Cultivating a Metta MindLoving-kindness, listed ninth in the traditional list of the 10 Perfections of the Heart (also known as the paramitas) is described as the heart fully awake in friendliness, compassion, and empathic joy. The Perfections are the 10 particular permutations of goodness and kindness that the Buddha was said to have developed in his many lifetimes before the one in which he was acknowledged as fully enlightened and venerated as the Buddha. Loving-kindness seems to me to be the requisite substrate that supports all of the other Perfections: generosity, morality, renunciation, wisdom, energy, patience, truthfulness, determination, and equanimity. The Metta Sutta (the Sermon on Loving-kindness) is part of the Pali canon. It gives instructions for loving-kindness practice and promises that liberation is its reward. I imagine that if the Buddha preached the Metta Sutta today, the newspaper reporting the event would say: "Three discoveries Ensure Lasting Peace": 1.Wholesome living is the cause of happiness; 2. Personal happiness cultivates the insight "Everyone wants this!"; 3. Human beings have the capacity—in gladness and in safety—to wish unconditionally, "May all beings be happy!"
Commentators would point out that the Metta Sutta has no special instructions for "What Wish to Make for People You Don't Like." It doesn't need them. It assumes that one's own boundlessly safe and happy heart has no walls with hooks on them on which to hang old animosities, no filing systems filled with fear stories that get in the way of forgiving. In loving-kindness meditation, steadfast well-wishing concentrates the mind, dispelling any barrier to benevolence. My colleague Guy Armstrong says, "The metta mind is like frozen orange juice. Everything extra is squeezed out of it. What remains is the essential goodness, only sweeter."
A Student's Lessons
My metta practice—when it is not the saying of structured phrases—has been informed by teachings from Chagdud Rimpoche, a venerable teacher in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and Jo, a regular member of the Wednesday morning class at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California. I think of both teachings as the loving-kindness point of view.
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