Brahmavihara Dhamma

Part I, by Ven, Mahasi Sayadaw

(9) The Manner Of Developing Metta

It is stated that metta should be developed in order to make the mind free from the ills of anger by reflecting upon its faults or evils as well as upon the advantages of patience so as to conjoin patience by letting it run parallel. One way of developing metta is to gain perfection, i.e., paramita, and also merit. Another way is to develop metta for the attainment of jhana samadhi. There are two kinds as just stated. Visuddhi Magga has analytically and distinguishably commented upon in explaining the method of developing metta for the achievement of jhana samadhi, as to who should be omitted at the initial stage of developing and transmitting metta, and who should be entirely excluded in developing loving-kindness. As time does not permit at present (today) to explain the difference in their distinctive features, I am inclined to speak about the manner of developing metta for the purpose of gaining perfection and merit, first and foremost.

In the matter of metta bhavana, developing metta through meditation, it can be exercised and developed by contemplation, dwelling the mind on all human beings or other sentient beings (living beings) who may be seen or heard, or who may appear in the mind’s eye. The manner of developing with a feeling of benevolence as stated in Suttanta Pali and Atthakatha, which say, ‘May one gain happiness, or May all be happy and healthy, i.e. Sukhita hontu, or Sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatta. ‘May all beings be pleased and happy. Briefly put, goodwill should be imparted in the following way “May all be blessed with happiness” (To be repeated twice).

Therefore, whether one is residing in his own quarters or whether one is moving about or working, if a person or any living being is seen or heard, loving-kindness should be developed with a sincere and sympathetic feeling as “May he find happiness! May he find happiness!”. In the same manner, it is to put the spirit of loving-kindness in the bottom of your heart mentally, saying, ‘May all beings be happy”, in case a large gathering of people or a number of other beings are seen or heard. This is quite an easy and excellent way of radiating metta since every being wishes to be happy. This method of developing loving-kindness is metta manokam, the noblest feeling springing from the mind. At the moment when monks and laity are worshipping and paying homage to the Lord Buddha, they used to develop loving-kindness by uttering Sabbe satta avera hontu, etc., i.e., “May all beings be free from all dangers.” It is called “metta vacikam” as this feeling of metta is expressed by word of mouth. If the words “May all be happy” are uttered verbally, it is also “metta vacikam”.

In this regard, besides developing metta, mentally and verbally, special care should be taken to also render physical assistance to others, whenever possible, so as to make them feel happy. On the other hand, it would be meaningless in fostering loving-kindness, if one causes misery to others either physically, or verbally, or mentally. It is therefore essential to do good to others, and by doing so, the act of developing mindfulness on loving-kindness, may be said to be genuinely effective. For instance, while loving-kindness is radiated from his heart to a person who is coming face to face with him in a narrow lane wishing him happiness, it would also be necessary to give way to him, if he is worthy of respect. Such a behaviour would then amount to honouring him with a virtuous thought and would be in consonance with one’s own inner feeling of metta

He who develops loving-kindness to others, while travelling, would be required to make room for other fellow travellers who may be looking for accommodation in the same carriage, provided of course, there is available space. He should assist others as far as possible if he happens to find them overburdened with a heavy load. In connection with business affairs, it amounts to exercising loving-kindness (metta) by instructing another person in matters with which he is not acquainted. Speak gently and sweetly, and accord a warm reception with a fine gesture and a smiling sweet face. Help a person to the best of one’s own ability. These are the genuine manifestations of goodwill and loving-kindness. To speak with a sweet voice is metta vacikam. Giving physical help to others is metta kayakam.