Metta Bhavana

Venerable Sujiva
Change in the Object of Metta

One may then proceed with a change of the object, i.e. the individual used as object of metta. This approach of keeping to one person till the mastering of absorption allows one who practises metta bhavana to develop deep concentration.

In usual practice, however, one may not go so far. Often one switches object even on reaching access concentration. Some switch even before that but it is inadvisable as one is still within the power of the defilements and so does not produce appreciable effects.

The practice of metta bhavana is not for deep concentration or absorptions but for the sake of happier living and good kamma or perfections can be done in many different approaches. The change of objects helps us to be flexible and finally universal in the nature of the metta we develop.

We develop metta progressively to all the levels of concentration to the persons in the following order:

1. lovable person (puja puggala)
2. intimate person (atipiya puggala)
3. neutral person (majjhatta puggala)
4. repulsive person (apiya puggala)
5. inimical person (veri puggala)

1. Puja puggala – LOVABLE PERSON
This has been dealt with earlier in this book. The rest (2-4) below are done later because pure metta may be more difficult to arouse.

2. Atipiya puggala – THE VERY INTIMATE PERSON
The intimate person is avoided at the start because of the tendency of attachment. Therefore if we are to send metta successfully we have to ensure that there is no attachment. Hence we would be giving it as if at a distance and not very close, light and soft, and not intense. Of course we have to have mindfulness close at hand to maintain its purity and guard against attachment. It is like giving metta without personal involvement. If one is unable to stop attachment from arising, it will only be wise to return to the first individual. Only then do we recognise the differences of the types of metta present. It will help to put things right. If one has got the feel of this then we can radiate and care for our very close ones without getting into trouble that comes with attachment i.e. pride, jealousy, possessiveness, etc. One can also know how to give metta to the opposite sex. It is one more step towards universal metta.

3. Majjhata puggala – INDIFFERENT PERSON
There are many people who fall under this category. He may be the roti or newspaper man, your neighbour, or even your barber. A friend said she felt a loss when she discovered her roti man who had been delivering the bread all these years had died when he went back to India. She had not even really tried to be more friendly. We do let all these opportunities of friendship pass by (that could make each other’s life happier). If we can see this point, it will be easier to arouse metta towards indifferent individuals. Of course by then, they are no longer indifferent people. But then again, there are still many more “borrowing” metta.

Another factor contributing to being able to give metta to the neutral individual is by borrowing metta from the metta done to the lovable person. Having done much metta to the lovable person the momentum developed will naturally give such feelings to others. Then one can call on a neutral person. Frequent practice will make the “neutral person” lovable as well.

This habitualisation of metta is important in the development of metta whether towards deeper concentration, wider versatility or applied practice in daily life.

4. Apiya puggala – UNPLEASANT PERSON
Sometimes we meet with people we do not like. Very often we may not even know why and very often our dislike is not justifiable. It may even be groundless. Even if we may have some reason to dislike a person we should not. In any case it does not fall into enmity. Nevertheless the repulsion and some anger or irritation make it more difficult than it needs to be to arouse metta.

We can perhaps begin by asking ourselves why we do not like that person. We would in a lot of cases find the reasons weak or groundless. We can further remove any dislike by seeing into the dangers of dislike or anger. Further seeing into the benefits of metta will provide a strong motivational force. “Borrowing” from the momentum of the previous metta should keep one on in the development of metta to such a person. That is why, if anger arises in giving metta to such a person, return to oneself or the lovable individual. With practice we will be quite adept in overlooking people’s faults and be very much a less demanding or fusspot of a person.

The enemy shares the similarity of being associated with dislike and anger. But in this case the feelings of hatred are deeper and the reasons may be justifiable along common lines of reasoning.

The Dhammapada verse 4 says:

“He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me”,
in those who do not harbour such thoughts hatred is appeased.

It all boils down to the plain fact that hatred is never justifiable or good. One should never consider another an enemy. If one can think of things in this way it would make it easier. However if the injustice is still being carried out it will be more difficult.

To be able to do metta to such a person, we must firstly make sure that we are morally in the right. Secondly, we should also bear in mind all the reasons to have metta for that person.

For example, we were all close friends in some past life and finally we all want happiness.

If we send metta to him it also does not mean we condone his bad actions or keep on allowing him to do the bad things to us. In actuality, giving metta means making the wish that he no longer does these things but does otherwise.
If one is unable to, one is advised to return to oneself and the lovable person.
To be able to give metta to such a person means your metta has advanced by a stride. Then you may say that you have no enemies although others may not think so. But certainly you will be much happier.

The saying “To hate is human, but to forgive is divine”, is most relevant to this case. Although the first part is questionable, metta is certainly a Divine abiding.
Traditionally in a complete course of metta, one has to go through all the different levels of absorptions and their masteries with all these other individuals as described with respect to the practice of using the lovable being as the object.
We can see that one can develop strong and deep metta with regards to all types of individuals including the “enemy”. We would be able to look upon anyone as our close brothers and sisters.

The mind is the forerunner of all states. And if metta is so powerful it is not surprising it is able to turn enemies into friends.

When one is able to do this, one may proceed on to develop universal and boundless metta to all beings.