Does metta more accurately mean goodwill or loving-kindness?

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SecretSage
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Does metta more accurately mean goodwill or loving-kindness?

Post by SecretSage »

Metta is often translated as goodwill or loving-kindness, which translation is more accurate for practice?

It seems to me that goodwill or benevolence makes for a more accurate translation that correlates into this physical reality.

Metta can't be a loving feeling, love in Pali is pema.
And how is hate born of love? It’s when someone likes, loves, and cares for a person. Others treat that person with disliking, loathing, and detestation. They think: ‘These others dislike the person I like.’ And so hate for them springs up. That’s how hate is born of love. - AN 4.200
When I concentrate my mind on benevolence, goodwill, wishing that a being may be happy and healthy I feel less attached and happier myself.
When I concentrate my mind on love for a being sometimes it makes me feel upset and angry, it doesn't feel right.

Some of the suttas also support what I thought that metta more translates to wishing well, that all may be happy, like benevolence.

A way of objectively measuring if metta is developed is given:
Take a mendicant who says: ‘I’ve developed the heart’s release by love. I’ve cultivated it, made it my vehicle and my basis, kept it up, consolidated it, and properly implemented it. Yet somehow ill will still occupies my mind.’ They should be told, ‘Not so, venerable! Don’t say that. Don’t misrepresent the Buddha, for misrepresentation of the Buddha is not good. And the Buddha would not say that.

It’s impossible, reverend, it cannot happen that the heart’s release by love has been developed and properly implemented, yet somehow ill will still occupies the mind. For it is the heart’s release by love that is the escape from ill will.’ - AN 6.13
This seems to imply that metta is the opposite of ill-will or byāpādo like goodwill or benevolence instead of loving-kindness.
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mjaviem
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Re: Does metta more accurately mean goodwill or loving-kindness?

Post by mjaviem »

Perhaps metta is the absence of any disposition to do harm and inflict pain. We can call this benevolence but I wouldn't say it means a disposition to actively do good. I think it isn't about fighting battles to bring justice to the world. I think it's more about not doing harm including not doing harm by omission.
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Re: Does metta more accurately mean goodwill or loving-kindness?

Post by Sam Vara »

I don't think the actual word used matters too much. Words don't have some special essential meaning, and even if they did, there are further problems involved in translating terms from one language with all its cultural associations into another language.

"Love" in English is polysemous. It has a very wide range of meanings, taking in the religious, the passionately sexual, the platonic friendship, parental feelings, and mere preference. Usually, we can work out which one is meant by looking at the context in which the word is used. When we see a word from another ancient and alien culture, like metta, we lack the exact nuances but it's pretty clear from the context what it means and doesn't mean.

That wish or feeling that a being be well and happy, that they not suffer and that they experience good fortune, without any corresponding desire for ourselves: we can certainly call that "loving kindness" as well as "benevolence" or "goodwill". Christians have been doing that for centuries, sometimes borrowing the Greek term agapē to differentiate it from "lower forms" like sexual desire or brotherly affection.

So I think it's just a matter of preference - what people feel most comfortable with. If you associate "love" with sex or sensuality so closely that "loving kindness" brings up the wrong type of associations, then steer clear of the term. If, however, your mind is able to accommodate the term and remain peaceful and open, then "loving kindness" is fine. The emotional territory is the important thing, not the linguistic map.
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Re: Does metta more accurately mean goodwill or loving-kindness?

Post by SarathW »

Perhaps it is better to understand the application of these terms as there is no English term to separate these factors,

To me, Metta means love, Karuna means kindness and Muditha means goodwill (appreciative joy).
You extend the Metta to your enemies.
You extend Karuna to the sick and the less privileged such as animals.
You extend Muditha to both with their success.

You practice Upekkha with all the above.
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mjaviem
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Re: Does metta more accurately mean goodwill or loving-kindness?

Post by mjaviem »

Sam Vara wrote: Mon Sep 18, 2023 8:49 pm ...
That wish or feeling that a being be well and happy, that they not suffer and that they experience good fortune, without any corresponding desire for ourselves...
I don't think this to be the meaning of metta. Yearning that our loved ones reach their destination safely in their trip without any suffering probably isn't about metta. Abandoning a revenge against someone looks more like metta.
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Re: Does metta more accurately mean goodwill or loving-kindness?

Post by Sam Vara »

mjaviem wrote: Mon Sep 18, 2023 10:48 pm
Sam Vara wrote: Mon Sep 18, 2023 8:49 pm ...
That wish or feeling that a being be well and happy, that they not suffer and that they experience good fortune, without any corresponding desire for ourselves...
I don't think this to be the meaning of metta. Yearning that our loved ones reach their destination safely in their trip without any suffering probably isn't about metta. Abandoning a revenge against someone looks more like metta.
Yes, I think that "yearning" is not part of it; and we shouldn't focus exclusively on our loved ones. But I haven't mentioned either of these things. And abandoning revenge against someone seems to be equally compatible with what I wrote.
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Re: Does metta more accurately mean goodwill or loving-kindness?

Post by frank k »

SecretSage wrote: Mon Sep 18, 2023 6:44 pm Metta is often translated as goodwill or loving-kindness, which translation is more accurate for practice?

It seems to me that goodwill or benevolence makes for a more accurate translation that correlates into this physical reality.

Metta can't be a loving feeling, love in Pali is pema.
...
from DPD dictionary
metta 1
adj. friendly; benevolent; kind [√mitt + *a] ✓
grammarexamplesdeclensionroot familycompound familyfrequencyfeedback
metta 2
nt. (+instr) goodwill (towards); friendliness (to); kindness (to) [√mitt + *a] ✓
grammarexampledeclensionroot familycompound familyfrequencyfeedback
mettā
fem. (+loc) goodwill (towards); friendliness (to); benevolence (for) [√mitt + *ā] ✓

The key is look at the root √mitt.
The word mitta is "friend", not "lover".

friendliness, benevelonce, good-will, are all good transltions of metta.
I translate it as "friendly-kindness", just to make a point that it is more correct than "loving-kindness" (very popular translation).
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Re: Does metta more accurately mean goodwill or loving-kindness?

Post by AgarikaJ »

frank k wrote: Tue Sep 19, 2023 12:12 pm
The key is look at the root √mitt.
The word mitta is "friend", not "lover".

friendliness, benevelonce, good-will, are all good transltions of metta.
I translate it as "friendly-kindness", just to make a point that it is more correct than "loving-kindness" (very popular translation).
As always, the inexhaustible Thanissaro Bikkhu offers this confirmation, with lots of direct quotations following, in 'The Sublime Attitudes - A Study Guide on the Brahmaviharas', p.14:
Misunderstanding # 1: Mettā means love or lovingkindness.

The Pali word for love is not mettā. It’s pema. As the Buddha points out, pema is partial by nature. When you love people, you tend to love anyone who treats them well, and to hate anyone who mistreats them. And there are cases where you love anyone who mistreats the people you hate (§1.1). For this reason, love is not a good basis for an attitude that is universally skillful toward all.

Because mettā is essentially an impartial wish for happiness, it’s best translated as goodwill. When goodwill is developed in line with right view, it understands that beings will be happy only from understanding and acting on the causes of genuine happiness, rather than from winning special favor with you. In this way, when you extend thoughts of mettā to others, you’re not offering to make them happy, as you might in a loving relationship.

Instead, you’re expressing the wish that they take responsibility for their happiness themselves. If there’s anything you can do to help them in this direction, you’re happy to provide help; but you realize that—because they need to be willing to work for genuine happiness—you can only do so much. In this way, goodwill won’t conflict with equanimity when you’ve reached the point beyond your ability to help.

This understanding of mettā is borne out in the passages where the Buddha recommends phrases to hold in mind when developing thoughts of mettā.

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The teaching is a lake with shores of ethics, unclouded, praised by the fine to the good.
There the knowledgeable go to bathe, and cross to the far shore without getting wet.
[SN 7.21]
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Re: Does metta more accurately mean goodwill or loving-kindness?

Post by freedom »

I do not know much Pali, so I understand metta based on its context.
In my own understanding, metta is unconditional love. This is spiritual love, not mundane love.

I explained this here: metta
One should not be negligent of discernment, should guard the truth, be devoted to relinquishment, and train only for calm - MN 140.
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Re: Does metta more accurately mean goodwill or loving-kindness?

Post by mjaviem »

freedom wrote: Wed Sep 20, 2023 4:49 pm I do not know much Pali, so I understand metta based on its context.
In my own understanding, metta is unconditional love. This is spiritual love, not mundane love.

I explained this here: metta
Do you mean metta is like love? Do you think it's about doing everything in one's power to save someone from suffering? Do you think that metta is but a better, more refined type of love, one which is loyal and selfless like mother's love?

Of course mother's love is a good thing. But I don't think metta to be like love here. It's not a bond or commitment to selflessly fulfill a duty towards anyone. Like I shared before, I think metta is about not having ill-will. Similar to what our friend Frankk said, it's an amicable attitude free of enmity. In the suttas we read about this absence of ill-will which is different to be full of wishes to do good for everybody.
AN 1.17 wrote: “Mendicants, I do not see a single thing that prevents ill will from arising, or, when it has arisen, abandons it like the heart’s release by 'metta'.

When someone attends carefully to the heart’s release by 'metta', ill will does not arise, or, if it has already arisen, it’s given up.”
AN 6.107 wrote: “Mendicants, there are these three things. What three? Greed, hate, and delusion. These are the three things. To give up these three things you should develop three things. What three? You should develop the perception of ugliness to give up greed, 'metta' to give up hate, and wisdom to give up delusion. These are the three things you should develop to give up those three things.”
AN 6.13 wrote:... For it is the heart’s release by 'metta' that is the escape from ill will.’...
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Re: Does metta more accurately mean goodwill or loving-kindness?

Post by freedom »

mjaviem wrote: Thu Sep 21, 2023 12:34 am
Do you mean metta is like love? Do you think it's about doing everything in one's power to save someone from suffering? Do you think that metta is but a better, more refined type of love, one which is loyal and selfless like mother's love?

Of course mother's love is a good thing. But I don't think metta to be like love here. It's not a bond or commitment to selflessly fulfill a duty towards anyone. Like I shared before, I think metta is about not having ill-will. Similar to what our friend Frankk said, it's an amicable attitude free of enmity. In the suttas we read about this absence of ill-will which is different to be full of wishes to do good for everybody.
As I understand, metta is like mother’s love, but it is not mother’s love. Metta is universal, unconditional love while mother’s love is a mundane love which is conditioned.

Mother’s love is a limited, conditional love. She may love some of her children unconditionally, but she may not love some that she does not like, or they are not hers. Moreover, she may not love herself like she loves her children.

Metta is universal, unconditional love. We love all others including ourselves unconditionally. Since we also love ourselves, we will not do any harm to ourselves, and others.

If we can help others, we will do so with all of our heart and effort. However, we do not harm ourselves since we also love ourselves. Therefore, we just do what we can do best with all of our heart and effort.

If we cannot help others, we will not have any remorse for that because we did all that we could do for them, and we also did not cause any harm to us.

With metta, there is no such thing as “enemy”. If someone harms me or others, I still love him with all of my heart since I understand that he did so under strong influence of ignorance, and he is dragging himself to undesirable destinations. I hope that he will be able to recognize his ignorance before it is too late. Moreover, I also understand that nothing happens without a cause.

With metta, there is no such thing as “envy”. I love what others can achieve as if I did so. I am happy for their success like a mother sees her children be successful.

With metta, there is no such thing as “separation”. I love rich and poor, beautiful and ugly, good and bad, big and small, visible or invisible,...

With metta, I love everything as if they are part of me, and I am part of them. If I harm them, I harm myself, and if I harm myself, I harm them.

And more…However, I think I should keep this short because I think that you can see them.

English is not my language, so I may not be able to explain clearly what I mean, or may use some incorrect words. However, if you understand what I am pointing to, then you will understand what I mean.
One should not be negligent of discernment, should guard the truth, be devoted to relinquishment, and train only for calm - MN 140.
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Post by sunnat »

If Metta is expressed using negative terms it might be easier to avoid getting bogged down. For example non-hatred, absence of aversion etc. This might help to understand why it is first advisable to have a mind free from such things as hatred. What is left for some sometimes may be goodwill and at other times, or for others, may be kindness or even loving-kindness. Of it is unsullied it doesn’t matter what one calls it for oneself. If it is sullied it may help to meditate on that, or use a different meaning.
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Re: Does metta more accurately mean goodwill or loving-kindness?

Post by Dan74 »

mjaviem wrote: Thu Sep 21, 2023 12:34 am
freedom wrote: Wed Sep 20, 2023 4:49 pm I do not know much Pali, so I understand metta based on its context.
In my own understanding, metta is unconditional love. This is spiritual love, not mundane love.

I explained this here: metta
Do you mean metta is like love? Do you think it's about doing everything in one's power to save someone from suffering? Do you think that metta is but a better, more refined type of love, one which is loyal and selfless like mother's love?

Of course mother's love is a good thing. But I don't think metta to be like love here. It's not a bond or commitment to selflessly fulfill a duty towards anyone. Like I shared before, I think metta is about not having ill-will. Similar to what our friend Frankk said, it's an amicable attitude free of enmity. In the suttas we read about this absence of ill-will which is different to be full of wishes to do good for everybody.
AN 1.17 wrote: “Mendicants, I do not see a single thing that prevents ill will from arising, or, when it has arisen, abandons it like the heart’s release by 'metta'.

When someone attends carefully to the heart’s release by 'metta', ill will does not arise, or, if it has already arisen, it’s given up.”
AN 6.107 wrote: “Mendicants, there are these three things. What three? Greed, hate, and delusion. These are the three things. To give up these three things you should develop three things. What three? You should develop the perception of ugliness to give up greed, 'metta' to give up hate, and wisdom to give up delusion. These are the three things you should develop to give up those three things.”
AN 6.13 wrote:... For it is the heart’s release by 'metta' that is the escape from ill will.’...
Good points and descriptions in posts above :bow: :bow: :bow:

It seems to me that the Buddha's description (Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation): "just as a mother with her own life would protect her her dear and only child, so should one develop a mind towards all living beings" implies much more than having no ill-will. Or do you find the translation inaccurate?
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Re: Does metta more accurately mean goodwill or loving-kindness?

Post by mjaviem »

Dan74 wrote: Fri Sep 22, 2023 8:03 am ...
It seems to me that the Buddha's description (Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation): "just as a mother with her own life would protect her her dear and only child, so should one develop a mind towards all living beings" implies much more than having no ill-will. Or do you find the translation inaccurate?
I can't tell, but as you say, that paragraph translation from Snp 1.8 implies more than what we read in AN suttas above.

If you ask me, though I don't have any authority of course, the text is actually saying that in the same way as a mother for her entire life looks after her son, we too should develop our heart towards all beings without restrictions/conditions.

B. Bodhi's translation emphasize acting which doesn't seem correct to me ("protecting to death"). However, here we're talking about peace and that our heart/mind development must not have restrictions or conditions. To me, developing the heart means getting rid of any trace of ill-will and not to turn it into an all-in ability to protect everyone at reach.
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Re: Does metta more accurately mean goodwill or loving-kindness?

Post by Sam Vara »

Dan74 wrote: Fri Sep 22, 2023 8:03 am
mjaviem wrote: Thu Sep 21, 2023 12:34 am
freedom wrote: Wed Sep 20, 2023 4:49 pm I do not know much Pali, so I understand metta based on its context.
In my own understanding, metta is unconditional love. This is spiritual love, not mundane love.

I explained this here: metta
Do you mean metta is like love? Do you think it's about doing everything in one's power to save someone from suffering? Do you think that metta is but a better, more refined type of love, one which is loyal and selfless like mother's love?

Of course mother's love is a good thing. But I don't think metta to be like love here. It's not a bond or commitment to selflessly fulfill a duty towards anyone. Like I shared before, I think metta is about not having ill-will. Similar to what our friend Frankk said, it's an amicable attitude free of enmity. In the suttas we read about this absence of ill-will which is different to be full of wishes to do good for everybody.
AN 1.17 wrote: “Mendicants, I do not see a single thing that prevents ill will from arising, or, when it has arisen, abandons it like the heart’s release by 'metta'.

When someone attends carefully to the heart’s release by 'metta', ill will does not arise, or, if it has already arisen, it’s given up.”
AN 6.107 wrote: “Mendicants, there are these three things. What three? Greed, hate, and delusion. These are the three things. To give up these three things you should develop three things. What three? You should develop the perception of ugliness to give up greed, 'metta' to give up hate, and wisdom to give up delusion. These are the three things you should develop to give up those three things.”
AN 6.13 wrote:... For it is the heart’s release by 'metta' that is the escape from ill will.’...
Good points and descriptions in posts above :bow: :bow: :bow:

It seems to me that the Buddha's description (Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation): "just as a mother with her own life would protect her her dear and only child, so should one develop a mind towards all living beings" implies much more than having no ill-will. Or do you find the translation inaccurate?
This thread is interesting in that respect. Ven. Dhammanando thinks that the phrase refers not to the quality of the metta, but to the fact of having the metta:

viewtopic.php?t=17168#:~:text=In%20a%20 ... %20itself.
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