Metta, It’s simple right?….

Metta, It’s simple right?….

Metta in Pali means Loving Kindness.  The Metta Sutta is an easily accessible Sutta both in terms of translations available in English and many other languages and what seems to be the simple message it contains. Because it does not seem abstract or contain loads of Buddhist technical terms it is often read over quickly and then put aside to go onto much more important topics such as Emptiness (Shunyata) or Dependent Origination (Pratityasamutpada).  Don’t be fooled and equate simplicity to unimportant when it comes to Buddhist concepts.  The Profound is often hidden in the simple.  Two of the most profound Buddhist teachers are Thich Nhat Han and Ajahn Chah.  Thich Nhat Han is from the Vietnamese Zen tradition and Ajahn Chah is A Thai Forest Monk of the Theravada tradition. Often when people read the writings of these Buddhist teachers they miss the profound message because of the simplicity of there presentation.  I implore you to find some of their teachings and read and study them.  Then after you are done read them again!  I guarantee you if are mindful while you are reading and give their message some real thought you will surly realize something you did not know or understand before. If you are new to Buddhism these are vey good teachers to start with.  Just make sure that after your understanding of the Dharma matures you return to read them again because they often have meaning on more than one level.

The first clue that there is more to this Sutta then first thought is the opening statement.


“This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace”


You will, like I did myself the first several times I read this, blow right past this statement.  “This is what should be done by one who is skilled in goodness and who knows the path of peace”.  So are you skilled in goodness?  If you are new to Buddhism, like I was when I first read this,  do you meet those requirements?  Even if you have been a Buddhist for some time do you “know the path of peace”?    So it is obvious that this Sutta is not so simple that it is to be glossed over after a casual look and then on to something of more importance. I am not saying that if you are new to Buddhism that you should not read this but just that it isn’t as simple as you may first think. Like many Buddhist practices this teaching is meant to point to something beyond simply being nice to people as it may first seem to say.


“May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be”


What do all living beings have in common?  From something a small as an insect to us humans.  We all want to LIVE and express our lives as we are meant to be.  We also all want to avoid pain and suffering.  This is part of the reason there is a Precept against killing any living being.  Not because it is “evil” but because when you do it you are not taking into consideration that the being that you are killing wants to live every bit as much as you do.  They feel the same terror as you would feel if someone walked up and tried to snuff you out.  Think of that next time your shoe is about to come down on that bug you don’t like! Secondly, and I believe more importantly, The reason we kill is to support the false sense of “I” or “self”.  You kill because the “self” hates someone or the “self” wants something that the “other” has.  Look at all the war’s and fighting going on in the world and tell me this isn’t true!


In Buddhism it is a general view that if we are going to change “our self” or our way of thinking we have to do it first in a coarse sense and then make finer adjustments.  Being kind and caring for others is a first step. Why are we kind to people?  Why are we unkind?  Well oddly the both can be because of this thing that we call the “self”.  We can be kind just to enable us to get something from the “other”.  We are often unkind because we feel that the “other” has done something to harm or hurt “ourselves”  We can be unkind…..well……just to be unkind. Just being kind to be kind should be simple right?  Well for the reasons mentioned above it isn’t so easy or “simple”


But this sutta goes so very far beyond just being kind to others.


“Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings”


Most mothers would sacrifice their life to protect their child.  It is a kind of love that has no bounds.  But this is the kind of love that the Buddha is asking us to have not only for everybody (humans) but for all beings!!  Do you really think that is simple??  We often have difficulty treating members of our own family this way let alone people we do not know or even like!  I don’t see anything easy or simple about that.  The only way one can possibly attain this is to penetrate the Buddha’s teaching on Anatta (Not-self).  Have you truly gotten to a point where you can say that you have overcome the idea of the “self”? So instead of making lofty vows to save everyone after we reach enlightenment (Bodhisattva Vow) why don’t we start right now with something simple and spread a little “loving kindness”.

The Metta Sutta

This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied.
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful,
Not proud and demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born,
May all beings be at ease!

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings:
Radiating kindness over the entire world
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.

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