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fun with metta

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fun with metta
Answer
3/26/16 8:38 AM
I've been practicing a lot of metta recently and finding it very satisfying to experiment with using imagery in addition to just the words and the feeling. Visualization begs the question: what does it really mean for an individual to be well, to be happy, to be free from suffering? Not terribly hard to picture for myself and my tribe, but much more challenging for those who are “other," with less overlap in the Venn diagram of human experience. Age, class, gender, culture/subculture, sexuality, temperament, etc. What, specifically, does one wish for an IS terrorist, a genocidal dictator, a serial pedophile?

I think it is in the space that does not overlap, and in filling that space with the feelings of metta, that things get really interesting. But you can't get there without exploring the overlap. As pleasant as the feelings are, I'm finding the cognitive dimension equally fascinating.

A long time ago, I read Marcus Aurelius's Meditations and it had a profound effect on me. I pull it out again every few years and it's still just as compelling to read the personal notes of a man who was considered the last “good” emperor of Rome. Upon re-reading my favorite passage, I
can see now that it's really just an exercise in metta. Dharma everywhere, dressed up in different clothes.

“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can't tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own—not of the same blood or birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands, and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger
at someone, to turn your back on him: these are obstructions.”

Sharon Salzburg's book is next on my reading list, but does anyone have any other suggestions for readings on the Brahma Viharas? Any interesting experiments?

RE: fun with metta
Answer
4/8/16 4:55 PM as a reply to Ann.
Ann:
I've been practicing a lot of metta recently and finding it very satisfying to experiment with using imagery in addition to just the words and the feeling. Visualization begs the question: what does it really mean for an individual to be well, to be happy, to be free from suffering? Not terribly hard to picture for myself and my tribe, but much more challenging for those who are “other," with less overlap in the Venn diagram of human experience. Age, class, gender, culture/subculture, sexuality, temperament, etc. What, specifically, does one wish for an IS terrorist, a genocidal dictator, a serial pedophile?
"May they recognize that IS won't give you a Porsche, and come back home to mum already."

I find it particularly hard to visualize "may all beings be happy" because it is a logical impossibility.

Sharon Salzburg's book is next on my reading list, but does anyone have any other suggestions for readings on the Brahma Viharas? Any interesting experiments?
I skimmed through lots of books which claimed to be talking about brahma viharas but sadly found little with relevance for my own practice.
If you find something, please share.

Experiments:
imagine you're going through a zoo. Send Metta to each animal. This should keep you busy for a while (;
More on Metta: here are some of Visu Teoh's ideas how you can make Metta into a regular all-the-time practice:
http://visuteoh.net/teachings/metta-in-everyday-life.html

Apart from that: I would encourage everyone to explore not only Metta, but also Mudita and Karuna in more detail.
I put that off for a long time and now consider that to be a mistake.

RE: fun with metta
Answer
4/8/16 10:10 PM as a reply to Ann.
There is a book by Mahasi Saydaw on the brahma viharas (http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/brahmavihara.pdf), I am not sure if there are any others (other than Salzberg's).

I used to do a fair bit of Metta practice and I go to a Metta retreat every year. They changed the retreat format it used to be a 3week retreat with the first 10 days where brahma viharas and the second half was vipassana and I used only stay for the first half, though they changed it now to 2weeks with 1week of each. I really enjoyed the brahma viharas half, we would start doing Metta and then move on to mudita, karuna and then upeka(?spelling).
I never really liked using the phrases, so I would just visualize a subject (person or sometimes an animal) and send them metta or wish them to be happy or something like that, I didn't create much detail around what would make them happy, just that I imagined them happy. The less thinking involved the better.

-Christine

RE: fun with metta
Answer
4/9/16 12:12 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
@Bernd: Thanks for the link, that article is awesome.  I will have to start using that approach at some point.  You don't follow these instructons exactly, right?  You're desciptions from the practice log seem a bit different in technique.

@Ann: The teacher I'm working with right now talks about the Brahma Viharas as naturally occuring states that can also be developed.  He focuses on Joy (Piti) as the central, emotional quality in the mind.  When you have enough of it (built up through gladdening the mind), you start to share it with others, which is his definition of Mudita (shared joy).  I recently found out that he considers Metta to be synonymous with basic, human, emotional connection, which I found to be an interesting and somewhat challenging view.  Surprisingly, he does not reccomend purposefully developing metta (at least not to me).

RE: fun with metta
Answer
4/9/16 6:50 AM as a reply to Noah.
@Bern-- Thanks for the link! Metta in daily life is exactly what I've been working on and I'm finding it very enjoyable to just spend the day cultivating a low level of the feeling and attempting to give it to others. Salzberg's book helped me clarify the difference between the 4 brahma viharas--I'd been lumping them all together, and they do feel connected, notes in a chord maybe. But naming and separating them out is helping me feel them with more clarity and precision. 

@Christine--I will check out that book, and thank you! A metta retreat, particularly one combined with vipassana, sounds like it would be a lot of fun. I've also completely ditched the verbal aspect of it, which annoyed and distracted me for a number of reasons. The intentions are much more powerful anyway, imo.

@Noah--I think your teacher is right on, or at least what you describe fits with much of my experience. Sometimes it breaks down, but I think my default setting is low grade piti and a sense of curiosity (what exactly is curiosity anyhow?). So, adding metta to the mix feels quite natural, and naturally increases my ability to connect with other people.

I worked bar jobs for many years starting in my late teens and found a combination of compassion and equanimity to be by far the best way to deal with the bad behavior of drunken patrons. Admittedly, this is after nearly getting fired for breaking a man's groping hand--oops! This stuff is surprisingly practical for day-to-day life.

RE: fun with metta
Answer
4/9/16 7:32 AM as a reply to Ann.
I would say "go to the body". In otherwords, imagine and induce feelings of happiness in your own body and imagine that others/all beings have that feeling in their body.

If others, including evil others, could simply feel the sensations of happyiness, they wouldn't need the actions or objects that they are pursuing, they would already have the result they are seeking through those actions and objects. Most of the evil actions in the world are confused ways of trying to get the feeling of happiness.

The most direct way of feeling happiness is to cultivate acceptance, friendliness, caring, and appreciation AKA the four immeasurables: equanimity, metta, compassion, and mudita, respectively.

May all beings be calm and at ease
May all beings be healthy, rested, and whole
May all beings be safe and free from danger
May all beings face the difficulties in their life, but avoid unnecessary problems
May all beings awaken
May all beings be free from suffering
May all beings be happy

RE: fun with metta
Answer
4/9/16 9:01 AM as a reply to Christine.
Christine:
There is a book by Mahasi Saydaw on the brahma viharas (http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/brahmavihara.pdf), I am not sure if there are any others (other than Salzberg's).

-Christine

Bhikku Nanananda , Deliverance of the Heart, I think in this little book he really clears up alot, and cuts through common misconceptions about Metta, and the practice of Metta.

What does eveyone think?

http://www.seeingthroughthenet.net/files/eng/books/other/Deliverance_of_Heart.pdf

Psi

RE: fun with metta
Answer
4/9/16 12:18 PM as a reply to Psi.
Psi:
Bhikku Nanananda , Deliverance of the Heart, I think in this little book he really clears up alot, and cuts through common misconceptions about Metta, and the practice of Metta.

What does eveyone think?

http://www.seeingthroughthenet.net/files/eng/books/other/Deliverance_of_Heart.pdf

Psi
LOL. How did you find that crackpot emoticon
Seriously, this book is a great example of how some monastics' 'analyses' of Metta are somewhere between useless and harmful.
Looks like a lot of monastic tears have been shed before the writing of this book:
Meditations on Divine Abiding(Brahmavihāra) are solely concerned with our attitude towards others. The gravity of the blunder of ignoring this fact comes to light in the Visuddhimagga account of the breaking down of the barriers between oneself, ones dear person, neutral person and hostile person.
[...]
The Buddha says that one should develop mettātowards all beings with the self-abnegating love of a mother to her only son.
[...]
the Buddha has never sanctioned a selfish attitude of developing mettā
[...]
How can one who goes on doing mettā to ones own body develop repulsiveness of ones own body as a meditation for attaining Deliverance from sasāra? The traditional method of developing mettā recommends a system of first piling up a store of mettāby developing it towards oneself and then distributing it to ones dear person, neutral person and hostile person. It seems that a lack of understanding of the difference between worldly wealth and spiritual wealth has created this confusion of values.

WTF? This guy seems to be a deluded Sutta-thumper, but he mixes in his own ideas and claims that those are obviously the right interpretation.
The methods as presented in this book may work for some.
All the useless bashing of time-tested methods is... not so helpful.

I would argue that BrahmaViharas for oneself is probably crucial for some.
Reasoning on some pseudo-spiritual basis that this is selfish and therefore should not be done borders on abuse.
Venerable Buddhaghosa recommends a practice of mettā, which goes against the spirit of the Buddha word. What sort of Deliverance of the Heart can that kind of approach lead to?
This seems to be a rhetorical question, but it actually has an answer.
It can be found by actually talking to real people who have undertaken the practice.
It will not be found by writing long rants about how half of the tradition is wrong based on as far-fetched as misguided ideas.

RE: fun with metta
Answer
4/9/16 11:40 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
bernd the broter:
Psi:
Bhikku Nanananda , Deliverance of the Heart, I think in this little book he really clears up alot, and cuts through common misconceptions about Metta, and the practice of Metta.

What does eveyone think?

http://www.seeingthroughthenet.net/files/eng/books/other/Deliverance_of_Heart.pdf

Psi

As I said earlier, I think that in this little book he really clears up alot, and cuts through common misconceptions about Metta, and the practice of Metta.

Then you responded with your view of what you thought, and that cleared up any confusion over what are your current views.

Thanks for that.

Fun with Metta

Psi

RE: fun with metta
Answer
4/10/16 2:26 AM as a reply to Psi.
Psi:
As I said earlier, I think that in this little book he really clears up alot, and cuts through common misconceptions about Metta, and the practice of Metta.
Care to elaborate about which ideas in the book you found useful?

RE: fun with metta
Answer
4/10/16 1:30 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
bernd the broter:
[quote=Care to elaborate about which ideas in the book you found useful?
]
Hmmm, Maybe it would be best to explain what I understand as Metta and how it works in my experience.  The book just explains and reinforces what my current and past experiences, is in line with, or resonates with, so to say.

To sum up Metta, I would say it is like a campfire, or a candle.  As a campfire or a candle, it radiates from within and radiates outward.  Though, there is no center point, No self that the radiating starts from , no core point.  As with the warmth or light, there is the Metta, just radiating.  In this way Metta radiates and meets up with all that is contacted, in all directions, in an non-discriminating and non-judgemental fashion.  One could also use the metaphor of Metta as a Star, radiating infinite in all directions.

I would also say , Metta is a skillful means, a wholesome attribute, an emotional state, an abiding of.  And when one is not abiding in Metta, one could train to switch on Metta, and use it in this way, either in Meditation as an antidote to Ill Will, or also in daily living as an antidote.

As to which ideas in the book that seem useful, there does not seem to be any ideas therein that could be taken as not useful.  So, I am taking the whole of the book as useful, in its entirety, in order to preserve the line of thought and not take things out of context, etc.

But, I am saying all of this currently as practioner, so take it with a grain of salt if you will.  I have my own little word triggers and phrases that help to bring the mind back to wholesome states, when necessary.  Neither am I stating that different methods may or may not serve different functions for training and purification and/or may or may not become an obstacle or hindrance along varying stages along the life journey.

Psi

RE: fun with metta
Answer
4/14/16 11:44 AM as a reply to Psi.
Thanks for the link, Psi.

I also found it odd that the author would claim cultivating metta towards oneself is selfish--the math doesn't add up for me. How can we learn and grow without an attitude of metta to oneself? We are all imperfect beings that make mistakes, and without self-compassion we may judge ourselves too harshly and not get over those mistakes, or perhaps not reach as far next time. And if we judge ourselves harshly, we may be more likely to judge others harshly as well. It's all connected.

Perhaps the author is reacting against something else of which I know not. Most of the book seems to be just relevant excerpts from the suttas. If it helps people practice well and leads to more metta in the world, seems like a good thing to me.

I've got the Mahasi Sayadaw book on the Brahmaviharas in my reading queue, but think I'm going to take a break first and read the Qur'an. emoticon

RE: fun with metta
Answer
4/14/16 4:06 PM as a reply to Ann.
Psi:

But, let me put it this way.  If one were to send Metta to oneself, where does the Metta come from?
Yo Bro, it comes from yourself!
(Hint: This is a pseudo problem. It seems you are confused about the separation of the three trainings.)

RE: fun with metta
Answer
4/14/16 4:14 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
bernd the broter:
Psi:

But, let me put it this way.  If one were to send Metta to oneself, where does the Metta come from?
Yo Bro, it comes from yourself!
(Hint: This is a pseudo problem. It seems you are confused about the separation of the three trainings.)
Haha,

So if Metta comes from yourself, as you claim, why do you then have to send Metta to yourself?  

Psi

RE: fun with metta
Answer
4/14/16 5:19 PM as a reply to Psi.
Psi:
bernd the broter:
Psi:

But, let me put it this way.  If one were to send Metta to oneself, where does the Metta come from?
Yo Bro, it comes from yourself!
(Hint: This is a pseudo problem. It seems you are confused about the separation of the three trainings.)
Haha,

So if Metta comes from yourself, as you claim, why do you then have to send Metta to yourself?  

Psi
Because then you'll have more of it!
And that's a good thing to have.

RE: fun with metta
Answer
4/14/16 6:16 PM as a reply to bernd the broter.
bernd the broter

Because then you'll have more of it!
And that's a good thing to have.
Okay, now that sounds good, let's do that !!  
Metta to Infinity and Beyond !!

Psi

RE: fun with metta
Answer
4/15/16 8:55 AM as a reply to Psi.
Just to add my 2 cents, sending metta to yourself is invoking those feelings in yourself. Sending to someone else is first cultivating the feelings and then evoking or giving them in the target people although this sounds more intrusive than it is. Just my take.

RE: fun with metta
Answer
4/15/16 8:42 PM as a reply to Ann.
Ann:
What, specifically, does one wish for an IS terrorist, a genocidal dictator, a serial pedophile?

Does anyone have any other suggestions for readings on the Brahma Viharas?



Metta
(good will; friendliness) is part of the four brahma vihara, the others being compassion (karuna), mudita (sympathetic joy) and equinimity (upeka). 

Metta is 'non-hatred' and a willingness to share with ('fatten'; nurture) others. So metta towards a (US-ally funded) ISIS mercenary, a genocidial dictator (like Obama) and a serial pedophile (like friends of Clinton) means you are willing to show good-will towards them, such as be willing to help them. It also means to drop hatred and develop some understanding/insight into their psychological state. 

Such metta will primarily manifest as karuna (compassion), namely, wishing they be free from their sufferings, greed & delusions. 

Mudita cannot be practised towards them, since they do not have any good fortune or merits to appreciate. 

When we cannot help them, as is generally the case, we practise equinimity. 

Below is an unpublished reading by Bhikkhu Buddhadasa.

emoticon
 
When this selfishness is extinguished, when there is none of this harming, then it becomes natural to relate to others in terms to what are called the Four Divine Dwellings - Friendliness, Compassion , Sympathetic Joy and Equanimity. This is the basis for Dhammic happiness.
 
Those of you who value this teaching of the Four Divine Abodes – metta, karuna, mudita and  uppeka – you should focus on this one thing of removing selfishness.
 
If you are interested in metta: universal love or friendliness; karuna: compassion;  mudita: sympathetic joy and  uppeka: equanimity, then all you need to do is direct your attention to unselfishness or selflessness.
 
When there is no selfishness then there is metta automatically, there is this very spontaneous love for everything. There is spontaneous karuna, the desire to help, to be of service or compassion. There is spontaneous mudita, joy at the happiness of others; and there is spontaneous uppeka, when it is not possible to help at this moment then with uppeka, it is to wait for the opportunity to help and serve.
 
Some people understand this last Divine Abode incorrectly. They take uppeka to mean to be indifferent when we can’t do anything to help. True uppeka is to observe and await an opportunity to help if there is no opportunity to help right at this moment.
 
So if you value these four Brahma Viharas, these four Divine Abodes, then focus your attention on not being selfish.
 
This last Brahma Vihara is often a source of confusion. Uppeka means ‘to look at’, ‘to observe’, ‘to watch’. Some people think it means to close our eyes and not pay attention, to be indifferent. That’s silly and of no value or benefit. Uppeka means ‘to look at’, ‘to observe’.
 
If everyone in the world would keep looking for opportunities to help others, for opportunities to serve others, then there wouldn’t be any of these crisis in the world that there are these days.
 
So please be especially interested in uppeka, looking, observing for opportunities to help and serve. 


Buddhadasa Bhikkhu -  5 September 1987

RE: fun with metta
Answer
4/15/16 10:26 PM as a reply to Psi.

Interesting topic. I have read the first 3 pages & possibly find it hard to agree. But then, I have never practised formal metta meditation. Nor have I ever considered the Karaniya Metta Sutta to be spoken by the Buddha due to its phraseology & also the verse about the mother, which, to me, sounds alien to the Buddhist teachings.

To justify his argument, Bhikku Nanananda falls back on the superstition of the Jataka Tales, where the unenlightened Bodhisatta sacrifies his life many times, such as feeding his human body to a hungry tigress or attempting to extinguish a forest fire as a brave parrot.

Positively, I could consider the Karaniya Metta Sutta is teaching a self-renunciation when faced by hostile abuse, such as described in the Kakacupama Sutta (The Simile of the Saw). However, to regard metta as Jataka style self-sacrificing love, such as jumping into a dangerous river to save a drowning person, is not Buddhist metta to me.

If Bhikkhu Nanananda's idea of Buddha-Metta is true, then the Buddha, who had the Divine Eye, would have spent his life saving people from all kinds of calamities, like Superman, the Man of Steel. But the Buddha did not do this. 

It is important to consider, in the Jataka Tales, the Bodhisatta was unenlightened. He was not a Buddha yet. 

Imo, the Buddhist teaching is represented by the Dhammapada verse below, which states:

"Let one not neglect one's own welfare for the sake of another, however great. Clearly understanding one's own welfare, let one be intent upon the good". Attavagga 166

Uncharacteristically, I possibly must agree with the monks-bandit parable of Buddhaghosa. 

emoticon

RE: fun with metta
Answer
4/16/16 8:50 AM as a reply to Ann.
Books that might be fun:

Trungpa does a nice take on this in a book I have gone back to so often my copy is falling apart: Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-kindness

The Visuddhimagga is actually worth checking out on the subject, great hog that it is.

Shaila Catherine's Wisdom Wide and Deep does a modern summary of the Visuddhimagga, and it thus also contains a section on the Brahma Viharas.

My thoughts this morning. Glad you are enjoying the Brahma Viharas: more people should practice them more often, I feel.

RE: fun with metta
Answer
4/16/16 9:02 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Yeah! I finally found it:

The long version of the metta sutta, monastic style, in Pali and English.

I have chanted this one many, many times, particularly on retreats. Good stuff!

Enjoy.

RE: fun with metta
Answer
4/16/16 9:57 AM as a reply to Nicky.
Regarding the mother's love for her only child: I once knew a very young mother, a neighbor of mine, whose toddler fell into a manhole when the cover was left off. She didn't even stop to think, but jumped right in after him. Her husband said he thought he'd lost them both. He was able to reach down and get them out. She emerged with the baby, both of them covered in wet slime. There is an instinctive response of protectiveness that is beyond reason. I remember riding back from some event in Chicago and seeing a friend of mine standing by her stalled car. There was a man in the car, and for a moment I thought she'd been car-jacked (it turned out to be a taxi driver who had stopped to help). I felt a rush of adrenaline and practically leapt out of my own car (no longer moving), ready to do battle if necessary. When I realized what had happened I felt stupid. 

I think the the teaching has to do with expanding our range of care and love beyond our family and friends, to embrace all beings. As long as we make a separation between ourselves and what we identify as ours on the one hand and the rest of the world on the other, we are living in the illusion of duality. There are people who do this; examples come up from time to time, such as a man who saw a child fall onto the subway tracks with a train coming; the man jumped down there and covered the child with his body between the rails. The train passed over both of them and no one was hurt. When people called him a hero, he replied that it was no big deal, he had just done what needed to be done. Then there was the ferry that capsized in the Hudson River. Some people took time to help others get out safely, and in the end no one died. 

RE: fun with metta
Answer
4/16/16 10:23 AM as a reply to Psi.
[quote=Psi

]To sum up Metta, I would say it is like a campfire, or a candle.  As a campfire or a candle, it radiates from within and radiates outward.  Though, there is no center point, No self that the radiating starts from , no core point.  As with the warmth or light, there is the Metta, just radiating.  In this way Metta radiates and meets up with all that is contacted, in all directions, in an non-discriminating and non-judgemental fashion.  One could also use the metaphor of Metta as a Star, radiating infinite in all directions.This, perhaps explains better what I am pointing to.  Again, I am not stating whcih method is better, or one certain way is the one and only method or whatnot.  Different methods are like different antidotes for different poisons.

So, below is a method for Metta, but notice, it does not suggest any type of discriminating types of people or certain views of people, for example friends, family, neutral, enemies.  It is more of a non-discriminatory Metta.  An abiding, so to speak.

One could even look at this a Brahma Vihara Map, this is what to do, how to get there, and where it will go.  Not that there is a literal place or anything, should go without saying.
 
I am unsure whether Metta can be properly translated into an English word, same as dukkha, and jhana, etc.  So, I have replaced loving-kindess with Metta, then put the original translation below, with link, just FYI
I. Here, monks, a disciple dwells pervading one direction with his heart filled with Metta, likewise the second, the third, and the fourth direction; so above, below and around; he dwells pervading the entire world everywhere and equally with his heart filled with Metta, abundant, grown great, measureless, free from enmity and free from distress.
The Basic Passage on the Four Sublime States from the Discourses of the Buddha

I. Here, monks, a disciple dwells pervading one direction with his heart filled with loving-kindness, likewise the second, the third, and the fourth direction; so above, below and around; he dwells pervading the entire world everywhere and equally with his heart filled with loving-kindness, abundant, grown great, measureless, free from enmity and free from distress.

II. Here, monks, a disciple dwells pervading one direction with his heart filled with compassion, likewise the second, the third and the fourth direction; so above, below and around; he dwells pervading the entire world everywhere and equally with his heart filled with compassion, abundant, grown great, measureless, free from enmity and free from distress.

III. Here, monks, a disciple dwells pervading one direction with his heart filled with sympathetic joy, likewise the second, the third and the fourth direction; so above, below and around; he dwells pervading the entire world everywhere and equally with his heart filled with sympathetic joy, abundant, grown great, measureless, free from enmity and free from distress.

IV. Here, monks, a disciple dwells pervading one direction with his heart filled with equanimity, likewise the second, the third and the fourth direction; so above, below and around; he dwells pervading the entire world everywhere and equally with his heart filled with equanimity, abundant, grown great, measureless, free from enmity and free from distress.

— Digha Nikaya 13
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/nyanaponika/wheel006.html

Psi

RE: fun with metta
Answer
4/17/16 8:13 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Lots of good ideas and suggestions for further reading, thanks all.

I am glad to be enjoying this so much as a formal concentration practice. It suits me much better than the jhanas, which seem to lead to all sorts of obnoxious side effects. And I feel like there's more than enough piti and sukha in my daily life anyway, so sitting by myself and turning up the dials feels overly indulgent and gets boring rather quickly. Metta never does.

But I've been pretty conservative about extending the feeling spatially and ramping up the intensity. I suspect that past a certain point, weird side effects may happen with metta, too. I'm curious, but will save these experiments for a retreat or other block of uninterrupted time when it won't be a problem if it happens. Anyone have any experience with this?