Thursday, April 24, 2008
The Pali word metta is a multi-significant term meaning loving-kindness, friendliness, goodwill, benevolence, fellowship, amity, concord, inoffensiveness and non-violence. The Pali commentators define metta as the strong wish for the welfare and happiness of others (parahita-parasukha-kamana). Essentially metta is an altruistic attitude of love and friendliness as distinguished from mere amiability based on self-interest. Through metta one refuses to be offensive and renounces bitterness, resentment and animosity of every kind, developing instead a mind of friendliness, accommodativeness and benevolence which seeks the well-being and happiness of others. True metta is devoid of self-interest. It evokes within a warm-hearted feeling of fellowship, sympathy and love, which grows boundless with practice and overcomes all social, religious, racial, political and economic barriers. Metta is indeed a universal, unselfish and all-embracing love.
Apart from its higher implications, today metta is a pragmatic necessity. In a world menaced by all kinds of destructiveness, metta in deed, word and thought is the only constructive means to bring concord, peace and mutual understanding. Indeed, metta is the supreme means, for it forms the fundamental tenet of all the higher religions as well as the basis for all benevolent activities intended to promote human well-being.
The practice of metta thus can be likened to bringing into being a great tree, from the time the seed is sown to the time the tree is heavily laden with luscious fruits and sends forth its sweet odor far and wide, attracting myriads of creatures to it to enjoy its tasty and nutritious bounty. The sprouting of the seed and the growth of the plant are, as it were, brought about by the first part of the sutta. In the second part the tree, robust and developed, is fully covered with fragrant and beautiful flowers, riveting all eyes upon it.
As a pattern of behavior, the first aspect of metta makes one's life grow like a tree, useful, generous and noble. Metta, as meditation, effects that spiritual efflorescence whereby one's entire life becomes a source of joy for all. The third part envisages in this imagery the fruition of that process of spiritual development whereby one brings about an all-embracing application of spiritual love which can powerfully condition society as a whole and lead one to the heights of transcendental realization.
Metta is also called a paritta — a spiritual formula capable of safeguarding one's well-being, protecting one against all dangers, and rescuing one from mishaps and misfortunes.
The protection of paritta works both subjectively and objectively. Subjectively, as metta cleanses and strengthens the mind, it also awakens the dormant potentials, resulting in the spiritual transmutation of the personality. Transformed by metta, the mind is no longer haunted by greed, hatred, lust, jealousy and those other mind-polluting factors which are one's real enemy and source of misfortune.
Objectively, metta as a thought-force is capable of affecting any mind anywhere, developed or undeveloped. The radiation of metta can not only calm a person or remove the darts of hate from within him, but in some cases can even cure him of severe illness. It is a common experience in Buddhist countries to see how people are cured from all sorts of diseases and freed from misfortunes through the recitation of paritta. Thus metta is a real healing power. In this way does metta act as a paritta, a healing formula affording safeguards.
The Philosophy and Practice of Universal Love by Acharya Buddharakkhita
To know more: Wat Arun - Temple of Dawn, Bangkok
Picture: Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)