The purpose of cultivating Metta?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Re: The purpose of cultivating Metta?

Postby reflection » Wed Dec 28, 2011 3:57 pm

Coyote wrote:
danieLion wrote:"Metta as a Path to Awakening." by John Peacock

http://www.audiodharma.org/series/207/talk/2603/

May you grow fat with friendliness.
Daniel :heart:


Thanks Daniel, these have been very helpful. I notice that the speaker recognises that Metta can lead directly to liberation rather than just to a better birth; is he being unorthodox here or is this something that is taught within the Theravada?

reflection wrote:Metta directly targets one of the "three fires", namely hatred. It is also one of the hindrances in meditation.

Therefore it is very useful to cultivate metta.


Here is where my understanding stops - I think it is because I have not had a sufficient grounding in basics such as these - are these "three fires", hatred, ignorance and attachment, the primary chains keeping us in Samasra, and does the threefold division of the noble eightfold path correspond to these "three fires"? Thank you for your explanation, I am having trouble piecing together these concepts in my mind.

Thanks,

Coyote

The three fires (greed, hatred, delusion) are also known as the three poisons and are indeed the main things that keep us from enlightenment. They do not one-on-one correspond to the three parts of the path, though. Of course they do indirectly, because the path is what supresses them.

But if you want to put the pieces together, it's probably is clearer in meditation. Hatred towards others, yourself or even situations can really be an obstacle in meditation, it prevents you from getting relaxed and focussed. Metta is a direct counter to this and learning when you can apply it is very useful. So I really recommend doing some metta once in a while. Some traditions even make it their main practice of meditation, which I think is totally understandable, because as a side-effect it also represses the other hindrances. See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_hindrances.

But although a lot of things in the dhamma are numbered and listed, I think you should always keep in mind that these things may just be indicators of what is going on and do not describe everything fully; if the dhamma could be fully explained in words, we would all be enlightened after reading the suttas ;)

With metta,
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Re: The purpose of cultivating Metta?

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Dec 28, 2011 9:43 pm

Hi Otsom,

Thank you for your interesting contribution:
Otsom wrote:
If a bhikṣu cultivates the mind of loving kindness, having cultivated much, achieves a great fruition, a great benefit. ... ... This bhikṣu’s mind, endowed with loving kindness, cultivates the awakening factor of mindfulness, based on forsaking, based on non-desire, based on cessation, tends towards release. Up to, ... cultivates the awakening factor of equanimity, based on forsaking, based on non-desire, based on cessation, tends towards release.

I'm not particularly pushing Richard Gombrich's interpretation, I simply wanted to bring it up for discussion and it's interesting to hear a non-Theravada perspective, which seems to agree that the brahmaviharas may be used as an aid to liberation (just as many other meditation objects), but are not, in themselves liberation.

:anjali:
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Re: The purpose of cultivating Metta?

Postby danieLion » Wed Dec 28, 2011 11:00 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Otsom,

Thank you for your interesting contribution:
Otsom wrote:
If a bhikṣu cultivates the mind of loving kindness, having cultivated much, achieves a great fruition, a great benefit. ... ... This bhikṣu’s mind, endowed with loving kindness, cultivates the awakening factor of mindfulness, based on forsaking, based on non-desire, based on cessation, tends towards release. Up to, ... cultivates the awakening factor of equanimity, based on forsaking, based on non-desire, based on cessation, tends towards release.

I'm not particularly pushing Richard Gombrich's interpretation, I simply wanted to bring it up for discussion and it's interesting to hear a non-Theravada perspective, which seems to agree that the brahmaviharas may be used as an aid to liberation (just as many other meditation objects), but are not, in themselves liberation.

:anjali:
Mike

The question is not about whether the brahmaviharas can be used as part of the path "just as many other meditation objects." The instruction is to cultivate the four factors, which Peacock & Gombrich take for granted. But they take it further and state that when cultivated they are also a metaphor for liberation/nibbana (which I don't necessarily agree with either).
Daniel :heart:
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Re: The purpose of cultivating Metta?

Postby danieLion » Wed Dec 28, 2011 11:25 pm

Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote:Gombrich is not unaware of the texts that contradict his position, but he casually dismisses them as the work of "the compilers of other suttas" (p. 61). The contrary evidence, however, is just too weighty to allow such an easy way out.


Perhaps Ven. Bodhi is showing his doctrinal bias?

Gombrich's "dismissal" is anything but casual:

One thing about which I feel rather uncertain is how interested the Buddha himself was in presenting a philosophically coherent doctrine. I have no doubt that such a doctrine is to be found in the Pali Canon, but to what extent is it due to later systematisers? Even if it is not due to later hands--and I incline to the unsurprising view that the Buddha was probably a greater thinker, indeed a greater philosopher than his disciples--are we misrepresenting him if we attribute to him an impressive edifice of a argument...?

To deny here [in the Tevijja Sutta] the Buddha is saying that infinite kindness, compassion, etc. bring Enlightenment is to do obvious violence to the text. This denial however became orthodox at a very early stage.... [T]he systematisers may have falsified the Buddha's views, sacrificing power and beauty of thought in order to build a coherent system.
(pp. 26, 60-1, How Buddhism Began, my bolds/underlines).

Daniel :heart:
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Re: The purpose of cultivating Metta?

Postby danieLion » Wed Dec 28, 2011 11:30 pm

Aloka wrote:Hi Coyote,

There's a nice little article 'Universal Loving Kindness' by Ajahn Sumedho...

Hi Aloka,
"Loving-kindness" is a horrible translation of metta, and where does this "universal" nonsense come from?
Daniel :heart:
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Re: The purpose of cultivating Metta?

Postby reflection » Thu Dec 29, 2011 12:53 am

danieLion wrote:
Aloka wrote:Hi Coyote,

There's a nice little article 'Universal Loving Kindness' by Ajahn Sumedho...

Hi Aloka,
"Loving-kindness" is a horrible translation of metta, and where does this "universal" nonsense come from?
Daniel :heart:

It's in the article, first paragraph..
We contemplate all phenomena, all sentient beings, in terms of loving-kindness rather than in terms of which is best, which is worst, what we like, what we don’t like.



Also, what do you think is wrong with the term and what do you suggest as an alternative? I personally think it is a very nice translation.


With metta,
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Re: The purpose of cultivating Metta?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Dec 29, 2011 1:55 am

danieLion wrote:The question is not about whether the brahmaviharas can be used as part of the path "just as many other meditation objects." The instruction is to cultivate the four factors, which Peacock & Gombrich take for granted. But they take it further and state that when cultivated they are also a metaphor for liberation/nibbana (which I don't necessarily agree with either).

Yes, thank you, that is what I was trying to say.

And, as you say, it is then a matter of opinion whether one agrees with Gombrich and Peacock or what appears to be the conclusion of most schools of Buddhism.

:anjali:
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Re: The purpose of cultivating Metta?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Thu Dec 29, 2011 2:30 am

Otsom wrote:A non-Theravada opinion based on early teachings, from Yinshun: Investigations into Śūnyatā (draft translation by Shi Huifeng):

The four immeasurable minds which take the mind of loving kindness as their basis are an accommodation to Brahmanism. For example, Śāriputra advised his old friend, the Brahmin Dhānañjāni, to cultivate the four immeasurable minds so that he would be reborn in the brahma heavens after death, because “these Brahmins love and cling to Brahma through this long night (=saṃsāra)”. The legendary past life story of King Mahāsudarśana (or Mahāsudassana) is also about cultivation of the four brahma abidings to attain rebirth in the brahma heavens. Thus, according to the teachings given in most of the sūtra passages, the four immeasurable minds are mundane concentration dharmas, they are with influx, and are familial concentrations (kullaka-vihāra). However, in the early period of the Buddha Dharma, the four concentrations of loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity, are clearly purificatory and leading upwards to the path to release, the entrance to the ambrosial [deathless] (amata, amṛta). From the fact that the four immeasurable minds are also called immeasurable mind releases, and from their high point at the immovable mind release, we can still clearly and certainly see their earliest meaning and implications. As the SĀ, folio 27 [sūtra 744 = SN 46:62 Mettā], states:

If a bhikṣu cultivates the mind of loving kindness, having cultivated much, achieves a great fruition, a great benefit. ... ... This bhikṣu’s mind, endowed with loving kindness, cultivates the awakening factor of mindfulness, based on forsaking, based on non-desire, based on cessation, tends towards release. Up to, ... cultivates the awakening factor of equanimity, based on forsaking, based on non-desire, based on cessation, tends towards release.

The so-called “great fruition, great benefit”, is either the two [āryan] fruitions and two benefits of anāgami and arahant; or it is the four [āryan] fruitions and four benefits, from the śrotaāpanna to arahant; or it is the seven [āryan] fruitions and seven benefits, of the two types of arahant and five types of anāgamin. Loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity, cultivated together with the seven factors of awakening, are able to lead to the attainment of the great fruition and great benefit, and are naturally conducive to the influx free path to release.


Thanks for this. ;)

May I ask where you got the file from?
My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: Huifeng's Prajnacara Blog.
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Re: The purpose of cultivating Metta?

Postby danieLion » Thu Dec 29, 2011 5:06 am

Aloka wrote:There's a nice little article 'Universal Loving Kindness' by Ajahn Sumedho...

danieLion wrote:"Loving-kindness" is a horrible translation of metta, and where does this "universal" nonsense come from?

reflection wrote:It's in the article, first paragraph..


Sorry. I meant what's the textual/teachings of the Buddha basis/source/justification, etc....

reflection wrote:Also, what do you think is wrong with the term and what do you suggest as an alternative? I personally think it is a very nice translation?


I like these:

Ven Thanissaro: good-will
John Peackock: growing fat with unbounded friendliness

Metta has nothing to do with love.

May you grow fat with unbounded friendliness.
Daniel :heart:
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Re: The purpose of cultivating Metta?

Postby cooran » Thu Dec 29, 2011 6:33 am

Hello all,

These may be of interest:

Metta - The Philosophy and Practice of Universal Love by Acharya Buddharakkhita

The Pali word metta is a multi-significant term meaning loving-kindness, friendliness, goodwill, benevolence, fellowship, amity, concord, inoffensiveness and non-violence. The Pali commentators define metta as the strong wish for the welfare and happiness of others (parahita-parasukha-kamana). Essentially metta is an altruistic attitude of love and friendliness as distinguished from mere amiability based on self-interest. Through metta one refuses to be offensive and renounces bitterness, resentment and animosity of every kind, developing instead a mind of friendliness, accommodativeness and benevolence which seeks the well-being and happiness of others. True metta is devoid of self-interest. It evokes within a warm-hearted feeling of fellowship, sympathy and love, which grows boundless with practice and overcomes all social, religious, racial, political and economic barriers. Metta is indeed a universal, unselfish and all-embracing love. [……………………………………]
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el365.html

Mettā: 'Lit: friendliness' or 'loving-kindness', is one of the 4 sublime abodes brahma-vihāra.
http://what-buddha-said.net/library/Bud ... m.htm#mettā

Mettā
http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... .3:10.pali

with metta
Chris
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Re: The purpose of cultivating Metta?

Postby reflection » Thu Dec 29, 2011 8:20 am

danieLion wrote:Sorry. I meant what's the textual/teachings of the Buddha basis/source/justification, etc....

Not everything needs have to have a textual reference. But this is a common rendition.
Mettañca sabba-lokasmiṃ
māna-sambhāvaye aparimāṇaṃ,
With good will for the entire cosmos, cultivate a limitless heart
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... html#metta



Metta - The Philosophy and Practice of Universal Love

Cultivate an all-embracing mind of love
For all throughout the universe
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el365.html




The strongest metta is universal and does not pick and choose.



Metta has nothing to do with love.


While I also agree with your translations, I do not agree on this and still think loving-kindness is a very nice translation.
Maybe this quote gives a better understanding:
The Pali word metta is a multi-significant term meaning loving-kindness, friendliness, goodwill, benevolence, fellowship, amity, concord, inoffensiveness and non-violence.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el365.html


Metta,
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Re: The purpose of cultivating Metta?

Postby Otsom » Thu Dec 29, 2011 11:06 am

.
Last edited by Otsom on Thu Feb 09, 2012 11:54 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The purpose of cultivating Metta?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Thu Dec 29, 2011 11:55 am

Otsom wrote:
Paññāsikhara wrote:Thanks for this. ;)

May I ask where you got the file from?

Hi Venerable!

I downloaded the pdf file from your Prajnacara Blog, perhaps a couple of months ago. I just checked and a Google search still shows it, but the linked page doesn't exist anymore. I edited away the footnote numbers and chinese characters from that quote before posting it here.

I apologize if my use of your draft text wasn't appropriate.


Hi,

Thanks, I'm flattered. It was entirely appropriate - I put it on my blog after all!
The recent take down was because I'm moving into the later stages of the translation,
and don't want half baked versions floating around. haha!
Just glad it is of use to some people!

~~ Huifeng
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Re: The purpose of cultivating Metta?

Postby Aloka » Thu Dec 29, 2011 3:34 pm

danieLion wrote:
Aloka wrote:Hi Coyote,

There's a nice little article 'Universal Loving Kindness' by Ajahn Sumedho...

Hi Aloka,
"Loving-kindness" is a horrible translation of metta, and where does this "universal" nonsense come from?
Daniel :heart:


Hi daniel

I offered the transcript of an Ajahn Sumedho talk, because I thought it might be helpful.

Ajahn Sumedho is a wonderful teacher offline and so I find your comments of 'horrible' and 'nonsense' relating to his words to be quite offensive and will therefore decline to join in any further discussion in this topic.

kind regards,

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Re: The purpose of cultivating Metta?

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Dec 29, 2011 7:26 pm

Aloka wrote:Ajahn Sumedho is a wonderful teacher offline and so I find your comments of 'horrible' and 'nonsense' relating to his words to be quite offensive and will therefore decline to join in any further discussion in this topic.

It certainly strikes me as odd, the context of a thread on "The purpose of cultivating Metta" to dismiss Ajahn Sumedho's thoughtful exposition with such mean-hearted adjectives. A little more care and kindness in the discussion would be appreciated.

:anjali:
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Re: The purpose of cultivating Metta?

Postby danieLion » Fri Dec 30, 2011 4:11 am

Aloka wrote:
danieLion wrote:
Aloka wrote:Hi Coyote,

There's a nice little article 'Universal Loving Kindness' by Ajahn Sumedho...

Hi Aloka,
"Loving-kindness" is a horrible translation of metta, and where does this "universal" nonsense come from?
Daniel :heart:


Hi daniel

I offered the transcript of an Ajahn Sumedho talk, because I thought it might be helpful.

Ajahn Sumedho is a wonderful teacher offline and so I find your comments of 'horrible' and 'nonsense' relating to his words to be quite offensive and will therefore decline to join in any further discussion in this topic.

kind regards,

Aloka

I didn't say Ajahn Sumedho was horrible or full of nonsense. I'm sure Ven. Sumedho wouldn't take it so personally.
May you grow fat with unbounded friendliness.
D :heart:
Last edited by danieLion on Fri Dec 30, 2011 4:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The purpose of cultivating Metta?

Postby danieLion » Fri Dec 30, 2011 4:15 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Aloka wrote:Ajahn Sumedho is a wonderful teacher offline and so I find your comments of 'horrible' and 'nonsense' relating to his words to be quite offensive and will therefore decline to join in any further discussion in this topic.

It certainly strikes me as odd, the context of a thread on "The purpose of cultivating Metta" to dismiss Ajahn Sumedho's thoughtful exposition with such mean-hearted adjectives. A little more care and kindness in the discussion would be appreciated.

:anjali:
Mike

Like I told Aloka, I didn't call Ven. Sumedho horrible or full of nonsense.
I didn't dismiss Ven. Sumedho's thoughtful exposition (aren't all his exposition's thoughtful).
Do you really think the adjective "horrible" is inherently mean-hearted?
May you grow fat with unbounded friendliness.
D :heart:
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Re: The purpose of cultivating Metta?

Postby danieLion » Fri Dec 30, 2011 4:45 am

Aloka wrote:
danieLion wrote:
Aloka wrote:Hi Coyote,

There's a nice little article 'Universal Loving Kindness' by Ajahn Sumedho...

Hi Aloka,
"Loving-kindness" is a horrible translation of metta, and where does this "universal" nonsense come from?
Daniel :heart:


Hi daniel

I offered the transcript of an Ajahn Sumedho talk, because I thought it might be helpful.

Ajahn Sumedho is a wonderful teacher offline and so I find your comments of 'horrible' and 'nonsense' relating to his words to be quite offensive and will therefore decline to join in any further discussion in this topic.

kind regards,

Aloka

Here's Ajahn Sumedho talking about metta as good-will.
As we begin to understand the mind more and more, and abide in the purity of being in the present, we can feel a kind of goodwill, or metta, towards all creatures. I like this word ‘goodwill’, because metta is a very positive radiance of mind where you’re radiating goodwill outwards, you’re wishing people well and what is good. It’s a generous act, a giving forth – willing that which is good towards people. We have this power to will things, don’t we...?

This isn’t clinical Buddhism. This is a practice, a devotional practice from the heart rather than from the intellect. But we need both: one doesn’t cancel out the other. Sometimes in religion we tend to think that either it’s all love or it’s all wisdom. ‘God is love, everything is love, the way is love’ – that’s the heartfelt form of religious experience. And then, the way of wisdom: that can seem like impersonal, cold-hearted analysis of the mind, and we feel a sense of loss in regards to the intuitive feelings of love, compassion. But remember that we’re transcending, we’re not attaching to love and compassion as ends in themselves, nor to wisdom. It’s the way of non-attachment, so that both are valid practices. If you have just a practice of love and compassion alone, without wisdom, there’s no way of understanding things as they are. You’re merely developing a way of loving-radiance. So when it comes to being able to explain, or to fully understand the truth of the way it is, you don’t know it. All you can do is practise your devotions, and that often tends towards to a sliding back into superstition, rites and rituals. If it’s not combined with wisdom, it becomes merely a series of rituals and rites, and one starts feeling guilty if one isn’t praying every day, or radiating metta throughout the universe. All these can become very fixed in the mind if you haven’t developed wisdom to understand the nature of the mind.
http://amitabhabuddha.wordpress.com/201 ... hn-sumedo/

There's also some good stuff in the rest of the piece on the relationship of metta to love, liking and wisdom.
Daniel :heart:
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Re: The purpose of cultivating Metta?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Dec 30, 2011 5:17 am

danieLion wrote:Like I told Aloka, I didn't call Ven. Sumedho horrible or full of nonsense.
I didn't dismiss Ven. Sumedho's thoughtful exposition (aren't all his exposition's thoughtful).
Do you really think the adjective "horrible" is inherently mean-hearted?
May you grow fat with unbounded friendliness.
D :heart:

Yes, but it certainly sounded very dismissive since it was the only thing you said about Aloka's post.

There are a variety of translations of Pali terms. Calling them "horrible" isn't conducive to positive conversation, as is obvious from Aloka's reaction.

May your heart be full of loving kindness, or whatever translation you prefer...

:heart:
:hug:
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Re: The purpose of cultivating Metta?

Postby Coyote » Fri Dec 30, 2011 5:34 pm

I just want to thank everyone for the interesting dicussion that this question has generated and for the contributions that have been given by all.
In light of what has been written, would it be fair to say that the Theravada understanding is that while cultivating Metta can help supress the three poisons (as well as other practices targeting Attachment and Ignorance), only Panna, via Vipassana into the four noble truths, three characteristics ect. can elimate them entirley and so lead to Nibbana?
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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