meditation can be brought in to support the practice of insight
meditation to help keep the mind open and sweet. It provides the
essential balance to support Insight meditation practice.
It is a fact
of life that many people are troubled by difficult emotional states
in the pressured societies we live in, but do little in terms
of developing skills to deal with them. Yet even when the mind
goes sour it is within most people's capacity to arouse positive
feelings to sweeten it. Loving-kindness is a meditation practice
taught by the Buddha to develop the mental habit of selfless or
altruistic love. In the Dhammapada can be found the saying: "Hatred
cannot coexist with loving-kindness, and dissipates if supplanted
with thoughts based on loving-kindness."
is a meditation practice, which brings about positive attitudinal
changes as it systematically develops the quality of 'loving-acceptance'.
It acts, as it were, as a form of self-psychotherapy, a way of
healing the troubled mind to free it from its pain and confusion.
Of all Buddhist meditations, loving-kindness has the immediate
benefit of sweetening and changing old habituated negative patterns
To put it
into its context, Loving-kindness is the first of a series of
meditations that produce four qualities of love: Friendliness
(metta), Compassion (karuna), Appreciative Joy (mudita)
and Equanimity (upekkha). The quality of 'friendliness'
is expressed as warmth that reaches out and embraces others. When
loving-kindness practice matures it naturally overflows into compassion,
as one empathises with other people's difficulties; on the other
hand one needs to be wary of pity, as its near enemy, as it merely
mimics the quality of concern without empathy. The positive expression
of empathy is an appreciation of other people's good qualities
or good fortune, or appreciative joy, rather than feelings of
jealousy towards them. This series of meditations comes to maturity
as 'on-looking equanimity'. This 'engaged equanimity' must be
cultivated within the context of this series of meditations, or
there is a risk of it manifesting as its near enemy, indifference
or aloofness. So, ultimately you remain kindly disposed and caring
toward everybody with an equal spread of loving feelings and acceptance
in all situations and relationships.
to do it . . .
always begins with developing a loving acceptance of yourself.
If resistance is experienced then it indicates that feelings of
unworthiness are present. No matter, this means there is work
to be done, as the practice itself is designed to overcome any
feelings of self-doubt or negativity. Then you are ready to systematically
develop loving-kindness towards others.
types of persons to develop loving-kindness towards:
beloved person such as a spiritual teacher;
beloved a close family member or friend;
person somebody you know, but have no special feelings
e.g. person who serves you in a shop;
person someone you are currently having difficulty
yourself, then systematically sending loving-kindness from person
to person in the above order will have the effect of breaking
down the barriers between the four types of people and yourself.
This will have the effect of breaking down the divisions within
your own mind, the source of much of the conflict we experience.
Just a word of caution if you are practicing intensively. It is
best if you choose a member of the same sex or, if you have a
sexual bias to your own sex, a person of the opposite sex. This
is because of the risk that the near enemy of loving-kindness,
lust, can be aroused. Try different people to practice on, as
some people do not easily fit into the above categories, but do
try to keep to the prescribed order.
of arousing feelings of loving-kindness:
Bring up a mental picture. See yourself or the person
the feeling is directed at smiling back at you or just being
Reflect on the positive qualities of a person and the
acts of kindness they have done. And to yourself, making an
affirmation, a positive statement about yourself, using your
This is the simplest way but probably the most effective.
Repeat an internalized mantra or phrase such as 'loving-kindness'.
reflections and the repetition of loving-kindness are devices
to help you arouse positive feelings of loving-kindness. You can
use all of them or one that works best for you. When the positive
feeling arise, switch from the devices to the feeling, as it is
the feeling that is the primary focus. Keep the mind fixed on
the feeling, if it strays bring it back to the device, or if the
feelings weaken or are lost then return to the device, i.e. use
the visualisation to bring back or strengthen the feeling.
stage is Directional Pervasion where you systematically project
the aroused feeling of loving-kindness to all points of the compass:
north, south, east and west, up and down, and all around. This
directional pervasion will be enhanced by bringing to mind loving
friends and like-minded communities you know in the cities, towns
and countries around the world.
Pervasion tends to spontaneously happen as the practice matures.
It is not discriminating. It has no specific object and involves
just naturally radiating feelings of universal love. When it arises
the practice has then come to maturity in that it has changed
particular, preferential love, which is an attached love, to an
all-embracing unconditional love!
is a heart meditation and should not to be seen as just a formal
sitting practice removed from everyday life. So take your good
vibes outside into the streets, at home, at work and into your
relationships. Applying the practice to daily life is a matter
of directing a friendly attitude and having openness toward everybody
you relate to, without discrimination.
as many different ways of doing it as there are levels of intensity
in the practice. This introduction is intended to help you familiarize
yourself with the basic technique, so that you can become established
in the practice before going on, if you wish, to the deeper, systematic
practice to the level of meditative absorption.
Loving-kindness Meditation Section
Sujiva's clear and comprehensive presentation in BuddhaNet of
Metta Bhavana (which is the Pali
term for the cultivation of loving-kindness) is a step-by-step
explanation of the systematic practice. This section, based on
the Visuddhimagga, The Path of Purification, is for meditators
who are prepared to develop loving-kindness meditation to its
fullest and thereby experience the deeper aspects of the practice.
of developing the five absorption factors of concentration through
the systematic practice is that it will counteract the Five Mental
Hindrances of the meditator: Sensuality; that is, all forms of
ill-will, mental inertia; restlessness and skeptical doubt. When
the meditator achieves full concentration, five absorption factors
are present: the first two are casual factors: Applied thought
and Sustained thought, followed by three effects: Rapture, Ease-of-mind
and One-pointedness or unification of mind. The five absorption
factors have a one-to-one correspondence to the five mental hindrances,
or obstacles, to the meditator: Applied thought, by arousing energy
and effort, overcomes the hindrance of sloth and torpor; Sustained
thought, by steadying the mind, overcomes skeptical doubt which
has the characteristic of wavering; Rapture with its uplifting
effervescence, prevails over feelings of ill-will; Ease-of-mind,
by relieving accumulated stress, counteracts restlessness or agitation
of mind; while One-pointedness restrains the mind's wanderings
in the sense-fields to inhibit sensuality. The benefit of achieving
deep concentration with this positive mind set is that it will
tend to imprint the new positive conditioning while overriding
the old negative patterns. In this way, old negative habits are
changed, thereby freeing one to form new, positive ways of relating.
We also have,
in BuddhaNet's Loving-Kindness Meditation section, inspiring instructions
by Gregory Kramer of the Metta Foundation on teaching
loving-kindness to children within the family context. Gregory
gives practical advice to parents on how to bring the practice
of loving-kindness within the home. In this way, we can hope that
loving-kindness meditation will become a natural part of the Buddhist
family's daily practice, and that one day it will be adopted universally
as a practice to uplift human hearts.
you be happy hearted!