Brahmavihara Dhamma

Part II, by Ven, Mahasi Sayadaw

(19) Persons upon whom Metta should not be bestowed

Persons towards whom metta, loving-kindness, should not be developed are:

(1) Persons not belonging to the same sex – metta should not be developed and transmitted in particular to persons of a different sex.

(2) Persons who are dead and gone – metta should not be developed towards such persons.

The reason for this abstention is that between the two persons who are not of the same sex, say, of the two persons – a male and a female – if a male or a man is particularly developing metta towards a female or a woman, or, vice versa, i.e., if a female is especially developing metta towards a male, sensual or human passionate desires (raga) is likely to occur. In the long time past, a son of a government minister asked his Mahathera, his spiritual teacher, “Your reverend Sir, on whom should I bestow my loving-kindness by developing metta”‘. The Mahathera replied that he should develop his metta in respect of a person whom he loved and adored. Thereupon, the minister’s son, being very fond of .his wife, after keeping observance ‘of the noble eight-fold silas (atthanga-sila) i.e., moral precepts, on one day, took his seat on the sleeping couch in a closed bedroom at night time, and developed metta radiating his spirit of loving-kindness to his darling wife with concentrated contemplation. While thus performing, he became infatuated with extravagant passion (raga). He therefore made an attempt to go to his wife. Under the inspired influence of his sensuous desires, he entirely forgot about the door and in moving about wildly losing control of himself, hit the wall many a time. Becoming so angry and blinded by his passion, he struck the wall repeatedly with his hand and kicked it. It seems that this had happened not for a while or a few minutes. It has been stated in the Visuddhimagga as: “sabbarattam” – throughout the whole night, “bhitthiyuddhamakasi” (he) was at war with the masonry wall and fought against it. The Visuddhimagga has also mentioned the upsurge of raga as being an intrusion made by raga itself enticing under the guise of metta. As attachment of raga has a tendency to take place with vigour, metta should not be developed in a manner distinct from others towards a person of the opposite sex. However, transmission of metta for the purpose of gaining paramita and kusala for about four, five, or ten times appears not prohibitive.

It is stated that if metta is developed towards a person who was dead, neither appana-jhana-samadhi, i.e. boundless and perfect concentration, by contemplation, nor, upacara-samadhi, i.e. inferior type of proximate concentration, can be achieved. A long time ago, a young Bhikkhu was said to be developing metta dwelling his mind on his spiritual teacher. He was, however, unable to reach the stage of jhana-samapatti which he had once successfully practised and attained by indulging in ecstatic meditation. When he made enquiries about his failure to attain the said jhana as advised by a Mahathera, he found out that his spiritual teacher had already passed away. Thence, he developed his metta towards another person with his usual concentration. Only then was he able to attain metta-jhana. Therefore, metta should not be developed in respect of or towards a person who had already passed away.