Thursday, 30 December 2010

An Analytical Study of Metta in Theravada Tradition (1)

Mettæ is a pæ¹i word which means loving-kindness. It embodies a selfless love, altruistic love, benevolence, friendliness, welfare, peace and real bliss. It cannot coexist with hatred. It brings about just positive feelings all the time regardless of difficult emotional situations. Sometimes depending on persons, mettæ and ta¼hæ (craving) cannot be differentiated due to that they have tendency to make a change alternatively. If mettæ turns into ta¼hæ, there arouses bias. As a matter of fact, mettæ performs equally upon all sentient beings (Kuddakapæ¹i, p-10).
In practical way of social activities, mettæ represents the state of helping others. It encourages contributing helpful works to those in need of help, such as providing  food, water, clothes, shelters, medicines and so on to the poor. Supporting to the societies functioning humane affairs such as giving education, doing services for the aged and poor children, etc, is also embedded in the act of mettæ. Mettæ can be put into practice as a meditation. In this account, one regards others as oneself because it is hard to love others as one loves oneself. While taking meditation, one should visualize the form of persons particularly, and then radiate the loving-kindness on them. Non-particular practice is also possible. Either the account of theories or practice or meditation, mettæ takes its own sense of genuine peace and real happiness. In this essay, I shall analyse the theoretical ways from the canonical texts, practical aspects in social activities and meditation on mettæ.

Loving-kindness (mettæ) and love (pema)
Love is the most complex and important of all human emotions. If defies adequate definition, but in its grandeur and its imaginative power over our lives, it can be creative and destructive, beautiful and terrifying (The language of love, p-9). Love is more than simply affection. Herein, according to Theravæda Buddhist perspective, mettæ is meant to connote wishing others welfare, peace and progress. It is the aspiration for the true happiness of any, and ultimately all sentient beings, for all these are like oneself in liking happiness and disliking pain. It is the antidote to hatred and fear, and is to be distinguished from sentimentality (An introduction to Buddhist ethics, p-103).
According to Kara¼iyametta sutta (Kuddakapæ¹i, p-10) one who wishes to achieve the state of being peaceful [metta] is required to be competent, upright, straightforward, easy to instruct, gentle, not conceited, content, easy to support, with few duties, living lightly, with peaceful faculties, masterful, modest, no greed for supporters. Mettæ is a pure love with limitless heart to all beings (whoever [weak or strong, tall, huge, middle, short, subtle, blatant, visible, invisible, near, far, born and seeking birth], wherever [above, below and all around]), in the same strength as a mother’s love for her only child. In this stage, there is neither discrimination, nor sexism, nor I, nor He, nor She, etc, all over the world, and all are equal under the real loving-kindness (mettæ). All forms of such a deep lovesome would say stronger and more permanent than romantic love. It is first and foremost of the four divine abidings (brahamvihæra): mettæ (loving-kindness), karu¼æ (compassion), muditæ (sympathetic joy) and upekkhæ (equanimity) [An introduction to Buddhism, p-209]. All of them are mutually interrelated each other.
On the other hand, the term pema is used for the love exchanged between sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives or members of the family, relatives, etc. therefore, pema means ordinary love which binds one person to another as a rope does. It makes one inseparable from the other (Abhidhamma in daily life, p-25). The love between husband and wife who had already become Sotæpanna (stream-winner) should be considered first. As they love each other sincerely enough, they did not think of being unfaithful. As their minds were so pure they hold each other in high esteem and did not want to be separated from each other. They always wanted to be together in samsæra. Such a desire to be together is chanda (wish). Those virtuous noble people would bind them to each other, and all their meritorious actions would lead them to a good destination.