Problems with 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.

Problems with cultivating metta

Postby kilanta » Sat Apr 20, 2013 7:13 am

This question might be a bit too broad, but then again, worst questions are those never asked.

So, is it better to keep trying to override or repress ill-will, anger and hatred in the mind by repeating voicelessly something like "may all be well, happy and peaceful" or just observe the negative thoughts as long as they arise? Trying to gently repress negative thoughts by repeating someting positive raises another emotion, namely that of hypocricy, leaving an impression of not doing exactly the right thing. The mind seems not to be able to generate genuine good-will at all most of the time, and when it does, it's faint, weak and fades away almost before it can be observed. On the other hand just watching those negative thoughts raise and pass away gets exhausting when a negative thought is constantly getting replaced by another negative one.

These negative thoughts in the mind are aimed at the individual mind itself, the body it's dwelling in as well as other beings around. Most likely the basic problem is not being able to generate metta towards individual itself, thus not being able to generate it towards others either. It doesn't seem to be of any help to know on the rational level that these emotions are no good and produce only misery for both the individual experiencing them and to other people too, especially if acted on. On the other hand right speech and action do help a bit, and more often than not the negative thoughts and emotions do not raise reaction outside the mind. But sometimes they do provoke unskilful actions and speech, hurting others.

A self-help book titled "How To Love Yourself" might be one and easiest option, but maybe they're not the best option to progress on the Path.

Any scriptural references and personal experiences would be much appreciated.
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Re: Problems with cultivating metta

Postby binocular » Sat Apr 20, 2013 8:00 am

"There are these five ways of subduing hatred by which, when hatred arises in a monk, he should wipe it out completely. Which five?

"When one gives birth to hatred for an individual, one should develop good will for that individual. Thus the hatred for that individual should be subdued.

"When one gives birth to hatred for an individual, one should develop compassion for that individual. Thus the hatred for that individual should be subdued.

"When one gives birth to hatred for an individual, one should develop equanimity toward that individual. Thus the hatred for that individual should be subdued.

"When one gives birth to hatred for an individual, one should pay him no mind & pay him no attention. Thus the hatred for that individual should be subdued.

"When one gives birth to hatred for an individual, one should direct one's thoughts to the fact of his being the product of his actions: 'This venerable one is the doer of his actions, heir to his actions, born of his actions, related by his actions, and has his actions as his arbitrator. Whatever action he does, for good or for evil, to that will he fall heir.' Thus the hatred for that individual should be subdued.

"These are five ways of subduing hatred by which, when hatred arises in a monk, he should wipe it out completely."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html




Also see the talk: The Sublime Attitudes
There is a reason why there are lists of factors, and why they are ordered the way they are.
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Re: Problems with cultivating metta

Postby PadmaPhala » Sat Apr 20, 2013 8:10 am

no, it is better to focus on how those negative feelings can not take hold (root) than to "override them" with a brahma vihara.

if the feelings are neutral, then you can practice a brahma vihara.
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Re: Problems with cultivating metta

Postby reflection » Sat Apr 20, 2013 10:57 am

Hi welcome to the forum!

If you try to force out thoughts of aversion, that's may just be another aversion: aversion to those thoughts. If you think you're somehow bad or wrong because you have such thoughts, you should cope with that first. Perhaps let aversion just be. Cultivating metta is a good method, seeing the downside of aversion also is, but letting be is another good method. The thoughts surely won't last forever. We all have them from time to time, it's human. And it's not always easy to steer the mind away from aversion. It takes a lot of practice to be able to do it in any situation. So it's ok if it doesn't always work. In the beginning it's hardest, but if you persist and don't act upon aversion, I assure you it will get easier.

I find MN20 (click) the best sutta on this subject because it gives 5 methods to use, and in a specific order. I understand them as such:
1: cultivate metta / compassion
2: see the drawback of aversion
3: let it be
4: take away the willpower/delusion driving the aversion
5: tell the mind "no"

If you start with number 5, that may get you into troubles. It's only a last resort. But if you stick to number 1 as the one and only tool, that may not be enough. You can't cover up all wounds with a plaster, sometimes they need another treatment. So you could use this scheme of 5 methods, or you just realize you have to be a bit more creative. Because sticking to a method is another danger.

The mind is very subtle and to get a grip on such mind states is a delicate process, it's a bit like surgery. Sometimes when overcoming aversion you start another hindrance, for example. But with time you will get on a level beneath thoughts. There it will all be a lot clearer, and the list of methods above is not needed anymore because aversion just bounces off.

It could also very well be that "may all be happy" is too big an object to send metta towards. Pick someone or something easier. Perhaps a pet. And if repeating a sentence doesn't work, use some imagination. Really see the person or animal in front of you.

This is all based on my experience. All minds are different in a way, so see what works for you. Be creative.

With metta,
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Re: Problems with cultivating metta

Postby Strive4Karuna » Mon Apr 22, 2013 5:27 pm

reflection wrote:Hi welcome to the forum!

If you try to force out thoughts of aversion, that's may just be another aversion: aversion to those thoughts. If you think you're somehow bad or wrong because you have such thoughts, you should cope with that first. Perhaps let aversion just be. Cultivating metta is a good method, seeing the downside of aversion also is, but letting be is another good method. The thoughts surely won't last forever. We all have them from time to time, it's human. And it's not always easy to steer the mind away from aversion. It takes a lot of practice to be able to do it in any situation. So it's ok if it doesn't always work. In the beginning it's hardest, but if you persist and don't act upon aversion, I assure you it will get easier.


This is true. You should not force out aversion with aversion. To generate love, first learn to love oneself and by loving oneself you become accepting of everybody. If you see a person who seems to be very hateful, do not judge him, learn to accept him as he is. To accept onself, is to accept others. Acceptance of others and yourself is love, acceptance is metta. The Buddha said in one of the sutras (not in these exact words) "These "blemishes we have as human beings can be compared to a dirty spot on our face. If we see a smudge of dirt on our face, we do not yell at it "GO AWAY! I HATE YOU, YOUR BAD!", you simply wipe your face clean. Do not judge. Do not have aversion to aversion. If someone knows exactly which sutra I am talking about, please post it.
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Re: Problems with cultivating metta

Postby Buckwheat » Mon Apr 22, 2013 5:49 pm

Start with cultivating goodwill for something, anything, yourself, a baby, puppy or kitten if that's what it takes. Build that goodwill until you feel it in your heart. Even if you get slightly attached to it, that's probably better than letting ill-will run wild. Once you get a little more peaceful, bring goodwill to yourself, those close to you, etc. If you keep this up, you will soon be able to look at the original object that caused ill-will, and even have compassion for that object. If it a person who was causing you stress, you may see that the reason they caused you stress is that they do not have true inner happiness, so in order to get them to stop causing you stress, you may wish them to be happy (even if it's somewhat selfish; "may the person be happy so she stops bothering me").
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
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Re: Problems with cultivating metta

Postby Strive4Karuna » Mon Apr 22, 2013 5:56 pm

My experience with trying to overcome my arrogance. I would try to conceal it from everybody else. Sometimes yell at it, hate it. If you are like me, and you try to conceal your unwholesome states, STOP. Concealment itself is listed as one of the unwholesome states of mind. Do not hide your aversion. Do not yell at it and judge. The more accepting I become of my arrogance, the more accepting I become of others who are arrogant and I actually feel like I am making progress towards overcoming it. Every single time I use to see someone who was arrogant, I would judge that person and negative feelings would arise towards them. Is this love? Is this metta? No. Subconsiously, you are doing the exact same thing to yourself. It has taken me 20 years to realize how much aversion I have had for myself. To learn to love oneself, is to learn to love others. To learn to love others, is to learn to love oneself.
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Re: Problems with cultivating metta

Postby fivebells » Mon Apr 22, 2013 9:12 pm

kilanta wrote:So, is it better to keep trying to override or repress ill-will... or just observe the negative thoughts as long as they arise?


It really depends on what you're trying to do. For the sake of developing concentration, suppression of a hindrance can be a sensible thing to do. For developing insight, it is obviously counterproductive.

kilanta wrote:Trying to gently repress negative thoughts by repeating someting positive raises another emotion, namely that of hypocricy, leaving an impression of not doing exactly the right thing. The mind seems not to be able to generate genuine good-will at all most of the time, and when it does, it's faint, weak and fades away almost before it can be observed.


It's very helpful to keep interpersonal issues out of the framework in which you're approaching meditation. Affecting good will to someone you're angry at could be deceitful, but the purpose of metta in meditation not to make you a good boy or girl, it is to steady and gladden the mind in preparation for insight / investigation into the present moment's phenomena.

I find it useful to cultivate metta not for the person, but for the personal physical sensations and mental phenomena associated with the anger. Those are what you want to investigate, after all, and it keeps you away from stories about how the person has wronged you/the world.
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Re: Problems with cultivating metta

Postby kilanta » Wed Apr 24, 2013 9:30 am

It really depends on what you're trying to do. For the sake of developing concentration, suppression of a hindrance can be a sensible thing to do. For developing insight, it is obviously counterproductive.


Finding some peace of as everyone, probably. Though the main target is definitely insight, but a bit of both as insight and concentration are said to go hand in hand.

[quote]If you try to force out thoughts of aversion, that's may just be another aversion: aversion to those thoughts.[quote]

Indeed that is the case.

Some sutta says that good conversation helps with many problems. You all have helped to have one, thank you for replies. This has given a lots of food for thought.
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