Brahmavihara Dhamma

Part II by Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw

(46) How genuine Metta should be developed – an illustration

7. Mata yatha niyam puttam,
ayusi ekaputtam anurakkhe.
Evampi sabbabhutesu,
manasam bhavaye aparimanam.

Mata – the mother, niyam puttam – in respect of her own flesh and blood, ekaputtam – the only beloved son, ayusa – at the sacrifice of her own life, anurakkhe yatha – will always be guarding or looking after him. Evampi – in the same manner, sabbabhutesu – in regard to all kinds of beings, aparimanam – boundless or immense, manasam – metta or loving-kindness, wishing them happiness, bhavaye – may be repeatedly developed.

In this verse, the manner of relationship between mother and son has been particularly cited as an example. Generally, mother’s affection and loving-care for sons and daughters far surpasses that of the father. That is the reason why the mother has been cited as an example. Loving-care and affection may not be bestowed upon adopted children by the parents as such as they would confer on their own children. Hence, an example of “the only beloved son” is cited. However, if there are many sons, the degree or strength of affectionate feeling and loving-care may not be great despite the fact that they are their own flesh and blood. Usually, boundless love is bestowed upon the only son in a family. That is why comparison has been made to “the only son”. The degree of love for the only son is well known to mothers who have sons of their own. This needs no elaboration. The mother will sacrifice her own life for her only son, the only child of her own, when occasion demands. Similarly, in developing metta, it has been instructed that one should have utmost loving-kindness and compassionate feeling towards all beings regardless of oneself. The example that has been illustrated is really deep and profound.

I have mentioned about how “simasambheda” takes place as explained in the Visuddhimagga in the second part of this text of Dhamma. In this connection what has been stated is that while a person who is developing metta is living together with the person who is dear to him and person who is neutral, and also an enemy – a hostile person, he should not accede to the wish of the villains who demanded any one of them to be handed over to them for the purpose of offering him as a gift to propitiate a god in performing a. ritual. Even if he ‘surrendered himself as a victim, it will not yet amount to achievement of the quality of samasambheda. On the other hand, according to the Metta Sutta; it would convey the sense that one who is developing Metta should radiate his loving-kindness, wishing the other to gain happiness just as a mother would do with immense love for her only son which soars to the extent of her willingness to sacrifice her own life. If reference were made to what is stated in the Commentary comparing with the Pali Text, it will be found that the illustration is made with emphasis upon the deep feeling of metta which one should have towards beings just as a mother is lovingly taking care of her own son. It should be interpreted to mean that one must have a feeling of loving-kindness towards other beings to the extent as he would have for his own welfare. The instruction given in many Pali Texts indicate one to develop metta towards all other beings on an equal basis as he would have on himself (sabbathataya). There are no instructions to the effect that one should have love for others more than one would love oneself.

Furthermore, metta bhavana means: one should not leave out any one of the living beings, that is, without exception and without limit in developing metta through. meditation, if capable of doing so.