A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Defining Metta

Yesterday I was asked why I include Metta after some of my posts, and the meaning of it. I didn’t have time for a thorough answer, and gave a basic definition. Metta is loving kindness, compassion, and must start within. I also said a person could study on the topic of Metta or a long period of time. I will try to give a more complete explanation.

Metta starts with loving yourself. This does not mean you see yourself as perfect, rather that you have a realistic self view. You accept that you have flaws, and are working as diligently as possible to overcome or correct them. Loving yourself as you are is the basis for loving others as they are. There is a meditation practice that can be used to develop this ability. You start by concentrating on yourself, and radiating thoughts of pure love at yourself. After several or more sessions of this, you will notice that you are not as critical of yourself. You still see your faults, but you accept those as temporary phenomena rather than permanent traits. Having achieved this state, the next is to add another person to your meditation, someone who is a close to you, perhaps your spouse, or another relative. Once you have practiced this expanded version of radiating loving thoughts to the two of you, you add yet another person, a friend. It is often recommended that you choose someone of the same sex if you’re single. This helps to avoid fixation issues. Now you have three people and when able to do this with some ease, you expand this yet again, to include all your family and friends, not just the people you have focused on. When you are comfortable with this stage, add all the people who you meet but do not know, followed by all sentient beings. Finally include those who you have a disagreement, issue or problem with. Yes I mean those you might call your foe or enemy. Once you are at this point you are practicing the beginnings of Metta. This is a practice that requires diligent effort to develop. Your thoughts should be harmless, compassionate, kind and loving towards all beings. I still have an instinctive reaction to being bit by mosquitoes, and unless I am paying attention to the here and now, will swat them from habit. This is an issue I am working on. I know that once I feel the bite, that it is actually better to let the mosquito finish her meal, as this way some of the irritating chemical that was injected with the bite, will be drawn back to the mosquito along with a few drops of blood. But knowing and doing can be two different worlds at times. So this is a short description of Metta, hopefully it will help those who wish to practice it.

I have a friend who uses Metta on his correspondence, and have adopted it as well. I do not say it by virtue of having attained mastery of it, rather as my wish to those I correspond with, as well as all other beings. It also helps to remind me, whenever I close with it, to practice this virtue. So I use it to wish all beings happiness and to train my mind to practice it.



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