Ayya Khema : The benefits of Metta meditation

Ayya_khema-1Metta is greatly helped by meditative insights that show us that our separation from one another is an illusion. When we discover that all of us are parts of the same whole, and when we actually feel that in meditation, it becomes so much easier to have the same love for ourselves and for others. It is not a passionate emotion, but a harmonious, friendly, accepting, and peaceful feeling for oneself and other people. The Buddha’s path leads away from passion toward dispassion.

Metta is to be extended toward all beings and all manifestations, yet most of our difficulties lie with people. It is much easier to love birds, dogs, cats, and trees than it is to love people. Trees and animals don’t answer back, but people do, so this is where our training commences. We should consider practicing metta as part of our spiritual growth project. You will find guided metta meditations throughout this book; they are a means of directing the mind toward this aspect of our emotional purification.

Sometimes people find they don’t feel anything while practicing metta meditation. That is nothing to worry about; thoughts aimed often enough in the right direction eventually produce the right feelings. All our sense contacts produce feelings. Thoughts are the sixth sense, and even if we are only thinking metta, eventually the feeling will arise. Thinking is one means of helping us to gain this heart quality, but certainly not the only one.

In our daily activities all of us are confronted with other people and often with those whom we would rather avoid. These are our challenges, lessons, and tests. If we consider them in that manner, we won’t be so irritated by these experiences, nor will we be so apt to think, “I wish this wasn’t happening,” or “I wish he’d go away,” or “I wish he would never say another word,” thereby creating dukkha for ourselves. When we realize that such a confrontation is exactly what we need at that moment in order to overcome resistance and negativity and to substitute metta (or those emotions, then we will be grateful for the opportunity. Eventually we will find (mostly in retrospect, of course) that we can be very grateful to those people who have made life most difficult for us.

In overcoming that hurdle we took a big step ahead. If we keep on remembering the wrongs we have suffered, then our growth is retarded. Overcoming resistance, aversion, and negative reactions is the path of purification, the spiritual path, which can happen nowhere else except in our own heart and mind. It can never happen outside of us, and only works with mindfulness and introspection. When we see clearly, we can change.

We will not succeed each time when our heart and mind are negatively involved, but such occasions will certainly remind us of what we are actually trying to do. When we completely forget, we are not practicing at all. Half the spiritual life consists of remembering what we are up against and where we are going. Metta, unconditional love, is not an easy thing to develop, but it is essential.  (…)

A person with a great deal of metta acts like a magnet. People are always drawn to that. However, if one wants to experience metta, one has to have it oneself. There is no other way, because another person’s metta, while pleasant, immediately disappears when that person goes away. We can’t hang on to another person, no matter who they are; it would create dependency on someone else, while the path we have chosen teaches independence. Moreover another’s metta demonstrates their purification and does not encourage our own growth. We have to generate the feeling of metta within ourselves. Everyone can do it, though some people find it easier than others. It is a matter of working at it.

All of us suffer from ego delusion, which brings hate and greed in its wake. Those people who have more greed find metta easier than those who have more hate. The latter have other advantages, though. They are more likely to stick to the practice because they feel so much more uncomfortable. A great meditation master in Thailand once said that he would prefer that all his monks had more hate than greed. People with hate are harder to live with, but they practice with enthusiasm because they are so keen to change.

An important part of our spiritual growth, one for which no special occasion is needed, is to practice metta toward people at all times, whether while shopping, going to the post office, meeting somebody on the street, or answering the phone.

There is always an opportunity to practice. So many opportunities facilitate our growth, but can also make it more difficult because we may often forget. Hearing and remembering are two main aspects of the teaching. Only when we remember can we eventually make the Dhamma our own. Otherwise we have nothing to work with.

Metta is a beautiful word—just five letters signifying the purity of our own heart, the heart essence, often obscured, yet always available.


This entry was posted in Buddhism - Theravada Buddhism and Vipassana meditation, Compassion and devotion, Right effort, Right understanding, Techniques to master the mind and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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