Metta Bhavana

Venerable Sujiva
The Conditioned Nature of Metta

In the first part of the metta sutta we come across conditions important for one who wishes to develop metta. If we study them we can see into their relevance and as to what way it works as it concerns our practice of it in our daily lives.

1. He should be capable.
Capability in his own materiality and spiritual welfare will determine how much of a service he can give to others. Surely an immoral man cannot urge another or practise morality effectively. He himself has to know how. Similarly you cannot help another materially if you do not have any yourself. Capability involves human potential and resource. One must have confidence to carry it out, e.g. the cultivation and the application of metta.

2. He should be frank.
Frankness or straightforwardness is a sign of sincerity. One has to be true to oneself as well as to others and unless one can be true to oneself, one cannot be so to others. One has to establish a good heart-to-heart communication to have metta. When there is trust then the working metta can grow unhindered. This covers all fields of work, including running businesses. In meditation too, this quality is important. One has to relate honestly as to the progress of one’s meditation. Only then can the teacher guide one effectively. Reflection on our motive of what we do puts us back in the right place. Morality too can help us here.

3. Extremely honest.
This extreme honesty and sincerity may be translated as one which can extend for a long period of time and under great tests. It signifies the dependability and deep trust that one can give. To one with this quality, people would readily open their hearts and go to them in times of trouble. Obviously one with such a quality is a person of strong principle, courage and understanding.

4. One should be meek.
Meekness means one who is obedient, and not stubborn. Again, a person who is stubborn does not listen to others even if they wish him well. How then can his metta be developed effectively? We must realise that we can learn a lot from others’ criticism and we can even learn to listen to children. It also says a lot for the anger and pride present. Definitely people would like to work or live with a meek person.

5. Gentle.
Gentleness in our thoughts – and thus speech and action – can work wonders, besides avoiding a lot of unnecessary conflicts. Harshness is hurtful as people can be very sensitive. Gentleness, on the other hand, is pleasing and soothing like patting a child to sleep. People’s pride is like an open wound. To cure it we have to be gentle. As they say – mildness controls better than anger. It’s better to speak softer, and work carefully. Never say or do anything when there is a trace of anger in the heart. When gentleness is in the mind it keeps it soft, then stress does not settle in. On the other hand it helps concentration to settle in quickly and joy follows. Metta is also easily aroused. Learning to be gentle is worthwhile.

6. Not proud.
Metta has a lot to do with seeing others as important as oneself. Pride on the other hand is self-centred and so a proud person cannot properly see others’ good points or understand their needs well. Such understanding is fundamental in the arousing of metta. So when we learn that “there is so much good in the worst of us, and so much fault even in the best of us”, we can see each other better. Contemplation of impermanence also helps in the elimination of conceit.
In daily life it is even more obvious when trying to apply metta. People’s pride is hurt when they are put down. So they would rather not communicate unless they have to.

7. Contented.
Contentment means being satisfied with what is available or suitable. A discontented person has anger and greed. It is not easy to work or live with a greedy person. If there’s a lot of greed in one trying to practise metta one may let greed defile what are otherwise purely wholesome deeds. Being contented also means that one will have a lot of extra material things and time. One who is discontented has never enough.
In monks, contentment helps their practice as well as giving a good impression to people.

8. Easy to support.
“Subharo” in Pali actually means “easy to support”. This was said in reference to monks in the Karaniya Metta Sutta, a sermon given to monks. Hence being easy to support by laypeople is giving them less burdens even if one has to suffer a lot more. This is one way of giving metta to them. Nevertheless everyone has to depend on one another in some way. If we are too demanding or particular then we become a nuisance and a pain the neck for others. So what can be done without – so as not to trouble others – then those things we shall do without. Taking chases people away, giving brings people in. If we must borrow, then we must return, better if we return more than we borrowed. Gratefulness begets appreciation.

9. Have few duties.
To develop any form of meditation it is best that we spend all the time and effort in it. In that way we can get deep concentration and fast. This also goes for metta even in daily life. If we are to develop greater and deeper metta for others, such as our family and friends, we will have to spend a greater amount of time with them. As the saying goes – they can have the money but not the love. Time therefore is the important factor. Whole-hearted involvement is the other.

10. Frugal.
This refers to monks who are light in their living. Light refers to having little possessions so that one may move about easily and freely with little worries and attachments. Wherever one may be or go one is flexible and versatile to fit into practice.

11. Serene in faculties.
The faculties are that of the senses – eye, ear nose, tongue, body and mind. To be calm in these means that we are neither excited with attachment to whatever pleasurable that is seen, heard, etc. nor disturbed with any unpleasant object. Even with neutral objects, one is mindful and not deluded. The exercise of restraint keeps the mind calm and controlled. It keeps the mind free from defilements. This contributes greatly to the deepening concentration of the mind. It will really strengthen and deepen the metta very much as when exercising metta where there is no distraction and weakness.

12. Prudent.
Prudence refers to the knowledge as to what is suitable and advantageous, especially in the spiritual sense. With reference to metta bhavana, it will have specific implications as to say what are the best internal and external conditions to have so that metta can develop best. In daily life we find that this is all the more important. Metta without wisdom can be dangerous. We may do more harm than good to ourselves and to others. An example is a well-meaning correction of another’s mistake at a wrong time, place or person which may cause anger instead of appreciation. It is always better to reflect and think twice as to how best to help another.

13. Free from rudeness.
Rudeness is coarseness in behaviour. Deeper states of consciousness are refined states of mind. To develop metta we have to refine our thoughts, speech and body. This would involve practising a lot of mindfulness and wisdom. It will also involve proper behaviour, politeness, etiquette and morality. Such refinement would definitely help us avoid a lot of trouble and misunderstanding when dealing with people in our daily lives.

14. Not favouring in families.
This conditions just means not going around currying favour. This happens when one is defiled by greed and attached to what others can give. Usually it will not be too long before it becomes obvious to others. We will then become a prey of as well as preying on others. Attachment or greed is the failure of metta. It fails because its enemy, attachment, has won. Then the magic is gone and only some nightmare awaits.

15. Should not do even the slightest thing which other wise men might deplore.
Wise men deplore all unwholesome actions, and any of these counteracts the pure mind of metta. All forms of evil – no matter how insignificant – should not be underestimated and are best avoided. Mindfulness again becomes all important as the guarding and guiding factor even in metta bhavana itself.