, it is just fine to spend time giving metta JUST to yourself, sometimes when my mind is infested with negativity and ill-will it’s all I CAN do.
The last major point is another reminder to make the practice your own. You can take what I’ve given you and change it around, or make up your own practice, whatever works to generate metta and develop goodwill in your mind. It is the feeling of metta that is most important.
So that is it my friends. May your practice flourish and may your minds ever abide in good will for all of us.
Sukhi Hotu : May you be Happy
Sabbe Satta Sukhi Hontu : May all beings(all of us) be happy
Links for Further Metta Education:
An Index of Metta in various Suttas: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/index-subject.html#m
Metta: Philosophy and Practice : http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/buddharakkhita/wheel365.html
Metta : Pali Canon Compilation :http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nanamoli/wheel007.html#prac
Metta Means Good Will – Thanissaro Bhikkhu :http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/metta_means_goodwill.html