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Student of the Path - 5 Part Metta Series : All of Us

BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
edited July 2015 in Meditation

So instead of making an individual post each time, I decided to consolidate them all here.

Part 3 is the new addition this week. as of 7-10-15.


  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    edited July 2015

    ===============PART 1===============


    This has been recieved pretty well so I've been sharing. It's how I do metta meditation as taught here at Bhavana and personalized by me.

    Metta: All of Us

    I think I’m going to do a few posts in the upcoming weeks on various topics related to metta. There are a variety of methods but only two practiced come close to what the Buddha taught. The method I wanted to describe today is one I use most often, it is part of my daily practice and connects with me most. What I am showing you here is my version of this practice, the great thing about metta is that you can play with it to find what works for you, you can make it your own.

    (Just a quick word on translation of Metta.. it is most often translated as loving-kindness, which is an old translation and to myself and many others does not really encapsulate what is meant by metta. I personally prefer boundless or limitless goodwill, as translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, which to me fits best, Goodwill being defined as - friendly, helpful, or cooperative feelings or attitude. This is not about loving all beings, or even necessarily liking them, this is about good will. )

    The Pali term that best describes the method I will be describing is metta-cetovimutti, Translated as the liberation of mind through limitless goodwill.This method was taught to me here at Bhavana as “exalted metta”. I’ve attached the pictures here for visualization help.

    So first things first, as with all proper metta, you need to begin with yourself. You cannot possibly hope to have limitless goodwill for all beings if you do not have it for yourself first. I like to use the simile of the oxygen mask. If you’ve ever been on a plane and listened to the safety speech, you know that the attendant always says if you are traveling with children always put YOUR OWN mask on first before assisting other passengers, Metta is just like that.

    So you begin by developing thoughts and feelings of goodwill towards yourself, building up a mind state of good will. You can use words, visualizations, self talk, whatever works for you. The important thing is not the words and visualizations, but the mental state itself, the words and visualizations help get you to that state. The more you practice the easier it is to find that mental state and that “feeling” of metta, even sometimes without needing the words and visuals to get you there.

    Here is an example of a set of words I’ve developed for my own use:

    May (I/we/all beings) find happines
    May (I/we/all beings) find Peace
    May (I/we/all beings) Live in friendship with(all beings/each other)
    May (I/we/all beings) find release

    (for self talk I’ll often say things to myself like “ it’s ok jay, you are doing the best you can, you are doing a good thing by doing your practice, etc. focusing on positive thoughts about yourself and giving yourself a little pep talk. This is something I use not just in metta but even when I’m struggling and during many other times.)

    I also imagine the metta being a sort of energy that fills me up, it’s color is purple, not for any reason other then it’s the color I thought fit best. This energy created permeates me as I am giving metta to myself. Now however, once I have that feeling of metta for myself, it’s time to launch that metta ever outwards.

    I visualize the metta exploding out from me in the shape of a sphere, almost like some magic spell might look. This sphere grows ever larger, with me at it’s center.

    Now here is where it gets good. This sphere gradually gets larger so that it encompasses the whole of the building you are in(or if outside the general property), then larger to encompass all beings in your state, ever larger encompassing all beings in your country, then all beings on the planet. Sometimes I have visualizations where images of a large variety of beings flicker through my awareness, especially at the point where I’ve reached the level of earth.

    At this point Earth is there, as in the image above, totally encompassed in that purple sphere of metta. I often take a pause here, before heading out into the universe, and so I will take a quick one and explain that you can use words for each level in addition or even instead of visualizations. This is said just like the word phrasing above, starting with "may all” for each group.

    May (all beings/all of us) in/on ( this state/country/planet/universe etc):
    -find happines
    -find Peace
    -Live in friendship with(all beings/each other)
    -find release

    So now It’s time to branch out. I begin the visualization of the purple metta sphere expanding ever outwards as the earth gets smaller and smaller and then disappears as stars turn into the milky way. You can pause at this point to visualize the whole milky way, with it’s hundred billion stars, encompassed in the metta sphere, you can say the words if you wish.

    It’s time to move on again, the milky way gets ever smaller and other galaxies come into view which are also getting smaller millions, billions, hundreds of billions, soon you are looking at the universe(the purple web is essentially a “picture” of the universe put forth by astronomy). At the pause you are with the universe, encompassing all of it whole with your limitless goodwill, all beings everywhere in the universe, in any form of existence, you can say the words once more.

    But wait.. we aren’t done here just yet. Being an astronomy buff I take it to the next level. The visualization continues to expand with the metta sphere as the universe itself begins to grow smaller… suddenly it’s encompased in a sphere, and as you expand out you see others, dozens, hundreds, thousands, millions of universes. You are now in the multiverse. it is here where that release of mind reaches it’s peak. You are expanding the metta spehere, expanding your limitless good will, beyond the limits of our current experience. You are now encompassing all beings in any form of existence, in any universe or plane of existence, anywhere, and everywhere.

    Every single living being that exists, you offer your goodwill, your friendship, your feelings of camaraderie, for all fellow beings who share existence with you… ALL of US, come into existence, live for a time, then pass away, all of us who have physical forms are children of the stars, ie we are made up of material that came from the heart of an exploding star. I’m not talking about a sort of “universal mind” or “universal one-ness”, the Buddha never taught that, but a camaraderie born of siblingship, of being in the same boat(samsara) as it were.

    That is basic exalted metta as taught at Bhavana and personalized by me. I do this process while reciting the metta sutta, while looking up at the stars, when I wake up, and when I go to bed. Remember the words ands visualizations are not set in stone, you find what works best for you to develop the feeling of metta. I often describe the feeling as that feeling you get sitting around the table with close family and friends, a feeling of safety, acceptance, friendship, with no emnity or fear.

    Metta is not about whether others like you or hate you or care about you. There is nothing magical about metta, you are not sending healing or peaceful waves at people expecting them to “get” the positive thoughts etc. Metta is about developing your own mind to be free of ill-will and negativity, and that is always worth it.

    “Happy indeed we live, friendly amidst the hostile. Amidst hostile men we dwell free from hatred. Dhp 15”

    To close, I think this Metta practice is perfectly captured in one of my favorite poems “Outwitted” by Edwin Markham:

    “He drew a circle that shut me out — Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But Love and I had the wit to win: We drew a circle that took him in!”

  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    edited July 2015

    ===============PART 2===============



    Last week I described a personalized version of one of(Exalted Release of Mind) the two main methods taught by the Buddha that I’ve learned here at Bhavana. This week I’ll talk about the other, “Immeasurable Release of Mind”.

    “What, householder, is the immeasurable deliverance of mind? Here a bhikkhu abides pervading one quarter with a mind imbued with loving-kindness,likewise the second, likewise the third, likewise the fourth; so above, below, around, and everywhere, and to all as to himself, he abides pervading the all-encompassing world with a mind imbued with loving-kindness, abundant, exalted,immeasurable, without hostility and without ill will.“ - MN 127 Anuruddha Sutta

    The excerpt above is the most commonly found description of metta practice by the Buddha in the Pali suttas. It involves pervading( to spread through and be perceived in every part of.) six directions with metta. These six directions are the four cardinal directions(N,S,E,W) plus above and below.

    You could also say from this sutta selection that it seems indeed that what is described is a starting out of immeasurable release of mind(directional) and ending up with exalted(abides pervading the all-encompassing world), and indeed it is sometimes taught that these two can be practiced together in such a way. This is how I learned at Bhavana and this is in fact, how I did guided meditations for the Buddha Center, as one can flow right into the next. You can take the directions from this post to begin with and then move into the directions of exalted metta after.

    Also a quick note on the pali word** Loka**, which is translated as** "world”**. Loka can mean anything from the earth all the way up to the universe, multiverse, different planes of existence etc. So when you see “world” it behooves us to think much larger then just this planet, developing metta for all beings truly means ALL beings.

    Ok, so lets get down to the actual method of practice. This is again how I was taught here at Bhavana society during the Metta retreat a few years back and how I’ve practiced.

    Just like in exalted metta, you are starting with metta for yourself. Remember the airplane safety speech analogy from last week, you cannot give what you don’t have, so develop those thoughts and feelings of loving kindness for yourself first(as always!).

    Once you are filled with metta, we can begin the process of “pervading” it out. There is again both a visualization that can be involved as well as words. Again remember that in metta you can make the practice your own, if you don’t care for the words and visualizations given, experiment with your own. You may find that visualizations don’t work, but words do, or the opposite, or that you like both, etc. Again it’s not the method that matters so much as the feeling and mental state of abiding in metta.

    “When you do metta be like sun who sends rays to all equally” - Bhante Seelananda

    In Immeasurable Metta we are doing directional, as opposed to the spherical of exalted. I’ll describe step by step using both as I was taught. The quote above can provide a hint to the visualization part.

    Now that we have metta pervading our being, lets not be selfish! time to share it with all beings. Visualize a bright beam of light, perhaps similar to the rays of a sun, emanating from you and moving off into each direction as we move through them individually, until all directions are bathed in the light of your metta.

    May all beings in my Front direction, be well, happy, and peaceful
    May all beings in my Right direction, be well, happy, and peaceful
    May all beings in my Left direction, be well, happy, and peaceful
    May all beings in my Back direction, be well, happy, and peaceful
    May all beings in my Above direction, be well, happy, and peaceful
    May all beings in my Below direction, be well, happy, and peaceful

    Thats it for the words, pretty simple. You can use whatever words that feel most appropriate to you, but the basis is “may all beings in X direction”. I like to use my four section “ may all beings in x direction… find happiness, find peace, live in friendship with each other, find release.”

    Visualization wise I of course have personal flourishes to the beam of light. I visualize in my head the beam shooting from me, then I see the earth as the beam shoots out into space, with a grid of light extending from it, covering(pervading!) the whole of each direction. Think of it like a radar “sweeping” a section of physical space.

    Remember to take each direction as it’s own section, you are not going through each direction in a line under 10 seconds etc. Just like in exalted where you are spending some time with each “level”, you want to spend a good amount of time with each direction,not just rush through it.

    That is it for Immeasurable, fairly simple and straight forward. I’ll be back next week with some more topics related to metta.

  • Thank you, Jayantha!

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    This is better than 'Dallas'......! :D

  • @Jayantha
    Thank you for this lesson. It seems as though this is just the practice I need to do at this time. I must admit that I overlooked this lesson at first, but later realized this will actually help with my current situation. Thank you once again. Sending metta your way and all directions. ::::bowing:::


  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran

    Part 4 is up - Two posts because it wont fit into one.


    Metta: All of Us - Part 4: Metta in Action

    So here we are at part four of the "All of Us" metta series. So far we have discussed various methods of training the mind in metta, limitless goodwill for all beings. This week we will discuss metta in action, most specifically related to the other two avenues of volitional action available to us besides the mind, which is body and speech.

    I once heard a question asked to Bhante G, which was “where does metta fit into the teaching of the Buddha?”, as the questioner could not see it taking a major place on any grand Buddhist lists or strata of important topics. Bhante G’s answer to that was “everywhere, it suffuses and permeates the Buddha’s teachings”. I will expand on that statement via the framework of the Noble Eightfold Path, which is Skillful(Right) View, Skillful Intention, Skillful Speech, Skillful action, Skillful Livelihood, Skillful Effort, Skillful Mindfulness, and Skillful Concentration.

    Skillful Intention

    Skillful Intention is the domain of the mind. A “right” or Skillful intention consists of thoughts and mind states of renunciation (as opposed to covetousness/greed/attachment), goodwill (as opposed to ill-will), and harmlessness (as opposed to harmfulness). Through our previous metta practices we have developed these thoughts of goodwill and harmlessness for all beings. This will lead to that goodwill and harmlessness playing a part in our interactions with all beings.

    Skillful Action and the 5 Precepts

    Now we move into direct physical actions that we perform with volition. The Buddha describes Skillful Action in the framework of three of the Five Precepts. These five precepts are the very basic acts of virtue that one can perform that will lead to great benefit for yourself and others for a long time.
    In fact the Buddha called the five precepts “faultless gifts to the world”:

    "There are these five gifts, five great gifts — original, long-standing, traditional, ancient, unadulterated, unadulterated from the beginning — that are not open to suspicion, will never be open to suspicion, and are unfaulted by knowledgeable contemplatives & brahmans. Which five?

    _"There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones, **abandoning the taking of life, abstains from taking life…Furthermore, abandoning taking what is not given (stealing) **, the disciple of the noble ones abstains from taking what is not given…Furthermore, **abandoning sexual misconduct, the disciple of the noble ones abstains from sexual misconduct…

    Furthermore, abandoning lying, the disciple of the noble ones abstains from lying…Furthermore, abandoning the use of intoxicants, the disciple of the noble ones abstains from taking intoxicants.**_

    In doing so, he gives freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings. In giving freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings, he gains a share in limitless freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, and freedom from oppression. This is the first gift, the first great gift

    By not harming any living being, by not taking things that have not been given to us, by not performing sexual misconduct(ie nonconsensual sexual acts with adults or minors and acts that cause social harm such as with engaged/married persons), by not lying, by not using intoxicants(while not “bad” in itself, can lead to heedlessness and unskillful actions), we are showing our intentions of good will and harmlessness(ie Metta) for all beings, including yourself, as you share in that gift. What greater gift can you give to others(and yourself) then the gift of fearlessness, of trust, of freedom? This is the beginning of what happens when your intentions of metta become your ACTIONS of metta.

    Skillful Speech and the 5 Precepts

    "For the person who transgresses in one thing, I tell you, there is no evil deed that is not to be done. Which one thing? This: telling a deliberate lie."

    As we saw above, lying is one of the five precepts and actually covers a few different types of speech, this is where Skillful Speech comes in.

    _**"And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech."*__

    It should be fairly obvious how lying can cause harm. Divisive speech is speech used to divide people, to cause enmity between people, abusive speech can be emotional harmful and idle chatter leads to heedlessness and the arising of the other forms of speech to avoid.

    We all know that for most people, no matter how much we say things like “ sticks and stones may break our bones but words will never hurt me”, or “ words are wind”, unskillful speech can really cause mind states that lead to anger, fear, jealousy, hurt feelings, etc, both when said TO us and BY us. This is why it behooves us to be skillful in our speech, both internal speech and outward speech directed to others. The Buddha had a good amount to say about skillful speech, especially when instructing his young son:

    "Monks, a statement endowed with five factors is well-spoken, not ill-spoken. It is blameless & unfaulted by knowledgeable people. Which five?

    "It is spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good-will."

    "One should speak only that word by which one would not torment oneself nor harm others. That word is indeed well spoken.

    "One should speak only pleasant words, words which are acceptable (to others). What one speaks without bringing evils to others is pleasant."

    Observe your speech before, during, and after you speak…

    [The Buddha speaks to his son, Rahula:] "Whenever you want to perform a verbal act…While you are performing a verbal act…Having performed a verbal act…you should reflect on it: 'This verbal act I want to perform — (would it?, is it currently?, did it?) lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Is it an unskillful verbal act, with painful consequences, painful results?' If, on reflection, you know that it would lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it would be an unskillful verbal act with painful consequences, painful results, then any verbal act of that sort is absolutely unfit for you to do. But if on reflection you know that it would not cause affliction... it would be a skillful verbal action with happy consequences, happy results, then any verbal act of that sort is fit for you to do.

    And finally

    _** "In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, and endearing & agreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them. Why is that? Because the Tathagata has sympathy for living beings."**_

    Even when your speech meets the criteria of being factual, true, beneficial, endearing and agreeable.. there is STILL a right time to speak. This is another example of metta in action.

    So that is Skillful Speech. Making sure what comes out of your mouth comes from a place of wisdom, goodwill and harmlessness.

    Being heedful before, during, and after our actions speech is putting skillful effort into practice.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    _**"And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech."*__

    Thanks @Jayantha you need to send me more metta :)

    Today I have already engaged in not quite right speech (mis-speech for any politicians present). There is a saying that a message or communication is partly in what is heard. As most of us, speaking for myself are hypocrites and self deceivers, what is a gal to do?

    I have it! mmm ... this dharma is hard core ... B)

  • mmommo Veteran
    edited July 2015

    Thanks @Jayantha for sharing all this, it is a good read. But sometimes, how do we compromise things? Today I saw in the news that Australia is planning to kill cats to keep certain species from extinction. Surely they do it with right intention, which is to keep the country ecosystem healthy. Not really a compassionate act for cats. But who are we, as humans, to decide the lives and death of other animals? Sorry to go off topic, it is just hitting me hard, being a cat lover.


  • WalkerWalker Veteran

    Yeah, sure, blame the cats. It's not the cats, it's us. We've been messing up the ecosystem since we started farming about 10,000 years ago. Maybe we should be culled.

  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    edited July 2015

    And so we come to the final part of the Metta Series:


    Metta: All of Us - Part 5: Benefits of Metta and Closing Words.

    So we arrive at the final part of the metta series. So far we have seen multiple ways of practicing metta mentally, verbally, and physically. Those of us who practice metta know that the benefits are quite clear and evident, but let us go to the Buddha as he speaks about 11 benefits of Metta in the Mettanisamsa Sutta(AN 11.16):

    "Monks, for one whose awareness-release through good will is cultivated, developed, pursued, handed the reins and taken as a basis, given a grounding, steadied, consolidated, and well-undertaken, eleven benefits can be expected. Which eleven?

    *One sleeps easily
    *wakes easily,
    *dreams no evil dreams.
    *One is dear to human beings,
    *dear to non-human beings.
    *The devas protect one.
    *Neither fire, poison, nor weapons can touch one.
    *One's mind gains concentration quickly.
    *One's complexion is bright.
    *One dies unconfused and — if penetrating no higher — is headed for the Brahma worlds.

    "These are the eleven benefits that can be expected for one whose awareness-release through good will is cultivated, developed, pursued, handed the reins and taken as a basis, given a grounding, steadied, consolidated, and well-undertaken."

    When one’s mind is filled with thoughts of good-will there is no restlessness, remorse, and mental agitation, so therefore sleep comes easily, with no nightmares and waking also comes easily.

    When one’s mind is filled with thoughts of good-will, other humans, animals and fine material/immaterial beings like the Devas notice this. The Devas protect those who are sincere practitioners and as for humans and animals, very few people are not affected by a person who’s mind is clear and full of good will, and their verbal and physical actions show it. You give that gift of fearlessness I spoke about in the 4th part of the series, and therefore humans and animals trust you.

    I noticed this personally in my career in Child Protective Services. I cannot count the number of times a child or pet would instantly become friendly with me and the parent would say something to the effect of “wow my child/pet is usually not so trusting and calm of complete strangers”. I could also sit in a home, alone, with people who are considered some of the “most dangerous criminals” in society, and have no fear. There were hundreds of times in the 8 years I worked CPS that I was completely vulnerable, but never once was I physically threatened. It makes me wonder about the power of metta.

    Now the next part, fire, poison, and swords cannot touch one, that is best to be seen as allegorical. According to Bhante G each one of the three should be see in the context of greed, hatred, and delusion. These three roots are a fire, they are a poison, they are a weapon. Those who fully abide in goodwill cannot be touched by these three roots, because a mind of goodwill is incapable of attachment and aversion.

    From my own experience I tend to take this line also in that to a person with a mind and practice of good will, you’d be a lot less likely to meet with an attack, which lines up with the teaching of the Buddha that doing good deeds in the present makes it harder(not impossible) for past bad kamma to come to fruit. You are not superman, impervious to damage, but less likely to suffer from them then a person mired in ill-will.

    The next one is “one gains concentration quickly”. This is not a factor of metta I have discussed because quite honestly it is something I have little experience with nor book knowledge about. You can use metta as a means to Jhana instead of mindfulness of breathing. It makes sense since Metta will bring a calm, peaceful mind of letting go, which is a help in suppressing the hindrances therefore leading to Jhana, but I cannot claim experience with it so I’ll leave it at that.

    “One’s complexion is bright”. A person who is well versed in metta is one who beams, who shines. There is an air about them. They might also always have a slight smile, with peace and goodwill in their mind there is no ill will, no negativity, to be shown outwardly in body.

    The last two, one dies unconfused. There is no restless and remorse, nothing to cloud your mind. It is a clear calm and peaceful mind with no fear, you could not ask for a better way to die. And finally if one does not become awakened, they are reborn in the Brahma world. The Brahma worlds are the absolute highest heavens where there is much bliss and you will live in these heavens for many many eons before coming to another existence, not a bad side effect of metta.

    So those are the benefits of metta as told by the Buddha. I’d like to close with some final remarks on metta and a bunch of links for those interested in learning more.

    Firstly always remember the simile of the airplane, never forget yourself in metta and build the metta up for yourself and inside yourself first. I’ve gotten a few messages from people who speak about it being very hard to give metta to themselves as opposed to others. This is typical and is part of the practice, we are always hardest and most negative on ourselves. Metta is a practice of building skillful mental habits of good will, and will not have instantaneous effects, keep at it and don’t quit.

    If it remains an issue try not delineating between self and others, try “all of us”, which is what I most often do now. One day about 4 months ago as I was outside at night looking up at the stars and practicing metta as I always do, it came to me while doing my metta phrases... all of us..... It’s not yourself alone, it’s not others without you, it’s all of us, every being together including yourself, all of us is all of us. It was some of the most amazing metta I've ever experienced and from that point since I use “all of us”. This is you AND all other beings together. May All of Us find peace, may ALL of us find happiness, etc.

    Don’t use this as an excuse to stop working on metta for yourself however, it is just fine to spend time giving metta JUST to yourself, sometimes when my mind is infested with negativity and ill-will it’s all I CAN do.
    The next major point is another reminder to make the practice your own. You can take what I’ve given you and change it around, or make up your own practice, whatever works to generate metta and develop goodwill in your mind. It is the feeling of metta that is most important.

    So that is it my friends. May your practice flourish and may your minds ever abide in good will for all of us.

    Sukhi Hotu : May you be Happy
    Sabbe Satta Sukhi Hontu : May all beings(all of us) be happy

    Links for Further Metta Education:

    An Index of Metta in various Suttas:

    Metta: Philosophy and Practice : http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/buddharakkhita/wheel365.html

    Metta : Pali Canon Compilation : http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nanamoli/wheel007.html#prac

    Bhante G on Metta : http://www.bhavanasociety.org/main/resource/meditation_on_loving_kindness_metta/

    Metta Means Good Will – Thanissaro Bhikkhu :

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    ^^^ Outstanding. <3

    Absolutetly imperative that we have this combination of tradition and modernity in the west and emerging cyber world. The clarity and personal confirmation illustrating the effective implementation is simple to the point of obvious. Bravo. Much appreciated. <3

  • @Walker said:It's not the cats, it's us.

    You had cats?! Sheer luxury!

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