Does metta-bhavana literally impact others?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Tex
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Does metta-bhavana literally impact others?

Post by Tex »

According to Ven. Buddharakkhita (and others I'm sure), the practice of metta is actually one of sending out a "thought-force" that has a very literal (metaphysical?) impact on the objects of metta meditation.

Quotes to follow from: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el365.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
By radiation is meant, as explained above, the projection of certain thoughts promoting the well-being of those persons towards whom one's mind is directed. A metta-thought is a powerful thought-force. It can actually effect what has been willed. For wishing well-being is willing and thus is creative action. In fact, all that man has created in different fields is the result of what he has willed, whether it is a city or a hydro-electric project, a rocket going to the moon, a weapon of destruction, or an artistic or literary masterpiece. Radiation of thoughts of metta, too, is the development of a willpower that can effect whatever is willed. It is not a rare experience to see diseases cured or misfortunes warded off, even from a great distance, by the application of the thought-force of metta. But this thought-force has to be generated in a very specific and skillful way, following a certain sequence.
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
Near the end are some stories to support this, including the well-known tale of the Buddha stopping a raging elephant in its tracks with metta.

Now, I've also read many Buddhists online who've stated that the benefits of metta-bhavana are for the one doing the meditating -- by training the mind to be more loving and less judgmental we become ready to reach Jhanas, and so on, and the objects of meditation don't really "receive" any sort of mystical transfer of goodwill or positive energy when we "send metta" to them, though they do benefit simply from interacting with a person whose mind has been well-conditioned by metta practice.

So, I'm curious, do different teachers approach this differently?

What do you think?
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retrofuturist
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Re: Does metta-bhavana literally impact others?

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings Tex,

See also...

The power of metta (Classical Theravada version)
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=1643" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Metta,
Retro. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

"Overcome the liar by truth." (Dhp 223)
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Re: Does metta-bhavana literally impact others?

Post by Prasadachitta »

Hi Tex,

I dont tend to differentiate much between physical and metaphysical. Not to say that I view things in strictly physical terms. When an attitude of Metta is cultivated and becomes prominent in the mind stream how can it not effect other mind streams? I mean to say there are no real boundaries as the effects of a particular event radiate through time. In meditation we can make an effort to remain aware of the vast potential that cultivation has. We are not separate even if the current moment might feel that way. We can also have a sense or an attitude that the current moment and successive moments dont really have separate existences. I find an attitude like this to be supremely fertile for the the cultivation of metta regardless of the actualities that may or may not be.


Metta

Gabe
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
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Hoja
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Re: Does metta-bhavana literally impact others?

Post by Hoja »

In my own experience, I've noticed a literal impact on the objects of my metta-bhavana practice. It obviously benefits the meditator, but I have no doubt that it also benefits the object.
I guess we could have a very differente world if more and more people start practicing metta.
gabrielbranbury wrote:When an attitude of Metta is cultivated and becomes prominent in the mind stream how can it not effect other mind streams?
I agree.
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Re: Does metta-bhavana literally impact others?

Post by Ceisiwr »

In my opinion it only impacts others in terms of effecting your own well being which in turn effects the way you treat others and so effects their own well being, i dont think it sends out waves etc since this idea seems to fall into a kind of Idealism/solipsism
“His deliverance, being founded upon truth, is unshakeable. For that is false, bhikkhu, which has a deceptive nature, and that is true which has an undeceptive nature—Nibbāna. Therefore a bhikkhu possessing this truth possesses the supreme foundation of truth. For this, bhikkhu, is the supreme noble truth, namely, Nibbāna, which has an undeceptive nature.

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Re: Does metta-bhavana literally impact others?

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings clw_uk,
clw_uk wrote:In my opinion it only impacts others in terms of effecting your own well being which in turn effects the way you treat others and so effects their own well being
That is my understanding.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

"Overcome the liar by truth." (Dhp 223)
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Re: Does metta-bhavana literally impact others?

Post by Prasadachitta »

clw_uk wrote:In my opinion it only impacts others in terms of effecting your own well being which in turn effects the way you treat others and so effects their own well being, i dont think it sends out waves etc since this idea seems to fall into a kind of Idealism/solipsism
Hello Craig,

Oh heaven forbid we fall into Idealism.

While I have a great respect for discerning between the known and the unknown in order to give deference to that which is known, I think it is folly to ignore potentiality. Particularly when the recognition of that potentiality lends to being heedful.

Take Care

Gabe
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
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Re: Does metta-bhavana literally impact others?

Post by Rui Sousa »

I my understanding we can develop metta in our minds, but not in others minds.

I also believe that if others are paying proper attention they will sense Metta in our minds, either by mundane observation of our body, or by the ability to 'read minds'. But I do not believe Metta is some sort of energy that travels through space to induce others when they are not paying attention to our mind, or our expression.
With Metta
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Re: Does metta-bhavana literally impact others?

Post by Zack »

I tend to agree with clw_uk's view but try to keep an open mind.
If I practice metta with equanimity does it matter?
I am of nature to decay, I have not gone beyond decay.
I am of the nature to be diseased, I have not gone beyond disease.
I am of the nature to die, I have not done beyond death.
All that is mine, dear and delightful, will change and vanish.
I am the owner of my kamma, heir to my kamma, born of my kamma, related to
my kamma, abide supported by my kamma. Whatever kamma I shall do,
whether good or evil, of that I shall be the heir.
Thus we should frequently recollect.
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Re: Does metta-bhavana literally impact others?

Post by BlackBird »

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings clw_uk,
clw_uk wrote:In my opinion it only impacts others in terms of effecting your own well being which in turn effects the way you treat others and so effects their own well being
That is my understanding.

Metta,
Retro. :)
Zack wrote:I tend to agree with clw_uk's view but try to keep an open mind.
If I practice metta with equanimity does it matter?
How does one then explain away the various stories from the Tipitaka and commentaries which speak to the contrary of your view? As highlighted in the OP, I'm sure everybody here has heard the story of Nalagiri the raging elephant?

Here is the reading material:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... 5.html#ch8" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Metta
Jack
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'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

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Re: Does metta-bhavana literally impact others?

Post by pink_trike »

We can intentionally move mind.heart energy within this body and we can change the temperature/color of this mind.heart stream with intentional thought...why not outside this body and mind.heart stream? Some of my teachers have moved my heart and untied internal knots of energy with just a smile or a word that reflected the temperature/color of their mind.heart stream. We share the temperature/color of our mind.heart stream via sound and light waves all the time throughout the course of this life. We project our internal energy with our very appearance, sound, and via the light in our eyes.

We're so caught in our sense of materiality and our mistaken sense that the body/mind.heart stream is separate from what we sense to be "external" that we forget that materiality is merely dense energy and the mind-stream is less dense energy...two relative ends of the density spectrum. Metta cultivates a light-nesss of energy within the mind.heart stream and interacts with the denser energy of the material body that we call "ours"...why would it remain trapped within and only benefit others by the effects it has on our body and mind.heart stream when we know that the body/mind.heart-stream is receptive to every other kind of non-physical energy in the world, including sound waves, radiation, countless forms of light, smell, etc... The Sun's radiation passes right through the body - the outer layer of the body doesn't serve as a shield nor do buildings shield the interior of the body from the sun's radiation. Heat and cold are energies that effect body and mind.heart stream. Even words are energy, as we've seen in this electronic space many times. The energy of my thoughts here on your screen is inseparable from the electronic energy that carried it into your eyes on a beam of light.

So, if the quality of the mind.heart-stream energy can be shared from one person to another in close proximity or through energy mediums such as sound and light, why not via intention which is also a very powerful energy? Some will likely argue that sound and light involve eye and ear receptivity on the part of the recipient, but there are ways of knowing and streams of receptivity that don't depend on our gross physical senses...likely most here have had at least some limited experience with other kinds of receptivity that didn't depend on sight, sound, smell, touch, or physical presence. We're all appearing inseparable in this sphere of phenomenality...any opinion we have on the limits of mind.heart energy is an opinion limited by the extent of our awareness of the Whole. Perhaps the combination of intention and thoughts/feelings of metta can be conducted through time/space via directed awareness, yet another kind of energy. There are some very interesting scientific research results that are causing us to rethink the effects of intention on material and distance. Perhaps there is some other energetic medium surrounding us that we're unaware of that serves as a conductor for intention with focused attention. Are we really so sure that we've discovered all means of conductive energy within the last several hundred years? :tongue:

I'm generally not a fan of "faith" but in the practice of metta I have provisional faith based on what I know about the nature of energy. Like everyone else, I don't know anything...but our premodern ancestors from all over the globe all spoke of the ability to communicate over distances through the mind.heart-stream. Since we're living in a thick, carnal time that makes awareness of less dense forms of energy difficult, I'll take their world that energetic communication is possible. Better to err on the beneficial side, imo.
Last edited by pink_trike on Sun Sep 27, 2009 10:59 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Does metta-bhavana literally impact others?

Post by mikenz66 »

BlackBird wrote: How does one then explain away the various stories from the Tipitaka and commentaries which speak to the contrary of your view? As highlighted in the OP, I'm sure everybody here has heard the story of Nalagiri the raging elephant?
Can't most of those stories be explained relatively conventionally by the angry person/elephant/etc simply observing the calmness of the Buddha? I've heard smaller scale stories along these lines from various teachers, such as Ajahn Brahm's story (in "Opening the Door to Your Heart" and in various talks) about a workman being angry and about to hit him, but unable to when Ajahn Brahm simply stood his ground calmly and without anger.

Are there any "action at a distance metta" stories in the Canon, where the protagonists were not face to face?

I can't find a Canonical account of Nalagiri, but here is Angulimala. The account specifically mentions psychic powers in terms of preventing Angulimala from catching up, but the "conversion" itself doesn't appear to invoke psychic powers.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Then the Blessed One willed a feat of psychic power such that Angulimala, though running with all his might, could not catch up with the Blessed One walking at normal pace. Then the thought occurred to Angulimala: "Isn't it amazing! Isn't it astounding! In the past I've chased & seized even a swift-running elephant, a swift-running horse, a swift-running chariot, a swift-running deer. But now, even though I'm running with all my might, I can't catch up with this contemplative walking at normal pace." So he stopped and called out to the Blessed One, "Stop, contemplative! Stop!"

"I have stopped, Angulimala. You stop."

Then the thought occurred to Angulimala, "These Sakyan contemplatives are speakers of the truth, asserters of the truths, and yet this contemplative, even while walking, says, 'I have stopped, Angulimala. You stop.' Why don't I question him?"
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Re: Does metta-bhavana literally impact others?

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mikenz66 wrote: I can't find a Canonical account of Nalagiri, but here is Angulimala.
I think Nalagiri might lie in the Vinaya Pitaka.

With regards to
mikenz66 wrote:The account specifically mentions psychic powers in terms of preventing Angulimala from catching up, but the "conversion" itself doesn't appear to invoke psychic powers.
Do you think the notion of Metta affecting objective reality amounts to psychic powers? Or have I made the wrong connection here.

As for the first part of your post Mike, I'm not sure. I don't have much to say I guess, except that I'm just going to trust the Mahavihara on this one.

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'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

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Re: Does metta-bhavana literally impact others?

Post by mikenz66 »

BlackBird wrote: Do you think the notion of Metta affecting objective reality amounts to psychic powers? Or have I made the wrong connection here.
I don't know. I'm just trying to clarify what is and isn't said in the Canon and Commentaries. There are places in the Canon and Commentary when psychic powers are talked about explicitly, including how to arouse them (see the Visuddhimagga chapter on powers for example). Is metta ever talked about in that way, or does it simply change the state of mind of the practitioner, and hence have an effect on the people she/he comes in contact with? We've had discussions before on the somewhat related question of "dedication of merit", for which, as I understand it, the Classical Theravada point of view is that it can be helpful for someone in the hungry ghost realm, who can rejoice in the merit, rather than being some sort of "psychic transfer".

My point is not to argue against a particular interpretation (I don't find such arguments useful), but to question whether there is any canonical/commentarial evidence for or against it.

Mike
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Re: Does metta-bhavana literally impact others?

Post by BlackBird »

mikenz66 wrote: My point is not to argue against a particular interpretation (I don't find such arguments useful), but to question whether there is any canonical/commentarial evidence for or against it.

Mike
Fair enough Mike, but on that note I'm not sure I can be of assistance.

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Jack
"For a disciple who has conviction in the Teacher's message & lives to penetrate it, what accords with the Dhamma is this:
'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta

Path Press - Ñāṇavīra Thera Dhamma Page - Ajahn Nyanamoli's Dhamma talks
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