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Metta Bhavana (Loving-kindness cultivation)

Updated: Apr 8

What is Metta?

We know Metta is loving kindness or the unconditional goodwill towards oneself and others. That is in theory but experientially, many meditators have expressed that they don’t feel Metta. Some say they have more difficulty in having Metta to self. They feel it is easier to have Metta to their loved ones than themselves. Others think they have little or no Metta at all.

There are many reasons for this and one of them is, you don't recognise Metta. Secondly, it is undeveloped and, also without a sustained period of its arising, it is not felt strongly and often goes unnoticed.

Metta isn't abstract. It is the loving and kind-mind. It needn't have to be epic like donating one's kidney, sacrificing one's life. It's in all the little things in daily life that develops the Metta mind.

A "thank you", a smile or simply giving a helping hand is Metta in action (body and speech). Of course, it's preceded by Metta thought. When it's strong, you'd feel it - for example if you were to help someone in need to cross a busy street, that happiness is felt and could even last for some time. To cultivate Metta in daily life is simple and it's free. It brings only joy and peaceful neutral feeling and thus, most valuable for one's well being. It can also spread like wild fire - imagine everyone in your community catches the kindness bug...there'd much happiness in oneself and your surroundings. Often, when we understand the value of something, we would be willing to invest time and energy to intentionally cultivate it.

To develop Metta, it is helpful that we know what that is, isn't it? So, it is helpful that we learn to recognise it in our experience otherwise its arising might seem random.

Some qualities of Metta

Metta has many active qualities to it, and just to name a few:

Metta is gentle and soft. It has a sense of nurture. It is healing. It has a sense of safety, a sense of being protected – like it feels I am okay. Metta mind feels open, fearless yet soft. Metta is forgiving and accepting – doesn’t keep score and not calculative. It has very calming, nurturing and healing vibrations. So, it deepens peacefulness of mind.

Metta is unconditional and unlimited love

To cultivate Metta, is to develop this mental state of non-aversion. The development is in relation to all living beings (Metta objects). It’s not associated with attachment, craving or lust. It’s a genuine wish for well being, for all beings. Thus, Metta is unconditional and unlimited. It is unconditional because the source of Metta is internal (not having to depend on the object being nice to you, for eg). It is unlimited because it doesn't discriminate the living being in any way, and is therefore inclusive. The breaking down of these barriers must be developed, step by step. And, having strong Metta within (Metta to self) is a good start.

If you wish to know the 11 blessings of Metta, check out Metta (Mettanisamsa) Sutta / Discourse on Advantages of Loving-kindness here.

In this series - Metta Guided Meditation, we’ll work on developing Metta and towards different categories of living beings to break down the barriers.

How to cultivate Metta?

It’s easier to develop Metta when the mind has no illwill. This is the mental state of non-aversion (Adosa).

On the other hand, it’s very hard to feel those qualities of Metta when you’re angry, stress, anxious, panic, worry, lonely and all other negativities. All these, are the complete opposite of Metta. They’re illwill, and it harms the mind. They cause resistance and rigidity in the mind – like a clenched fist. It’s good practice that we first, try to release any negativities through relaxation, patience, forgiveness and acceptance. And then, stabilise the non-aversion mental state through mindful breathing before moving onto developing Metta. In our tradition, there are 4 aspirations that we use to develop Metta. This is what we are going to do. So, let's begin, click here.

Below is a fully guided loving-kindness development to self.

Hope you’ll find these helpful and bring you joy.

Much metta/s

And...Happy Chinese New Year everyone. GONG XI FAI CAI

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