The most efficient way of cultivating metta?

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ninjbyte
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The most efficient way of cultivating metta?

Postby ninjbyte » Fri Jun 27, 2014 10:51 am

Cause: I do not feel compassion. Though detachment comes easy to me now, I realize I do not feel remotely any sense of compassion towards people around me. I'm not even sure what I feel towards myself can be defined as compassion. I kind of (distantly) get the teachings on interconnectedness, but I don't see it. I find myself at odds with the usual description in the suttas, especially the Karaniya Metta. I don't see life as particularly valuable, and I don't see how we're all connected.

Question: Since the Buddha ascribes importance to this, and I'm starting to trust him a lot more, I'm wondering if this might be very important at this point. Especially also since Daniel considers it the basis of morality and intentional action (which I think is especially important to consider since I find myself wondering if there's anything worth to do, from the reason above). The thing is, I've been searching for instructions for the past day, and there are differing views:
    Loving-kindness (Sharon Salzberg): Metta in this view means "loving-kindness", and one is supposed to cultivate feelings of loving-kindness as a practice, in expanding circles. I'm certain you know what I'm talking about. I feel disinclined to this approach, but it may be personal preference talking. I'd like to hear your opinions.
    Good will (Bhikkhu Thanissaro): In the past three years, Thanissaro has slightly changed his translationof metta as "good-will", involving less emotional content and more cognitive intent. There's his free talk about it if someone's interested.
    Other traditions (Vajrayana, Tibetan): I'd prefer to rule these out because I prefer to stick with one raft of teachings, in this case Theravada. Though other traditions have their known proponents (Pema Chodron and her teachers), I want to stick with one set of teachings, if for nothing else then because I think I remember the Buddha also advising not changing views often.
    Suttas only (Bhante V): I've only recently been introduced to this point of view, and know nothing about it yet. I've seen that here he hasn't been very appreciated because of his attitude towards traditional teachings, but I'd like to know what helped you out most.
There may be even others I'm not aware of.

Aim: I'd like to find an explanation and practice of metta that shows me better how interconnected we are and why is it valuable to help others. For instance, a good point Thanissaro makes in his talk is that lovingkindness isn't always the most skillful feeling to have related to others. We may at most render conditions of others more conducive to studying the dharma, but we cannot make them happy.

Could you please help me out? :bow:

In general, I also want to see more clearly: what is the Right Intention for any kind of action? If we cannot help people directly to reach happiness, what is the point of action?

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Re: The most efficient way of cultivating metta?

Postby Mkoll » Fri Jun 27, 2014 11:58 am

SN 45.8 wrote:And what is right resolve? Being resolved on renunciation, on freedom from ill-will, on harmlessness: This is called right resolve."


More on right intention here.

~~~

If you cannot help others directly reach happiness, can you still help yourself?
Peace,
James

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Re: The most efficient way of cultivating metta?

Postby seeker242 » Fri Jun 27, 2014 12:16 pm

Good introduction here. :)



IMO, The most important statement he makes comes at 3:00. He says "To begin with, we want to create the ability to sustain this sense of warmth and loving kindness before developing it further and spreading it...to people we have no strong feeling for"

A lot of times people find metta difficult because they try to do that prematurely.

:anjali:

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Re: The most efficient way of cultivating metta?

Postby ninjbyte » Fri Jun 27, 2014 12:22 pm

Mkoll wrote:
SN 45.8 wrote:And what is right resolve? Being resolved on renunciation, on freedom from ill-will, on harmlessness: This is called right resolve."


More on right intention here.

~~~

If you cannot help others directly reach happiness, can you still help yourself?


About the link - that's my question... is loving-kindness the right translation?
And about the question... I do not know. Arguments for and against both seem valid enough. I actually think it might be easier to be happy for a person like the classical Theravadin recluse monk, or borrowing from other traditions Lao Tzu and more recently Sri Ramana Maharshi... they all seemed quite content with living by themselves. As opposed to a fervent bodhisattva - I just can't imagine living in such a way without developing tensions.

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Re: The most efficient way of cultivating metta?

Postby ninjbyte » Fri Jun 27, 2014 12:32 pm

seeker242 wrote:Good introduction here. :)



IMO, The most important statement he makes comes at 3:00. He says "To begin with, we want to create the ability to sustain this sense of warmth and loving kindness before developing it further and spreading it...to people we have no strong feeling for"

A lot of times people find metta difficult because they try to do that prematurely.

:anjali:


Yes, perhaps my problem is that I'm too rash in deciding that this method of practice isn't working out. Listening to that video now.

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Re: The most efficient way of cultivating metta?

Postby beeblebrox » Fri Jun 27, 2014 12:34 pm

ninjbyte wrote:
Mkoll wrote:
SN 45.8 wrote:And what is right resolve? Being resolved on renunciation, on freedom from ill-will, on harmlessness: This is called right resolve."


More on right intention here.

~~~

If you cannot help others directly reach happiness, can you still help yourself?


About the link - that's my question... is loving-kindness the right translation?
And about the question... I do not know. Arguments for and against both seem valid enough. I actually think it might be easier to be happy for a person like the classical Theravadin recluse monk, or borrowing from other traditions Lao Tzu and more recently Sri Ramana Maharshi... they all seemed quite content with living by themselves. As opposed to a fervent bodhisattva - I just can't imagine living in such a way without developing tensions.


Hi Ninjbyte,

I think loving-kindness, or even simple "love," are good enough words for it. There are many different shades of meanings to these (and every other words), so it's really up to us to figure out what's appropriate. Another word that might lead us in the right direction is "good will." (The ill-will is always unbeneficial, not just towards others but for oneself also.)

I also personally think it's possible to be a so-called "bodhisattva" without creating tension, and I don't think it's something that one does fervently... but that is not the main goal in Theravada.

:anjali:

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Re: The most efficient way of cultivating metta?

Postby ninjbyte » Fri Jun 27, 2014 1:20 pm

beeblebrox wrote:I also personally think it's possible to be a so-called "bodhisattva" without creating tension, and I don't think it's something that one does fervently... but that is not the main goal in Theravada.

:anjali:


Please, please enlighten me here. I write this question only because I fear I might have understood something differently from the Buddha's teachings.

I can't see how being a bodhisattva can be without tension, for two reasons: (1) I can't see anything I can do for any of the people around me that would help them gain permanent happiness, (2) isn't any tensions towards future results suffering in itself?

My (hopefully) skillful actions may arouse temporary happiness in them, or in rarer cases temporary unhappiness, the latter though still being possible. In any case, these induced states would be temporary, and would therefore pass rendering them meaningless. Only nibbana is permanent. I can at most cause helpful conditions for people to arise, but I can accomplish nothing of value with my own effort.

Besides, why should I do something in order to gain a result in the future? I feel content with what is, right now. And this feels strange. It's a result of many practices and readings in the last few years. I feel that it's the leaning into the future that generates suffering.

I feel very tempted to just sit down and do nothing. And I don't know if that is a good thing. Or a bad thing for that matter. I don't even know should I have these doubts :shrug: :shrug:

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Re: The most efficient way of cultivating metta?

Postby beeblebrox » Fri Jun 27, 2014 1:55 pm

Hi Ninjbyte,

The bodhisattva path isn't part of Theravada (though at least one teacher wrote about it, Ven. Ledi Sayadaw)... it is Mahayanist, so you don't need to worry about it.

The main goal is just to discern suffering, how it arises and what would lead to its cessation.

I think that a metta practice is something which should enhance this.

:anjali:

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Re: The most efficient way of cultivating metta?

Postby ninjbyte » Fri Jun 27, 2014 2:06 pm

beeblebrox wrote:Hi Ninjbyte,

The bodhisattva path isn't part of Theravada (though at least one teacher wrote about it, Ven. Ledi Sayadaw)... it is Mahayanist, so you don't need to worry about it.

The main goal is just to discern suffering, how it arises and what would lead to its cessation.

I think that a metta practice is something which should enhance this.

:anjali:


I want to believe this is true. If so, would you advise me to practice metta in the classical (Sharon Salzburg) way of loving-kindness, or more similarly to Bhante V?

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Re: The most efficient way of cultivating metta?

Postby beeblebrox » Fri Jun 27, 2014 2:50 pm

What does Ven. Vimalaramsi teach that's different in the metta practice? I'm not familiar with it.

:anjali:

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Re: The most efficient way of cultivating metta?

Postby ninjbyte » Fri Jun 27, 2014 3:11 pm

beeblebrox wrote:What does Ven. Vimalaramsi teach that's different in the metta practice? I'm not familiar with it.

:anjali:


I confess that I've yet to study him well, but for now it seems he differs for his emphasis on the relaxation phases all-around, as well as stating that one can reach jhanas with metta... For now, I can't imagine a dynamic anchor leading to jhanas. But I may be wrong about both points.

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Re: The most efficient way of cultivating metta?

Postby culaavuso » Fri Jun 27, 2014 7:41 pm

ninjbyte wrote:
    Loving-kindness (Sharon Salzberg): Metta in this view means "loving-kindness", and one is supposed to cultivate feelings of loving-kindness as a practice, in expanding circles. I'm certain you know what I'm talking about. I feel disinclined to this approach, but it may be personal preference talking. I'd like to hear your opinions.
    Good will (Bhikkhu Thanissaro): In the past three years, Thanissaro has slightly changed his translationof metta as "good-will", involving less emotional content and more cognitive intent. There's his free talk about it if someone's interested.
    Other traditions (Vajrayana, Tibetan): I'd prefer to rule these out because I prefer to stick with one raft of teachings, in this case Theravada. Though other traditions have their known proponents (Pema Chodron and her teachers), I want to stick with one set of teachings, if for nothing else then because I think I remember the Buddha also advising not changing views often.
    Suttas only (Bhante V): I've only recently been introduced to this point of view, and know nothing about it yet. I've seen that here he hasn't been very appreciated because of his attitude towards traditional teachings, but I'd like to know what helped you out most.

These seem to differ primarily in the way of discussing the practice. Using the term "good-will" or "loving-kindness" is a matter of translation, and both Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu and the suttas recommend developing goodwill for oneself and others. The "expanding circles" approach is one of the easier ways to develop the skill incrementally by developing it first where it's easiest to do so. It's also helpful to keep in mind that metta is only one of the four sublime abidings, and the four help balance each other in practice. It can be helpful to develop all four and learn to apply them skillfully to various situations.

Finding any one of these approaches, understanding it, and implementing it can be beneficial. When any of these approaches is understood well, the other methods may appear to have more in common than was originally apparent.

ninjbyte wrote:I can't see how being a bodhisattva can be without tension, for two reasons: (1) I can't see anything I can do for any of the people around me that would help them gain permanent happiness, (2) isn't any tensions towards future results suffering in itself?

My (hopefully) skillful actions may arouse temporary happiness in them, or in rarer cases temporary unhappiness, the latter though still being possible. In any case, these induced states would be temporary, and would therefore pass rendering them meaningless. Only nibbana is permanent. I can at most cause helpful conditions for people to arise, but I can accomplish nothing of value with my own effort.

Besides, why should I do something in order to gain a result in the future? I feel content with what is, right now. And this feels strange. It's a result of many practices and readings in the last few years. I feel that it's the leaning into the future that generates suffering.


There are many ways to benefit others with both temporary happiness and helping them cultivate the causes of permanent happiness. Temporary happiness is still less stressful than misery, though permanent happiness is superior. Happiness doesn't need to be an all-or-nothing proposition. It is something that can be maximized over the long term both for oneself and for others. It is cultivated over long periods of time, and providing temporary relief from stress can create a situation conducive to working on permanent release from stress. One way to help others find permanent happiness is to enact the ideals of the Dhamma to the greatest extent possible and to serve as an example for others in that regard.

Tensions are a form of stress, and the practice for the cessation of stress. There is no need to obsess over the possible outcomes or future events. The activity that is happening in the present is where events can be influenced. Contentment with what is happening right now can include contentment with the mental state, motivations, and actions being taken right now. A compassionate act can be performed knowing that the act itself is skillful and properly motivated. Mere detachment has a greater chance of resulting in regret or remorse at a later time. Acting in a way that is motivated by a wish for all beings to be happy can be its own immediate reward. There is no need to be attached to the outcome of the action. If the act is truly compassionate and performed with detachment then there can be happiness from the action itself even if the outcome is never known. Through experimentation with good will and the other divine abidings it is possible to experience a higher happiness than what is available through indifference.

Focusing on the teachings of interdependence isn't the only path to developing the divine abidings. One simple path is that it simply feels better to have a mind of good will towards all beings. Acting on such a motivation tends to create harmony and reduce stressful encounters with other beings. This can lead to a situation where there is less stress generated through ill will and indifference, less stress generated through quarrels, less cause for regret and remorse, and greater temporary happiness for all involved. As mentioned above, this temporary happiness can provide the conditions necessary to learn and practice the path to find greater, and eventually permanent, happiness.

ninjbyte wrote:I confess that I've yet to study him well, but for now it seems he differs for his emphasis on the relaxation phases all-around, as well as stating that one can reach jhanas with metta... For now, I can't imagine a dynamic anchor leading to jhanas. But I may be wrong about both points.


Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu's footnote 3 to AN 4.125 agrees with this point and provides references:

AN 4.125: Mettā Sutta (footnote 3) by Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:This sutta, read in conjunction with AN 4.123, has given rise to the belief that the development of good will as an immeasurable state can lead only to the first jhana, and that the next two immeasurable states — compassion and appreciation — can lead, respectively, only to the second and third jhanas. However, as AN 8.63 shows, all four immeasurable states can lead all the way to the fourth jhana. The difference between that discourse and this lies in how the person practicing these states relates to them. In that sutta, the person deliberately uses the state as a basis for developing all the jhanas. In this sutta, the person simply enjoys the state

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Re: The most efficient way of cultivating metta?

Postby ninjbyte » Fri Jun 27, 2014 10:18 pm

culaavuso wrote:
ninjbyte wrote:
    Loving-kindness (Sharon Salzberg): Metta in this view means "loving-kindness", and one is supposed to cultivate feelings of loving-kindness as a practice, in expanding circles. I'm certain you know what I'm talking about. I feel disinclined to this approach, but it may be personal preference talking. I'd like to hear your opinions.
    Good will (Bhikkhu Thanissaro): In the past three years, Thanissaro has slightly changed his translationof metta as "good-will", involving less emotional content and more cognitive intent. There's his free talk about it if someone's interested.
    Other traditions (Vajrayana, Tibetan): I'd prefer to rule these out because I prefer to stick with one raft of teachings, in this case Theravada. Though other traditions have their known proponents (Pema Chodron and her teachers), I want to stick with one set of teachings, if for nothing else then because I think I remember the Buddha also advising not changing views often.
    Suttas only (Bhante V): I've only recently been introduced to this point of view, and know nothing about it yet. I've seen that here he hasn't been very appreciated because of his attitude towards traditional teachings, but I'd like to know what helped you out most.

These seem to differ primarily in the way of discussing the practice. Using the term "good-will" or "loving-kindness" is a matter of translation, and both Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu and the suttas recommend developing goodwill for oneself and others. The "expanding circles" approach is one of the easier ways to develop the skill incrementally by developing it first where it's easiest to do so. It's also helpful to keep in mind that metta is only one of the four sublime abidings, and the four help balance each other in practice. It can be helpful to develop all four and learn to apply them skillfully to various situations.

Finding any one of these approaches, understanding it, and implementing it can be beneficial. When any of these approaches is understood well, the other methods may appear to have more in common than was originally apparent.

ninjbyte wrote:I can't see how being a bodhisattva can be without tension, for two reasons: (1) I can't see anything I can do for any of the people around me that would help them gain permanent happiness, (2) isn't any tensions towards future results suffering in itself?

My (hopefully) skillful actions may arouse temporary happiness in them, or in rarer cases temporary unhappiness, the latter though still being possible. In any case, these induced states would be temporary, and would therefore pass rendering them meaningless. Only nibbana is permanent. I can at most cause helpful conditions for people to arise, but I can accomplish nothing of value with my own effort.

Besides, why should I do something in order to gain a result in the future? I feel content with what is, right now. And this feels strange. It's a result of many practices and readings in the last few years. I feel that it's the leaning into the future that generates suffering.


There are many ways to benefit others with both temporary happiness and helping them cultivate the causes of permanent happiness. Temporary happiness is still less stressful than misery, though permanent happiness is superior. Happiness doesn't need to be an all-or-nothing proposition. It is something that can be maximized over the long term both for oneself and for others. It is cultivated over long periods of time, and providing temporary relief from stress can create a situation conducive to working on permanent release from stress. One way to help others find permanent happiness is to enact the ideals of the Dhamma to the greatest extent possible and to serve as an example for others in that regard.

Tensions are a form of stress, and the practice for the cessation of stress. There is no need to obsess over the possible outcomes or future events. The activity that is happening in the present is where events can be influenced. Contentment with what is happening right now can include contentment with the mental state, motivations, and actions being taken right now. A compassionate act can be performed knowing that the act itself is skillful and properly motivated. Mere detachment has a greater chance of resulting in regret or remorse at a later time. Acting in a way that is motivated by a wish for all beings to be happy can be its own immediate reward. There is no need to be attached to the outcome of the action. If the act is truly compassionate and performed with detachment then there can be happiness from the action itself even if the outcome is never known. Through experimentation with good will and the other divine abidings it is possible to experience a higher happiness than what is available through indifference.

Focusing on the teachings of interdependence isn't the only path to developing the divine abidings. One simple path is that it simply feels better to have a mind of good will towards all beings. Acting on such a motivation tends to create harmony and reduce stressful encounters with other beings. This can lead to a situation where there is less stress generated through ill will and indifference, less stress generated through quarrels, less cause for regret and remorse, and greater temporary happiness for all involved. As mentioned above, this temporary happiness can provide the conditions necessary to learn and practice the path to find greater, and eventually permanent, happiness.

ninjbyte wrote:I confess that I've yet to study him well, but for now it seems he differs for his emphasis on the relaxation phases all-around, as well as stating that one can reach jhanas with metta... For now, I can't imagine a dynamic anchor leading to jhanas. But I may be wrong about both points.


Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu's footnote 3 to AN 4.125 agrees with this point and provides references:

AN 4.125: Mettā Sutta (footnote 3) by Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:This sutta, read in conjunction with AN 4.123, has given rise to the belief that the development of good will as an immeasurable state can lead only to the first jhana, and that the next two immeasurable states — compassion and appreciation — can lead, respectively, only to the second and third jhanas. However, as AN 8.63 shows, all four immeasurable states can lead all the way to the fourth jhana. The difference between that discourse and this lies in how the person practicing these states relates to them. In that sutta, the person deliberately uses the state as a basis for developing all the jhanas. In this sutta, the person simply enjoys the state


I stand corrected in regards to the Thanissaro reference. Thank you for that. Now I have one more piece of the puzzle.

However, it is for the boldened parts of your quotes I really have to thank you.... Thank you. I guess I'll have to bookmark this page and come back to this often. Those were simple and clear words, and those I needed to hear. Now, I guess I need to deliberate a little longer to see which method of metta seems most logical to me. Though you guys seem to have a lowered opinion of Bhante V, I've been reading some of his work and I want to try and see if it works, if that's all right. :bow:

Thank you again! I guess I have my answer :D :thanks:

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Re: The most efficient way of cultivating metta?

Postby beeblebrox » Sat Jun 28, 2014 1:12 pm

ninjbyte wrote: Though you guys seem to have a lowered opinion of Bhante V, I've been reading some of his work and I want to try and see if it works, if that's all right.


Hi Ninjbyte,

I think the main issue on here that some people have with the bhante is the way he seem to misrepresent (or "puts down") other teachers, to make a point about his own teachings. (That is hearsay for me since I can't hear his videos, because I'm deaf.) But other than that, I don't see why there would be a problem on here if you do the practice and you think it's good.

:anjali:

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Re: The most efficient way of cultivating metta?

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat Jun 28, 2014 2:01 pm

ninjbyte wrote: I'm not even sure what I feel towards myself can be defined as compassion.


A feeling of non-judgemental self-acceptance is probably a good place to start.
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Re: The most efficient way of cultivating metta?

Postby philosopher » Sat Jul 05, 2014 9:41 pm

ninjbyte wrote:Cause: I don't see how we're all connected. ...
I'd like to find an explanation and practice of metta that shows me better how interconnected we are ...


My apologies in advance if this is not helpful for you, but what has convinced me of the interconnectedness of all things is studying psychology, social psychology, and neuroscience. Many arenas of modern science point to the inherent interrelatedness of all phenomena as well as principles of cause and effect. Admittedly, this hasn't necessarily helped me cultivate compassion for others as I now see others, including myself, not as people but as contexts or collections of circumstances. I do not yet feel in a visceral sense the need to feel compassionate for sets of contexts.

I don't know if this is helpful or not, but for me, studying various areas of science has convinced me of interconnectedness. Also, meditation / mindfulness practice gives one the direct experience of cause and effect (i.e. following certain thought patterns leads to other thoughts and emotions, etc).



:anjali:


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