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the whole entire universe and every being within it would be the limitretrofuturist wrote:But what is the extent (as documented within the Classical Theravada tradition) to which metta can actually be "radiated" to others, and to which someone somewhere with whom you have no other contact could "feel the love" and be positively transformed by their exposure to "radiated metta"?
The subjective benefit of universal love is evident enough. The enjoyment of well-being, good health, peace of mind, radiant features, and the affection and goodwill of all are indeed great blessings of life accruing from the practice of metta-meditation. But what is even more wonderful is the impact which metta has on the environment and on other beings, including animals and devas, as the Pali scriptures and commentaries illustrate with a number of memorable stories.
Once the Buddha was returning from his almsround together with his retinue of monks. As they were nearing the prison, in consideration of a handsome bribe from Devadatta, the Buddha's evil and ambitious cousin, the executioner let loose the fierce elephant Nalagiri, which was used for the execution of criminals. As the intoxicated elephant rushed towards the Buddha trumpeting fearfully, the Buddha projected powerful thoughts of metta towards it. Venerable Ananda, the Buddha's attendant, was so deeply concerned about the Buddha's safety that he ran in front of the Buddha to shield him, but the Buddha asked him to stand aside since the projection of love itself was quite sufficient. The impact of the Buddha's metta-radiation was so immediate and overwhelming that by the time the animal neared the Buddha it was completely tamed as though a drunken wretch had suddenly become sober by the magical power of a spell. The tusker, it is said, bowed down in reverence in the way trained elephants do in a circus.
The Visuddhimagga records the case of one landlord of Pataliputra (modern Patna), Visakha by name. It seems he had heard that the island of Sri Lanka was a veritable garden of Dhamma with its innumerable shrines and stupas adorning the isle. And blessed with a favorable climate, the people were highly righteous, following the Teaching of the Buddha with great fervor and sincerity.
Visakha decided to visit Sri Lanka and spend the rest of his life there as a monk. Accordingly, he made over his great fortune to his wife and children and left home with a single gold coin. He stopped for some time at the port town of Tamralipi (modern Tamluk) waiting for a ship, and during that time engaged himself in business and made a thousand gold coins.
Eventually he reached Sri Lanka and went to the capital city of Anuradhapura. There he went to the famous Mahavihara and asked the abbot's permission to enter the Sangha. As he was led to the chapter house for the ordination ceremony, the purse containing the thousand gold coins dropped out from under his belt. When asked, "What is it?" he said, "I have a thousand gold coins, sir." When he was told that a monk cannot possess any money, he said, "I don't want to possess it but I wanted to distribute it among all who come for this ceremony." Accordingly he opened his purse and strewed the entire yard of the chapter house, saying, "Let no one who has come to witness Visakha's ordination depart empty-handed."
After spending five years with his teacher, he now decided to go to the famous Cittalapabbata forest, where a good number of monks with supernatural powers lived. Accordingly, he went to the jungle-monastery of Cittalapabbata. On his way he came to a fork in the road and stood wondering which way to turn. Since he had been practicing metta-meditation assiduously, he found a certain deva living in the rock there, holding out a hand pointing the road to him. After reaching the Cittalapabbata jungle-monastery, he occupied one of the huts.
Having stayed there for four months, as he was thinking of leaving the next morning, he heard somebody weeping, and when he asked, "Who is that?" the deva living in the manila tree at the end of the walkway said, "Venerable sir, I am Maniliya (i.e., belonging to the manila tree)."
"Why are you weeping?"
"Because you are thinking of going away from here."
"What good does my living here do you?"
"Venerable sir, so long as you live here, the devas and other non-human beings treat each other with kindness. When you are gone, they will again start their wrangling and quarrels."
"Well, if my living here makes all of you live at peace, it is good." And so he stayed on for another four months. It is said that when he again thought of going, again the deity wept. So this Elder stayed on permanently and attained Nibbana there. Such is the impact of metta-bhavana on others, even among invisible beings.
There is also the famous story of the cow. It seems that a cow was giving milk to her calf in a forest. A hunter wanting to kill her flung a spear which, when it struck her body, bounced off like a palm leaf. So mightily powerful is metta — loving-kindness. This is not the case of one who has developed metta-samadhi. It is a simple case of the consciousness of love for the offspring.
Indeed, the power of metta can never be told enough. The commentaries to the Pali canon are replete with stories, not only of monks, but also of ordinary people who overcame various dangers, including weapons and poison, through the sheer strength of metta — selfless love.
But let not metta be mistaken as a mere sentiment. It is the power of the strong. If the leaders from different walks of life were to give metta a fair trial, no principle or guideline to action would be found to possess greater efficiency or fruitfulness in all spheres.
In everything man is the ultimate unit. If man decides to substitute metta as a policy of action for aggression and ill-will, the world will turn into a veritable abode of peace. For it is only when man shall have peace within himself, and boundless goodwill for others, that peace in the world will become real and enduring.
retrofuturist wrote:But what is the extent (as documented within the Classical Theravada tradition) to which metta can actually be "radiated" to others, and to which someone somewhere with whom you have no other contact could "feel the love" and be positively transformed by their exposure to "radiated metta"?
Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw wrote:When Dhananjhani, the Brahmin, was on the threshold of death in his sick-bed, a request was made at this instance to invite Ashin Sariputta. Ashin Sariputta responded to the invitation and came over to see Dhananjhani. Ashin Sariputta asked him how he was getting on, or to put it in another way, whether he was feeling better or not, and then, preached as follows:
To a question that was first put as: "Which of the two, viz: Hell or animal realm is better than the other, etc.? Dhananjhani answered, tiracchana i.e., animal is better than hell, etc. Questions and answers which followed thereafter, related to the comparisons made between animal and peta, peta and uuman. Human beings and catummaharajika, etc., and then the conversation went on extending up to the paranimmitavasavatti, the highest of devalokas. Later, a question was put as to whether the life of devas in the Abode of paranimmitavasavatti was better than Brahmaloka or not. On hearing the name of 'Brahmaloka', Dhananjhani became encouraged and asked with an exultant feeling, "Do you, my Reverend Ashin Sariputta, really mean to say 'Brahmaloka'?". This question made Ashin Sariputta realise that Dhananjhani was mentally inclined towards Brahmaloka, and therefore, he stated that he would explain the practice of the path leading to Brahmaloka, and then started preaching as follows:
Idha Dhananjhani bhikkhu mettasahagatena cetasa ekam disam pharitva viharati. Tattha dutiyam. Tattha tatiyam. Tattha catuttham. Iti uddhamadho tiriyam sabbadhi sabbattataya sabhavantam lokam mettasahagatena cetasa vipulena mahaggatena appamaneyna averena avyapapjchena pharitva viharati. Ayam kho Dhananjhani brahmanam sahavyataya maggo. - (Majjhima Pannasa - 405)
Dhananjhani - Dhananjhani Brahmin, Idha bhikkhu - a monk in this noble Sasana, - mettasahagatena cetasa - with the mind which occurs with a feeling of metta that radiates happiness, nay, with a mind well-wishing others to become happy, ekam disam - towards one region, nay, towards all beings living in one region or place, pharitva viharati - remains shedding his loving-kindness. Tattha dutiyam - likewise remains spreading his feeling of metta to the second region. Tattha tatiyam Tattha catuttham - and in the same way radiates the light of metta to the third and fourth regions. Iti - In this manner, uddham - to all beings in the higher region, adho - to all beings in the lower region, tiriyam - to all beings in the opposite directions of the corners of the four regions, sabbadhi - and in all regions, sabbattataya - and regard all such beings as his equal, with every loving-thought that arises, sabhavantam lokam - to all other beings in the entire universe, mettasahagatena cetasa - develops the mind wishing happiness to others, vipulena - and spread the mind covering all areas extensively; mahaggatena - with the lofty mind of mahaggatta jhana, appamaneyna - which is boundless or unlimited, averena - and with the mind free from hatred, avyapajchena - along with the mind free from unpleasantness, pharitva viharati - radiates loving-kindness. Dhananjhani - Dhananjhani Brahmin, ayam - the practice of diffusing or radiating metta, loving-kindness, brahmanam sahavyataya - is for the purpose of staying in the company of Brahmas as a companion, nay, it is a path - maggo - leading one to become a Brahma.
The gist of it is that radiating the feeling of metta, loving-kindness, to all beings in the ten regions is the way or the path of practice to ascend to the Brahma World. The manner of shedding the light of compassion - karuna, rejoicing with others happiness - mudita, and illumination of the feeling of indifference - upekkha, has been preached in the same manner. After benevolently preaching the said Dhamma, Ashin Sariputta returned to the monastery. Later, he respectfully informed the Lord Buddha of the speech and preaching delivered by him to Dhananjhani. Thereupon, the Exalted One reprimanded Ashin Sariputta as: "Is this the way you have instructed Dhananjhani so as to enable him to ascend to Brahmaloka which is obviously inferior as compared to Nibbana, and then, made your way back here despite the fact that there is a better method of practice to be exercised to achieve ariya-magga-phala which is much nobler than the brahma-vihara-jhana?" Buddha then went on to say that Dhananjhani was now dead and gone and had already reached the Brahmaloka after his demise. Having received this admonition from the Buddha, Ashin Sariputta was said to have visited the Abode of Brahmas and delivered his sermon to Dhananjhani Brahma. From that time onwards, when preaching was made relating to a gatha or verse, consisting of four stanzas, it has been stated in the commentary that it was always done without departure from, or rather, without omitting the Four Noble Truths.
What is the extent (as documented within the Classical Theravada tradition) to which metta can actually be "radiated" to others, and to which someone somewhere with whom you have no other contact could "feel the love" and be positively transformed by their exposure to "radiated metta"?
And if this can happen, how would it be explained (possibly in Abhidhamma terms)?