Brahmavihara Dhamma

Part II, by Ven, Mahasi Sayadaw

(20) Persons towards whom Metta should be developed first and foremost

In developing metta towards others, priority should be given to one’s own self. It is stated that first and foremost metta should be developed towards one’s own self giving voice to “May I be happy and free from misery.” Or, “May I be free from danger, mental distress, bodily suffering, and be able to. shoulder the burden of one’s own khandha (material body) with happiness.” In developing metta for one’s own well-being, the intention, of course, is not to acquire merits. Nor is it developed to gain samadhi (concentration). It is meant to serve as an example by comparison that others also wish to be happy like he himself wishes to be. One may be developing metta as: “May I be happy for years and years, nay, for a hundred or thousand years, but there is no possibility of achieving appana-samadhi. If one is developing metta for his own well-being expressing his own sentiment, “May I be happy”, it would serve as an evidence, or rather, stand witness to the fact that others would also wish to be happy, or, to live happily and be alive and also be free from misery as he himself wishes to be so. That is the reason why instruction has been given to develop metta towards one’s own Self, or one’s own wellbeing initially when beginning with the exercise. The Visuddhimagga has said so. The Enlightened One has made an exposition by preaching a Verse as quoted below which indicates that a person loves his own self the most.

Sabba disa anuparigamma’ cetasa nevalihaga piyatara’ mattana kvaci. Evam piyo puthu atta pareysam, tasama na him se paramattakamo.

Sabba disa – all ten regions or places, cetasa – with imagination or thoughts, anuparigamma – going round and round in search of, attana piyataram – a person who deserves more love and affection than one’s own Self, kvaci – in any place or anywhere, neva allhaga – cannot be found. Evam, Similarly, pareysam – other people also, puthu atta – with reference to their own respective Self, piyo – love (himself) the most. Tasama – Inasmuch as every being loves his own Self the most, attakamo – one who loves his own Self, nay, who cares most of his own welfare or for his own good, param – will not cause another person, na him se – suffer, misery, nay, should develop metta without causing misery to others.

After developing metta towards one’s own self taking one from the outstanding example cited above, metta is to be developed towards either a teacher who is worthy of love and respect, or towards the grandfather, father, uncle, etc. Or, in the case of females, towards the grandma, mother, aunt and so on. The manner of developing metta may be described as: “May the Sayadaw be happy and free from misery. Or, “May the grandfather, father, and uncle be happy. (In the case of females) “May the grandma, mother and aunt be happy and free from suffering and misery.” In this way, metta should be developed about once ever three seconds. Metta can also be developed towards any other person deserving of affection and respect, if not towards your teacher, grandparents, mother, father and so on.

The mind should be bent upon the recipient of metta, loving-kindness, whoever he may be, and then transmit this feeling of metta as “May he be happy” for hundred times (thousand, ten thousand and hundred thousand times) continuously. If one’s objective is for the achievement of jhana-samadhi, metta should be developed all throughout day and night without a break excluding the time for sleep as an interval for a respite. While developing, the mind may flirt. These wandering thoughts are akusala demerits, known as nivaranas. The moment you become mindful of such thoughts or imaginations, these should be rejected, and then, continue to go on developing metta, continuously. When the power of concentration, samadhi becomes strong, such wandering thoughts will gradually lessen. If samadhi is fully strengthened, the mind will cease to wander and remain fixed on the person to whom metta is transmitted. This is the realisation of upacara-samadhi which is free from nivaranas.