A guide to the practice of Metta

From the “Preparing mindfully for 24hr Metta” series

How can we cultivate metta within ourselves?  How do we first direct it towards ourselves and then radiate it towards others?

In his book, “Awakening with Metta” *, Venerable Mahinda sets out a comprehensive guide to the practice of metta – whether you’re on your own or with other like-minded persons.

He first reminds us that metta is a great healing force and that it promotes the development of virtues such as compassion (karuna), altruistic joy (mudita) and equanimity (upekkha).  It also promotes patience, tolerance, gratitude and, above all, a forgiving heart.

“Forgiveness is an important factor, which helps in releasing emotional blockages due to grudges or remorse”, he says, emphasising that forgiveness applies not only to those who have wronged us but also to ourselves.

When we begin our practice of metta by making it our object of meditation, we should first direct it towards ourselves until we begin to experience a sense of wellbeing and calmness within us.

When we are suffused with this feeling of calm and peace, we then radiate loving-kindness in all directions – above, below and all around – until our aura of calm fills the whole room, the building, the surrounding areas and onwards to the city, country, region and the whole world.

After radiating metta in all directions, we direct metta to individuals, beginning with those who are near and dear to us (teachers, relatives and friends).

Following this step, we radiate metta to those who are less well-known or even unknown to us.

Finally, we extend metta to those who are hostile or unfriendly towards us.  If we can truly wish for the wellbeing of those we feel have wronged us, then we have learned to break barriers and our metta will become well established.

Ven Mahinda points out that in order to be able to forgive others and ourselves, we need to have “wisdom and understanding”.

There are three aspects to forgiveness:

  • We need to understand that all those who have cheated, hurt or abused us have done so through ignorance.
  • Whatever happens to us has a reason: there are certain causes and conditions.  We reap what we sow – in this life as well as our past lives.
  • In order to forgive ourselves, we must realise that all the wrong and foolish actions we have done have all been performed as a result of ignorance.

Ven Mahinda urges us to consider this: “Now that we have the opportunity to come to the Dhamma and to realise what is good and bad, we need to aspire to, and make an effort, to set ourselves on the right course: To avoid all evil, to do good and to purify our minds”.

*  Published by Aloka Foundation.  For enquiries contact: enquiries@alokafoundation.org

Ó  Venerable Mahinda 2014

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