The Metta Sutta (Discourse On Loving-kindness - Suttanta Pitaka Kuddaka Nikaya Suttaniparta -8)
THE METTA SUTTA
(Discourse on loving-kindness - Suttanta pitaka Kuddaka Nikaya Suttaniparta -8)
IntroductionThe Pali word mettâ is a multi-significant term meaning loving-kindness, friendliness, goodwill, benevolence, fellowship, amity, concord, inoffensiveness and non-violence. The Pali commentators define metta as the strong wish for the welfare and happiness of others (parahita-parasukha-kamana).
Essentially mettâ is an altruistic attitude of love and friendliness as distinguished from mere amiability based on self-interest. Through mettâ one refuses to be offensive and renounces bitterness, resentment and animosity of every kind, developing instead a mind of friendliness, accommodativeness and benevolence which seeks the well-being and happiness of others. True metta is devoid of self-interest. It evokes within a warm-hearted feeling of fellowship, sympathy and love, which grows boundless with practice and overcomes all social, religious, racial, political and economic barriers. Mettâ is indeed a universal, unselfish and all-embracing love.
Mettâ makes one a pure font of well-being and safety for others. Just as a mother gives her own life to protect her child, so mettâ only gives and never wants anything in return. To promote one's own interest is a primordial motivation of human nature. When this urge is transformed into the desire to promote the interest and happiness of others, not only is the basic urge of self-seeking overcome, but the mind becomes universal by identifying its own interest with the interest of all. By making this change one also promotes one's own well-being in the best possible manner.
Mettâ is the protective and immensely patient attitude of a mother who forbears all difficulties for the sake of her child and ever protects it despite its misbehavior. Metta is also the attitude of a friend who wants to give one the best to further one's well-being. If these qualities of metta are sufficiently cultivated through metta-bhavana — the meditation on universal love — the result is the acquisition of a tremendous inner power which preserves, protects and heals both one and others.
The explanation of mettâ-bhavana, the meditation on universal love, will give the practical directions for developing this type of contemplation as set forth in the main meditation texts of the Theravada Buddhist tradition, the Visuddhimagga, and the Patisambhidamagga.
The Background of the Metta SuttaThe historical background which led the Buddha to expound the Metta Sutta is explained in the commentary written by Acariya Buddhaghosa, who received it from an unbroken line of Elders going back to the days of the Buddha himself.
It is told that five hundred monks received instructions from the Buddha in the particular techniques of meditation suitable to their individual temperaments. They then went to the foothills of the Himalayas to spend the four months of the rains' retreat by living a life of withdrawal and intensive meditation. In those days, a month or two before the rains' retreat started, monks from all parts of the country would assemble wherever the Buddha lived in order to receive direct instruction from the Supreme Master. Then they would go back to their monasteries, forest dwellings or hermitages to make a vigorous attempt at spiritual liberation. This was how these five hundred monks went to the Buddha, who was staying at Savatthi in Jeta's Grove in the monastery built by Anathapindika.
After receiving instructions they went in search of a suitable place, and in the course of their wandering they soon found a beautiful hillock at the foothills of the Himalayas. This, according to the commentary, "appeared like a glittering blue quartz crystal: it was embellished with a cool, dense, green forest grove and a stretch of ground strewn with sand, resembling a pearl net or a silver sheet, and was furnished with a clean spring of cool water." The bhikkhus were captivated by the sight. There were a few villages nearby, and also a small market-town ideal as alms-resort. The monks spent a night in that idyllic grove and the next morning went to the market-town for alms.
The residents there were overjoyed to see the monks, since rarely did a community of monks come to spend the retreat in that part of the Himalayas. These pious devotees fed the monks and begged them to stay on as their guests, promising to build each a hut near the grove on the sandy stretch so that they could spend their days and nights plunged in meditation under the ancient boughs of the majestic trees. The bhikkhus agreed and the devotees of the area soon built little huts in the fringe of the forest and provided each hut with a wooden cot, a stool and pots of water for drinking and washing.
After the monks had settled down contentedly in these huts, each one selected a tree to meditate under, by day and by night. Now it is said that these great trees were inhabited by tree-deities who had a celestial mansion built, appropriately using the trees as the base. These deities, out of reverence for the meditating monks, stood aside with their families. Virtue was revered by all, particularly so by deities, and when the monks sat under the trees, the deities, who were householders, did not like to remain above them.
The deities had thought that the monks would remain only for a night or two, and gladly bore the inconvenience. But when day after day passed and the monks still kept occupying the bases of the trees, the deities wondered when they would go away. They were like dispossessed villagers whose houses had been commandeered by the officials of visiting royalty and they kept watching anxiously from a distance, wondering when they would get their houses back.
These dispossessed deities discussed the situation among them and decided to frighten the monks away by showing them terrifying objects, by making dreadful noises and by creating a sickening stench. Accordingly, they materialized all these terrifying conditions and afflicted the monks. The monks soon grew pale and could no longer concentrate on their subjects of meditation. As the deities continued to harass them, they lost even their basic mindfulness, and their brains seemed to become smothered by the oppressing visions, noise and stench.
When the monks assembled to wait upon the senior most Elder of the group, each one recounted his experiences. The Elder suggested: "Let us go, brethren, to the Blessed One and place our problem before him. There are two kinds of rains' retreat — the early and the late. Though we will be breaking the early one by leaving this place, we can always take upon ourselves the late one after meeting the Lord." The monks agreed and they set out at once, it is said, without even informing the devotees.
By stages they arrived at Savatthi, went to the Blessed One, prostrated at his feet, and related their frightful experiences, pathetically requesting another place. The Buddha, through his supernormal power, scanned the whole of India, but finding no place except the same spot where they could achieve spiritual liberation, told them: "Monks, go back to the same spot! It is only by striving there that you will affect the destruction of inner taints. Fear not! If you want to be free from the harassment caused by the deities, learn this sutta. It will be a theme for meditation as well as a formula for protection (paritta).
Then the Master recited the Karaniya Metta Sutta — the Hymn of Universal Love — which the monks learned by rote in the presence of the Lord. Then they went back to the same place.
As the monks neared their forest dwellings reciting the Metta Sutta, thinking and meditating on the underlying meaning, the hearts of the deities became so charged with warm feelings of goodwill that they materialized themselves in human form and received the monks with great piety. They took their bowls, conducted them to their rooms, caused water and food to be supplied, and then, resuming their normal form, invited them to occupy the bases of the trees and meditate without any hesitation or fear.
Further, during the three months of the rains' residence, the deities not only looked after the monks in every way but made sure that the place was completely free from any noise. Enjoying perfect silence, by the end of the rainy season all the monks attained to the pinnacle of spiritual perfection. Every one of the five hundred monks had become an arahant.
Indeed, such is the power intrinsic in the Metta Sutta. Whoever with firm faith will recite the sutta, invoking the protection of the deities and meditating on metta, will not only safeguard himself in every way but will also protect all those around him, and will make spiritual progress that can be actually verified. No harm can ever befall a person who follows the path of mettâ.
The Four 0f Guardian Meditations- (Caturārakkhabhāvanā).
Mettā is also one of the Four Guardian Meditations- Caturārakkhabhāvanā. Mettā protect us from inner and outer dangers. Protection and security are needed everywhere. Many kinds of dangers can arise, inside the mind and outside it. External dangers are easy to identify. In Buddhist thought, they are called “distant” because they arise from outside one’s own body and mind. These distant dangers are called as Puggala vera, the enemy that comes in human form.” We also face internal dangers, arising from within. In Pali these are known as Kilesa vera, “the enemy of mental defilements”. Buddhist sense of Mettā can be clarified with the fourfold definition.
(1) Loving-kindness is characterized as promoting the welfare of others (Lakkhaṇā). (2) Its function is to desire welfare of others (Rasa). (3) It is manifested as the removal of annoyance (Paccupaṭṭhāna). (4) Its proximate cause is seeing the liveableness in beings (Padaṭṭhāna). It succeeds. When it makes ill-will subside, and it fails when it gives rise to selfish affection.
Meditation on Mettâ consists of five stages:
There are various ways of practicing metta-bhavana, the meditation on universal love. Three of the principal methods will be explained here. These instructions, based on canonical and commentarial sources, are intended to explain the practice of metta-meditation in a clear, simple and direct way so that anyone who is earnest about taking up the practice will have no doubts about how to proceed. For full instructions on the theory and practice of metta-bhavana the reader is referred to the Visuddhimagga, Chapter IX.
(1) In the first stage, one generates Mettā for oneself. Actually this is not a selfish love in the sense of self-appreciation as a special person, above others, but a recognition of one’s capacity to be loving to others and loveable. Some people mistake this for being selfish. If one doesn’t have Mettā in his own heart or his Mettā is not strong, then, if he is trying to give out Mettā, it doesn’t work very well and it is not very effective. First one should know the quality of Mettā within his own heart. At this stage, one can repeat in such ways: ‘May I be well, may I be happy, may I progress’. (2) In second stage, the feeling is extended to a friend. (3) In third stage, to a neutral person. (4) In the fourth stage, to someone towards whom you have antipathy. (5) In the fifth stage, you see all these together, and then visualize the whole world of living beings and extend Mettā to all of them.
The Blessings of Mettâ
Monks, when universal love leading to liberation of mind is ardently practiced, developed, unrelentingly resorted to, used as one's vehicle, made the foundation of one's life, fully established, well consolidated and perfected, and then these eleven blessings may be expected. What eleven?
One sleeps happily; one wakes happily; one does not suffer bad dreams; one is dear to human beings; one is dear to non-human beings; the gods protect one; no fire or poison or weapon harms one; one's mind gets quickly concentrated; the expression of one's face is serene; one dies unperturbed; and even if one fails to attain higher states, one will at least reach the state of the Brahma world.
Monks, when universal love leading to liberation of mind is ardently practiced, developed, unrelentingly resorted to, used as one's vehicle, made the foundation of one's life, fully established, well consolidated and perfected, and then these eleven blessings may be expected.
The Power of Mettâ
The subjective benefit of universal love is evident enough. The enjoyment of well-being, good health, and peace of mind, radiant features, and the affection and goodwill of all are indeed great blessings of life accruing from the practice of mettâ-meditation. But what is even more wonderful is the impact which mettâ has on the environment and on other beings, including animals and devas, as the Pali scriptures and commentaries illustrate with a number of memorable stories.
Once, the Buddha was returning from his alms round together with his retinue of monks. As they were nearing the prison, in consideration of a handsome bribe from Devadatta, the Buddha's evil and ambitious cousin, the executioner let loose the fierce elephant Nalagiri, which was used for the execution of criminals. As the intoxicated elephant rushed towards the Buddha trumpeting fearfully, the Buddha projected powerful thoughts of metta towards it.
Venerable Ananda, the Buddha's attendant, was so deeply concerned about the Buddha's safety that he ran in front of the Buddha to shield him, but the Buddha asked him to stand aside since the projection of love itself was quite sufficient.
The impact of the Buddha's metta-radiation was so immediate and overwhelming that by the time the animal neared the Buddha it was completely tamed as though a drunken wretch had suddenly become sober by the magical power of a spell. The tusker, it is said, bowed down in reverence in the way trained elephants do in a circus. So mightily powerful is metta — loving-kindness. This is not the case of one who has developed metta-samadhi. It is a simple case of the consciousness of love for the offspring.
Indeed, the power of metta can never be told enough. The commentaries to the Pali Canon are replete with stories, not only of monks, but also of ordinary people who overcame various dangers, including weapons and poison, through the sheer strength of mettaâ selfless love.
Just as sun sheds its rays on all without any distinction, even so sublime mettâ bestows it sweet blessing equally on the pleasant and unpleasant, on the rich and poor, on the high and low, on the vicious and the virtuous, on man and woman, and human and animal. Loving-kindness (Mettâ) is not mere universal brotherhood, for it embrace all living beings in universal.
mettâ is the opposite of the hatred (dasa).that mental factor called Adosa(non-hatred) which for wishes for the welfare of the other beings ,contemplating “may all beings be happy and may they be free from danger” The commentators define Mettā as the strong wish for the welfare and happiness of others And unselfish and all-embracing love. This is the pure form of love that can bring peace and prosperity to all beings.
Therefore, loving-kindness is very benefic and promote the values of human race and peaceful in all human society, will give and insight to live in a wholesome and enjoyable life. “May all beings be happy and peaceful in the whole life”. “May all attain Nibbana in shout time by cultivate of loving-kindness (mettâ bavanâ)
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 (Digha Nikaya, III. 234).
Mettā (Pali: मेत्ता in Devanagari) or maitrī (Sanskrit: मैत्री) is loving-kindness, friendliness, benevolence, amity, friendship, good will, kindness, love, sympathy, close mental union (on same mental wavelength), and active interest in others. It is one of the ten pāramīs of the Theravāda school of Buddhism, and the first of the four sublime states (Brahmavihāras). This is love without clinging (upādāna).
The cultivation of loving-kindness (mettā bhāvanā) is a popular form of meditation in Buddhism. In the Theravadin Buddhist tradition, this practice begins with the meditator cultivating loving-kindness towards themselves, then their loved ones, friends, teachers, strangers, enemies, and finally towards all sentient beings. In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, this practice is associated with tonglen (cf.), whereby one breathes out ("sends") happiness and breathes in ("receives") suffering. Tibetan Buddhists also practice contemplation of the four immeasurables, which they sometimes call 'compassion meditation'
"Compassion meditation" is a contemporary scientific field that demonstrates the efficacy of metta and related meditative practices.