Bare-Bones Metta Booklet
Table of Contents
About the Author
How to Sit
Craving and Ego-Identification
The Six R's
Radiating Love to a Friend
Dullness of mind
Benefits of Loving-Kindness
Loving-Kindness and Nibbāna
The Buddha's Teachings are very suitable for any individual who is seeking peace and happiness, irrespective of one's religious background. With this universal tradition you can practice sweet Loving-Kindness ("Metta" in Pāli) Meditation and become a true blessing to the whole world.
Loving-Kindness is the first of four sublime states of mind. The other sublime states of mind are: compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity. These meditation practices have limitless applications and boundaries in our every-day lives. For example, Loving-Kindness can be radiated towards yourself, towards family members, friends and co-workers. It can even be radiated toward all living beings under the sun and beyond. Whenever you wish someone Loving-Kindness you can bring them healing, peace, and happiness.
Loving-Kindness equally offers its sweet blessings on the pleasant and the unpleasant, on the rich and the poor, on the vicious and the virtuous, on females and males, as well as on human beings and non-human beings. This meditation instruction is simple to follow and can be practiced by everyone who has the strong desire to experience more calm and joy than ever before. We all seek in many different ways to pursue happiness. This is an unmistakable way to the true happiness that goes far beyond worldly materialistic types of happiness.
Some years ago in Malaysia I met the Ven. Vimalaramsi and was so impressed by his style of teaching meditation that I invited this always smiling monk to come and teach meditation at the Washington Buddhist Vihāra. He is not just another ordinary meditation teacher who follows the popular and modified meditation teachings of some Buddhist commentaries. This extraordinary teacher always refers to and uses the suttas as taught by the Lord Buddha in the original Pāli Canon.
I see him as a serious follower of the "Kalama Sutta". This suggests that we not follow anything without true investigation. He is continually checking and practicing to see if the teachings are in agreement with the spirit and the teachings of the suttas given by the Lord Buddha.
Ven. M. Dhammasiri
President of the Washington Buddhist Vihāra
About the Author
Bhante Vimalaramsi became a Buddhist monk in 1986 because of his keen interest in meditation. He went to Burma in 1988 to practice intensive meditation at the famous meditation center, Mahasi Yeiktha in Rangoon. There he practiced meditation for 20 to 22 hours a day for almost a year. Then because of some social unrest, all foreigners were asked to leave the country. So Bhante went to Malaysia and practiced intensive Loving-Kindness Meditation for 6 months.
In 1990, Bhante went back to Burma for more intensive Vipassanā meditation, for 16 hours a day, at Chanmyay Yeiktha in Rangoon. He practiced for 2 years, sometimes sitting in meditation for as long as 7 to 8 hours a sitting. After two years of intensive meditation and experiencing what they said was the final result, he became very disillusioned with the Vipassanā method and left Burma to continue his search.
He went back to Malaysia and began teaching Loving-Kindness Meditation. In 1996, Bhante was invited to live and teach at the largest Theravada monastery in Malaysia. This Sri Lankan monastery offered public talks every Friday evening and Sunday morning where 300 to 500 people would attend. Bhante gave talks every other Friday and on every Sunday.
While staying there he had the opportunity to meet many learned monks, and Bhante questioned them at length about the Buddha's Teachings. He found out that the Vipassanā method of meditation is taken from a commentary written a thousand years after the Buddha's death. This commentary is not very accurate when compared with the original teachings. Bhante Vimalaramsi then began to study the original texts and then practice meditation according to these texts. After a three month self-retreat, he came back to Malaysia and wrote a book on the Mindfulness of Breathing called "The Anapanasati Sutta-A Practical Guide to Mindfulness of Breathing and Tranquil Wisdom Meditation." There are now over 1,000,000 copies distributed worldwide. This book is currently used as a practical study guide for meditation teachers and their students.
Bhante Vimalaramsi came back to the U.S. in 1998 and has been teaching meditation throughout the country since then. He is presently teaching at the Dhamma Sukha Meditation Center located near Annapolis, MO.
These instructions were given by Bhante Vimalaramsi on July 3, 2000, at the Washington Buddhist Vihāra in Washington, DC. They include the practice of "Tranquility Meditation" and the practice of the "Four Foundations of Mindfulness" at the same time. These instructions may be a little different than what you are used to, because this Bhante has followed the instructions given in the suttas or discourses of the Lord Buddha, very closely. If you practice in this way, the end results can bring great benefit to you and all other people around you. This in turn will bring true happiness in your daily life.
When practicing Loving-Kindness Meditation, you first start by sending loving and kind thoughts to yourself. Begin by remembering a time when you were happy. When the feeling of happiness arises, it is a warm glowing or radiating feeling in the center of your chest. Now, when this feeling arises, make a very sincere wish for your own happiness and feel that wish. "May I be happy"... "May I be filled with joy"... "May I be peaceful and calm"... "May I be cheerful and kind", etc. Make any wholesome sincere wish that has meaning for you, feeling the wish in your heart and radiate that feeling. The key word here is "sincere", if your wish isn't a sincere wish, then it will turn into a mantra that is, it may become a statement repeated by rote, with no real meaning. Then you would be on the surface repeating the statement while thinking about other things. So it is very important that the wish you make for yourself (and later for your spiritual friend) has real meaning for you and uses your whole undivided attention, then feel that wish and put that feeling into your heart and radiate it. Don't continually repeat the wish for happiness: "May I be happy... may I be happy... may I be happy... may I be happy". Make the wish for your own happiness and feel that wish when the feeling of Loving-Kindness begins to fade a little.
The following is a very important part of the meditation:
After every wish for your own happiness, please notice that there is some slight tension or tightness in your head, in your mind. Let it go. You do this by relaxing mind completely. Feel mind open up and become calm, but do this only one time.
If the tightness doesn't go away never mind, you will be able to let it go while on the meditation object (your home base).
Don't continually try to keep relaxing mind, without coming back to the home base; always softly redirect your tranquil attention back to the radiating of happiness.
How to Sit
When you sit in meditation please do not move your body at all. Sit with your back nicely straight, but not rigid. Try to have every vertebrae stacked comfortably one on top of the other. This position has the tendency to bring your chest up a little, so it can be easier to radiate the feeling of love and the wish.
Sit with your legs in a comfortable position. If you cross them too tightly, the circulation in your legs may stop, causing your legs to go to sleep and this becomes very painful. If you need to sit on a cushion or even in a chair, that is okay. If you sit in a chair, however, please don't lean back into it. Leaning back stops the energy flow up your back and can make you feel sleepy. Just sit in a comfortable way.
Please don't move your body at all while sitting. Don't wiggle your toes; don't wiggle your fingers; don't scratch; don't rub; don't rock your body; don't change your posture at all. In fact, if you can sit as still as a Buddha image, this would be the best! If you move around, it becomes a big distraction to your practice and you won't progress very quickly at all.
While you are sitting, radiating the warm-glowing feeling of Loving-Kindness in the center of your chest, making and feeling the sincere wish, and feeling that wish in your heart, your mind will wander away and begin to think about other things. This is normal.
Thoughts are never your enemy! So, please don't fight with them or try to push them away. When a series of thoughts come and take you away, notice that you are not experiencing the feeling of Loving-Kindness and making a wish for your own happiness. Then, simply let go of the thought. Even if you are in mid sentence, just let go of the thought, let it be there by itself. This is done by not continuing to think the thought, no matter how important it seems, at that time.
At this point there is another very important step:
Notice Tension: Notice the tightness or tension in your head/mind, now relax. Feel the tightness open. Mind feels like it expands and relaxes. It then becomes very tranquil and calm. At this time there are no thoughts, and mind is exceptionally clear and alert. Immediately, bring that mind back to your object of meditation, that is, the feeling of Loving-Kindness and making and feeling the wish for your own happiness.
It doesn't matter how many times your mind goes away and thinks about other things. What really matters is that you see that your mind has become distracted by a thought. The same method holds true even for any sensation or emotional feeling that pulls your attention to it; notice movement of mind’s attention, or distraction, away from Loving-Kindness, and let it go. Then relax the tightness or tension in your head/mind and softly redirect your calm attention back to the object of meditation.
Strengthen Awareness: Every time you let go of a distraction or make a wish for your happiness, relax the tightness caused by movement of mind’s attention, and redirect your tranquil attention back to the feeling of being happy, you are strengthening your mindfulness (observation power). So please don't criticize yourself because you think that you "should" do better, or that your thoughts, sensations and emotional feelings are the enemy to be squashed and destroyed.
These kinds of critical, hard-hearted thoughts and feelings contain aversion, and aversion is the opposite of the practice of "Loving-Acceptance". Loving-Kindness and Loving-Acceptance are different words that say basically the same thing. So please be kind to yourself. Make this a fun kind of game to play with, not of an enemy to fight with.
The importance of relaxing the tightness or tension after every thought, sensation or emotional feeling can't be stated enough. When you let go of this tightness you are letting go of craving. It is very important to understand this, because craving is the cause of all suffering. This tightness or tension is where our wrong idea about ego-identification is.
Craving and Ego-Identification
Craving and the false idea of a personal "self" ("I", "Me", "Mine") always manifests as tightness or tension in your head/mind. When you let go of tightness, what you are actually doing is, letting go of craving and the false idea of a personal "self" or "ego-identification" with all of the thoughts, sensations and emotional feelings, opinions, concepts, etc., that arise. This is how you purify your mind and become happier and more uplifted, all of the time!
While you are sitting still, there may be some sensations that arise in your body. You may feel an itch, heat, tension, a feeling of coughing or wanting to sneeze, or pain. Please don't move your body at all. When such a feeling arises, your mind will immediately go to that feeling, let's say an itch or cough. You don't have to direct mind, it goes by itself. The first thing mind does is think about the feeling: "I wish this would go away."... "I want this to stop bothering me."... "I hate this feeling."... "Why doesn't it just go away?"... "I want this to stop."
Every time you entertain these kinds of thought, the sensation becomes bigger and more intense. It actually turns into an emergency in your mind. Then you won't be able to stand it anymore, and you have to move. But the instructions are: don't move your body for any reason at all. Watch the movements of mind’s attention instead.
So what can we do? We need to open up and allow the feeling to be there:
Open up: First, notice that your mind’s attention has gone to the itch or cough, etc., and the thoughts about that sensation. Now let go of those thoughts, simply let them be. Next notice the tightness in your head/mind and relax. Every time a sensation (or emotional feeling) arises, it is only natural for mind to wrap a tight fist around it; this tight mental fist is aversion. So, open up and allow the itch (or emotional feeling) to be there. Remember that it is okay if the tightness doesn't go away immediately.
The "Truth (Dhamma) of the present moment", is that when an itch or any other sensation arises, it is there. What you do with this Dhamma dictates whether you will suffer more unnecessarily or not. Resisting the itch and trying to think it away, produces more both subtle and gross pain.
We have five different things that make up this mind/body process, they are called the Five Aggregates. They are:
Thought (volitional formations)
As you can see feelings, are one thing and thoughts (volitional formations) are another. If we try to control our feelings with our thoughts, the resistance that you have to this feeling causes it to get bigger and more intense. In fact, it becomes so big that it turns into a true emergency (real unsatisfactoriness - Dukkha), and you can't stand the sensation (or emotional feeling) anymore. Then you have to move. While you are sitting in meditation, if you move your body even a little bit, it breaks the continuity of practice and you have to start over again.
Letting go of the thoughts about the sensation (or emotional feeling) means that you are letting go of the want to control the feeling with your thoughts. It also means that you are letting go of craving, which directly leads to the cessation of suffering.
Next, you notice the tight mental fist around the sensation, and let go of that aversion to it. Simply allow the itch or cough (sensation or emotional feeling) to be there by itself. See it as if it were a bubble floating in the air, the bubble floats freely. Whichever way the wind blows, the bubble will float in that direction. If the wind changes and blows in another direction, the bubble goes in that direction without any resistance at all.
This practice is learning how to lovingly-accept whatever arises in the present moment. Now, again notice that subtle tightness or tension in your head/mind, relax and softly redirect your gentle loving attention back to the feeling of radiating love from your heart and making a wish for your own happiness.
The Six R’s
The true nature of these kinds of sensations (and emotional feelings) is that they don't go away right away. So your mind will bounce back and forth from your object of meditation and to that feeling. (that is radiating the feeling of love then making and feeling a sincere wish for your happiness) Every time this happens you use the six R’s which are:
*Recognize - *Release - *Relax - *Re-smile - *Return - *Repeat
The "6 R’s" is the way to remember this practice:
Release: Let go of any thoughts, sensations or emotional feelings. Remember its O.K. for that thought, sensation or emotional feeling to be there, because that is the truth of the present moment. Allow the thought, sensation, or emotional feeling to be, without trying to make it be anything other than it is.
Relax: Relax the tightness, let go of the tight mental fist around the feeling, let it be. Tranquilize both body and mind.
Re-Smile: Remember that this is a smiling meditation and it is helpful to smile as much as possible.
Return: Come back to your object of meditation by gently redirecting your tranquil attention back to radiating the feeling of love and making a sincere wish for your happiness and feeling that wish in your heart.
Repeat: Continue on with your meditation of radiating Loving-Kindness, making and feeling the wish and visualizing your spiritual friend.
Radiating Love to a Friend
After sending loving and kind thoughts to yourself for about ten minutes, begin sending loving and kind thoughts to your "spiritual friend". A "spiritual friend" is someone who, when you think of them and their good qualities, it makes you happy. This is a friend who is of the same sex, they are alive, and not a member of your family. This is for right now, later you will be able to send Loving-Kindness to all of the members of your family, but for this training period please choose another friend.
Once you start sending Loving-Kindness to your spiritual friend, please don't change to another person. Stay with your same spiritual friend until you get to the third meditation stage (jhāna). So you are sending a sincere wish for your own happiness, then mentally you say: "As I wish this feeling of peace and calm (happiness, joy, whatever) for myself, I wish this feeling for you, too. May you be well, happy and peaceful." Then start radiating this feeling of love and peace to your friend. It is quite important for you to feel the sincere wish and that you place that feeling in your heart.
You also visualize your friend in your mind's eye. For example, you can visualize your friend as if it was like a photograph or you can see them moving around as if in a movie. For some people visualizing can be somewhat difficult because they don’t realize that one can visualize with words as well as pictures in their mind. Saying your friends name and using some words that help to see that person in your mind’s eye, is fine! The exact visualization doesn't matter. But when you see your friend, see him or her smiling and happy. This can help to remind you to be smiling and happy, too!
The visualization can be somewhat difficult. It can be cloudy or fuzzy, or a long distance away or it can be there for just a moment and disappear. That is all right. Don't try too hard because it will give you a headache. You want about 70% of your attention spent on the feeling of Loving-Kindness, 20% (more or less, depending on what is happening) on making a sincere wish and feeling that wish in your heart, this helps the feeling for your friend's happiness to grow. Only about 10% of your time should be spent on visualizing your friend. As you can see, the "Feeling of Loving-Kindness" is by far the most important part of the meditation, and the visualization is the least important part. But still put a little effort into the visualization. Eventually it will get better and easier.
This is a smiling meditation. While you are sitting and radiating love to your spiritual friend (or to yourself), smile with your mind. Even though your eyes are closed during the meditation, smile with your eyes. This helps to let go of tension in your face. Put a little smile on your lips and put a smile in your heart. Smiling is nice and most helpful to practice all of the time, but especially when you are sitting in meditation. The more we can learn to smile the happier mind becomes.
It may sound a little hokie, but scientists have discovered that the corners of our mouth are very important; the position of the lips corresponds to different mental states. When the corners of your lips turn down your thoughts tend to become heavy and unwholesome. When the corners of your lips go up, mind becomes more uplifted and clear, so joy can arise more often.
This is important to remember because a smile can help you to change your perspective about all kinds of feelings and thoughts. So try to remember to smile into everything that arises and everything that you direct your mind’s attention to. In other words, smile as much as you can into everything.
Dullness of mind
The more sincere and enthusiastic you are in sending Loving-Kindness to yourself and your spiritual friend, the less you will experience sleepiness or dullness of mind. When sleepiness or dullness occurs your body may begin to slump. This is the only time that you can move your body and straighten up. But don't do this too often, either.
If you see your mind starting to dull out, then take more interest in your friend; see him or her doing things that you truly appreciate. For example, you can visualize times that they were helpful and generous, or times when they made you happy and you laughed with them. This can help to increase your interest and energy, and then the dullness will subside.
Please, once you begin this meditation, start by sitting for forty-five minutes. The first ten minutes you send Loving-Kindness to yourself. The rest of the time, send love to your spiritual friend (remember the same friend all of the time). When your meditation becomes better and you feel more comfortable, you can sit for a longer period of time (whatever is appropriate for you with your time constraints). But don't sit for less than forty-five minutes a day in the beginning! More if you have the time.
This is not simply a passive meditation to be practiced only when you are sitting in a chair or cushion. It's a meditation to be practiced all of the time, especially when you do your daily activities. So many times we walk around in a mental haze of "random nonsense thoughts". Why not try practicing Loving-Kindness Meditation whenever we can possibly remember? When you are walking from your house to your car, or your car to your job, what is your mind doing? Ho hum, probably more nonsense thoughts.
This is the time to notice what your mind is doing in the present moment, and let go of these distracting thoughts. Relax the tightness in your head/mind, and wish someone happiness! It doesn't matter who you send loving thoughts and feelings to in your daily activities. It can be to the person walking next to you, your spiritual friend, yourself, or all beings. The key words here are to "send love", smiling and feeling that sincere wish. Try to do this as much as possible during the day.
The more we focus on sending and radiating loving and kind thoughts, the more we affect the world around us in a positive way. As a result your mind becomes uplifted and happy at the same time. Nice!
Benefits of Loving-Kindness
There are many benefits to practicing Loving-Kindness: you go to sleep easily and sleep soundly. When you wake up you wake easily and quickly. People like you. Your face becomes radiant and beautiful, when you practice Loving-Kindness, your mind becomes clear more quickly than with any other type of meditation. Actually, the Lord Buddha mentioned this type of meditation more times than he did "Mindfulness of Breathing" meditation. So you can see just how important he thought it was.
Loving-Kindness and Nibbāna
The practice of Loving-Kindness Meditation can lead you directly to the experience of Nibbāna if you follow all of the Brahma Vihāras: that is the practice of Loving-Kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy and Equanimity. This is mentioned many times in the suttas, which are the original discourses of the Buddha. Many times other teachers will say that this practice alone doesn't directly lead the meditator to the experience of Nibbāna. And this is true. But, when Loving-Kindness Meditation is practiced as part of the Brahma Vihāras, then it will take the meditator to the fourth jhāna or meditation level of understanding. This is where the Lord Buddha tried to have all of the students who practiced meditation get to. The fourth meditation level is where the meditator experiences deep states of equanimity and calmness.
According to the suttas, there are three different paths that can be taken once the meditator reaches this level. They can take one directly to the experience of Nibbāna. We will not go into more detail at this time, because it may cause some confusion. But if you are interested, in having more information please start reading suttas like Sutta 62 – "The Mahārāhulovāda Sutta" in the Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (from Wisdom Publications). Or you can read Sutta 27 – "The CūỊahatthipadopama Sutta", in the same book. I sincerely hope that these meditation are useful !!!
I hope there instructions are helpful to you and that by practicing in this way you will benefit greatly and lead a truly happy and healthy life.
Now, as the custom is after every sharing of Dhamma, let us share some merit for listening or reading and doing the good work of purifying our minds, so we may all, truly be happy!
And the Fear-struck, Fearless Be!
May the grieving, shed all grief!
And may all beings find relief!
May all beings share this merit
that we have thus acquired,
for the acquisition of all kinds of happiness.
May beings inhabiting space and earth
Devas and Nagas of mighty power
Share this merit of ours.
May they long protect, the Buddha's dispensation.
Sadhu.. Sadhu... Sadhu...
page last edited: 16-Sep-10