Metta is part of a group of four practices. These practices have many names. They are called “the Four Immeasurables”; the “Brahma Viharas”; the “Four Divine Abidings or Sublime States”. The four practices are Metta or Lovingkindness; Karuna or Compassion; Mudita or Sympathetic Joy and Upekkha or Equanimity. They are also referred to as attitudes or qualities of the heart. This week we will look at the first and foremost of these practices – Metta.
Sometimes I’m blown away by the complete and utter 180 turn I have made around my understanding of Metta. Metta is a Pali word that encompasses several English meanings – love and kindness, friendliness and care, sincere connection and open-heartedness, a concern that all beings be happy. For many of my early years of practice, Metta was as artificial as plastic flowers. Whenever I thought of love I thought of the flower children of the 60s. The whole concept felt unrealistic to me until I had a profound experience at a very difficult retreat. It was my ability to access Metta that gave me the capacity to steady my fears, sadness and anger until I was able to see through their delusions.
When I think about the level of fear in this country, the amount of violence and harm being perpetrated on innocent people and the darkness of the political rhetoric, I find myself wishing I could come up with a way to inspire more people to turn to Metta. Often I end up getting a lot of push back because to the thinking mind Metta seems weak and flimsy; while anger and fear seems strong and powerful. Metta, however, is the antidote to fear and anger. Why do you think that is so? Why do you think that every highly realized being encourages love as the answer to hate? What do you think would happen if millions of people practiced this as a reality not as a concept?
This week let’s explore the capacity building side of Metta.