Metta Sutta

( Discourse on Loving-kindness )

U Nandiya

Once the Bhagava ( Lord Buddha) was staying at the Jetavana
monastery in the pleasance of Anathapindika at Savatthi. A group
of monks received permission from the Lord to meditate in a
distant forest during the period of Buddhist Lent. Each of the
monks took shelter under a big tree as a temporary residence and
an engaged themselves intensively in the practice of meditation.

On account of the spiritual power of their meditation, the tree
deities could not stay in their trees-abodes above the monks, so
they had to come down to the ground. Realizing that the monks
would spend the whole rainy season there, the deities were much
annoyed. So they tried to scare the monks away during the night by
harassing them in various ways.

After living under such impossible conditions for sometime, the
monks could not bear it any longer and rushed back to the Buddha
and informed him about their difficulties. So the Buddha advised
them to recite the text of loving kindness (Metta Sutta) and to
radiate the spirit of love to all beings. On the full-moon day of
Wagaung, the Buddha taught the monks the Metta Sutta. From that
day till now, the full-moon day of Wagaung has been called as the
'Great or Grand Occasion of Metta.

Encouraged by this discourse, the monks returned to their
respective places. They practiced in accordance with the
instructions given them to permeate the entire atmosphere with
radiant thoughts of love, The tree-deities were much pleased to be
affected by the power of love, and so let the monks (meditators)
stay without any further disturbances.


Metta is the highest need of the world today, indeed it is more
needed than ever before. Because in this new world, there are
sufficient materials, money and brilliant wise men and scientists.
In spite of these, there is no peace and happiness. It shows that
something is lacking, That is Metta.

What is the Buddhist idea of Metta? The Pali word "Metta" means
"loving kindness", not the ordinary, sensual, emotional,
sentimental kind of love. Metta has been translated by modem
translators into English as generous, mindful loving, loving
kindness, sending out thoughts of love towards others" but
according to the words of Buddha, Metta has a far wider
significance, and a much more extensive implication than this. It
means a great deal more than loving kindness harmlessness,

What is love? Love is also defined in the Oxford Dictionary.
According to it, love means warm affection, attachment,
affectionate devotion, etc. These are synonymous terms for love
and they all refer to sentimental worldly love. So, Metta has no
full English equivalent. For this Metta is much more than ordinary
affection or warm feelings. The Pali word Metta literally means
"friendliness", but also means love without a desire to possess
but with desire to help, to sacrifice self-interest for the
welfare and well being of humanity. Metta is with out any
selection or exclusion. If you select a few good friends and
exclude a bad person, then you have not got a perfect grasp of
Metta. Indeed Metta is not only benevolent thought, but also
performing charitable deeds, an active ministry for the good of
one and all.

In the "Metta Sutta" the Buddha has chosen the love of a mother
for her child as an example. Imagine a mother's love when her
child is hungry; she watches carefully to feed her child even be
fore it asks her for food. When the child is in danger, she will
risk her own life. So the Buddha taught us to love all beings as a
mother loves her only child. If we can do this even to a small
extent, the world will become happier and more peaceful place. In
the Dighanikaya, it is said by the Buddha that almost every virtue
such as unselfishness, loving sympathy and loving kindness is
included in this "Metta".

Though we talked much about Metta and repeat the formula "Sabbe
satta avera hontu, abyapajjha hontu etc;. "( May all sentient
beings be free from danger; may they be free from oppression
etc.), without Metta how can it be effective? This passage is not
to be merely recited. The Buddha does not ask us to learn any of
his teachings for recitation only. So the recitation of the "Metta
Sutta" is good, but the Buddha did not mean it to be merely
recited. He exhorted us to follow and practice the instructions in
it so that we might realize Metta as the best state of heart in
the world.

Therefore do not be satisfied with the mere recitation of the
"Metta Sutta" but strive to know its meaning with a view to
practicing it and to make it suffuse your being. That is the most
essential fact. Meditation does not mean merely to think about it,
but to practice it in your daily life.

Discourse of loving kindness

This discourse of loving kindness serves as a mark of protection
and as a subject of meditation. In the first part of the discourse
are found virtues that should be practiced by anyone who desires
his own welfare, and in the latter part the method of practicing
Metta or good will is explained in de tail. The Buddha taught us
to follow and practice the following principles:

He who is skilled in doing welfare, who wishes to attain
the state of calm, (Perfect tranquility) must work to be
efficient, upright, perfectly upright, easy to speak to,
gentle and humble.

Contended, easily supportable, having few duties, simple
in livelihood, controlled in sense prudent, modest and
not greedily attached to families, he must not commit
even the slightest sin for which other wise men might
censure him.

He must contemplate so: May all beings be happy, may all
beings be secure, may all beings be happy. He must
radiate the measureless thoughts of loving kindness to
whatever living beings there may be; feeble or strong,
tall, medium or short, small, medium or large, thin,
medium or stout, seen or unseen, those dwelling far or
near, those who are born and those who are to be born-
may all beings, without exception, be happy.

Let none be angry with another, let him not despise
anyone in any place. By means of physical and verbal
provocation or by frustrated enmity, in anger or
ill-will let him not wish another's suffering.

Just as a mother would protect at the risk of her own
life the life of her only son, even so let him spread
boundless loving kindness to every corner of the world;
above, below and across, unhindered without any
obstruction, without any hatred, without any enmity.

While standing, walking, sitting or lying down, as long
as he awake, without sloth (laziness) he should devote
himself to this mindfulness of love. This, they say, is
the "Highest Conduct" and this is called the "Noble
living" (Holy life).

If the meditator, not falling into wrong-view (egoism),
be virtuous and endowed with perfect insight, and expel
his passion for sensual pleasure, then, of a truth, he
will never be conceived in any womb again.

In the Dhammapada the Buddha said, "A beautiful word or thought
which is not accompanied by corresponding acts is like a bright
flower which bears no fruit. It would not produce any effect." So,
it is action, not speculation, it is practice, not theory that
matters. According to the Dhammapada, "will" if it is not followed
by corresponding action does not count. Therefore, practice of the
"Noble Principles of the Metta Sutta" is the essence of Buddhism.

In this connexion this "Metta" or Universal Love (Loving kindness)
is generally taken to exist in connexion with other people, but in
reality love for self comes first. It is not a selfish love, but
love for self, pure love that comes first. By having pure love or
"Metta" as we defined it for self; selfish tendencies, hatred,
anger, will be diminished. Therefore, unless we ourselves possess
"Metta" within, we can not share, radiate, send "Metta" to others.
So meditation on love "Metta" is to be started within ourselves.
According to Buddhism self-love comes first. By helping ourselves,
we can help others effectively. The Buddha pointed out, "If a
person cannot help himself well, he cannot help others well".

In the Dhammapada it says, "One should first establish oneself in
what is proper then only he should advise another; such a wise-man
will not be reproached!". If one cannot find happiness in himself,
he cannot find happiness anywhere else. It is also said that
people who cannot control themselves cannot find happiness.

According to the Buddhist method, training oneself comes first.
Individual perfection must be first, so that the organic whole may
be perfect. The state of the outer world is a reflection of our
innerselves. The world is like a great mirror, and if you look at
the mirror with a smiling face, you will see your own beautiful
smiling face. If you look at it with a shrinking face, you will
see your own ugly face. It means that "Every action must have
equal and opposite reaction."

So if you treat the world properly, kindly, the world will treat
you kindly. We should not expect other persons to treat us kindly
first, we should start by ourselves treating them kindly,

This is the essence of Buddhist "Metta" Loving Kindness.

"May all beings be happy, may all beings be
secure, may all beings be happy minded and
may their hearts be wholesome."

U Nandiya

Source: The Buddhists' Three Jewels,