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MIRACULOUS POWER OF LOVING-KINDNESS
I know a private bus driver in Sri Lanka. Reckless driving was his norm. He used to rip the roads with his bus to pick up more passengers and earn a higher income. Despite the fines, warnings and curses of others who shared the roads with him and disregarding the prayers of his loved ones, he continued his irresponsible behavior, staking the lives of others as well as his own. He did not have enough compassion in his heart. He said, “Venerable, wanting to make sure that I die on the spot in case of a possible accident, I drove much faster!”
On one fine day, he simply put this insane behavior to an end. No cops, no thugs could do it, but an innocent baby did it without uttering a single word! At least a part of the credit should go to his new born son! How could this little man who would deepen his financial burdens and cause interruptions in late night sleep could made such a striking change in his life? That is the miraculous power of loving-kindness which can awaken the divinity even in monsters!
When his wife gave birth to a baby who filled his heart with love, he thought himself, “If I die, my child will miss father’s love, so I have to give up reckless driving and protect myself with utmost care”, which he did. When he could develop an unconditional love towards his baby, a new meaning which he never knew existed, unfolded in his life! How truly Buddha had proclaimed that evil can be defeated by inviting wholesome conditions to our heart, just like a carpenter uses a smaller peg to drive out a bigger peg? (Vithakkasantana sutta – MN)
You see, parents live because of children, and children live because of parents – a binding interdependence brought about by love! In brief, all good things in the world run on love at different paces.
Many Sri-Lankans are of the habit of harshly criticizing others (and also themselves) for their undesirable behaviors but to no avail. In fact, all what our society needs is love, to heal our sick hearts.
Buddha gave much emphasis on cultivating this loving-kindness (Metta) as a meditation. It can make our lives sweeter, warmer and much more meaningful.
Regrettably, many Sri-Lankan meditators are stuck up in reciting some phrases such as: ‘May all beings be well, happy and peaceful’ etc. like a spell without having love in their hearts. Metta is not just a set of phrases but a live state which is characterized by friendliness, benevolence and goodwill of our heart.
Now, when we become angry, don’t we really feel it? Even when we unmindfully remember somebody’s harsh words spoken decades ago, you will notice if you carefully observe, how your heart rate goes up in a fraction of a second, increasing the body heat. If you could not nip it in the bud, your voice will become coarse and face will look ugly. Some people even tremble, grinding their teeth! You are succumbed to anger, just like a skillful meditator easily attain absorptions at his will! This is called “akusala bhaavana” (cultivating evil in our mind, for which many people have developed great skills). You can be so absorbed in this meditation, so that even the words of your loved ones go unheard!
Did you use phrases like “May my enemy be sick and destroyed etc.” to attain that rapid changes in your mind and body? Without any words, without retreating to the wilderness to cut off distractions, you could be flared into seething anger within seconds! Even if you retreated into wilderness and start spelling the well-known phrases of metta, taking all the time in the world, you will not see what metta is really like, if you do not know the technique of developing it.
Just like you experienced anger to the extent of being burnt by its heat, Metta, too, bless us with similar psychological and physiological changes in our life. Metta arises soothing our body and mind – heartbeat and breathing becomes normal; gentleness, tenderness and openheartedness engulf our mind; voice and facial expressions become more appealing! It is difficult to hide metta, when it truly arises in our hearts.
Anger taxes heavily on our psychological, biological and spiritual health! According to Buddha, we have suffered enormously in the past because of anger. How many times we would have been born as hell-beings and ghouls because of this mean defilement? Now, with the help of well-expounded Dhamma, we should try to shatter the chains of anger.
We can learn how to develop metta just by observing how we become angry. Anger arises because of two factors. Anger– provoking memory (nimitta) and repeated reflection of such a moment which sparks anger.
Not only such negative memories but also we do have moments where we have experienced loving and caring feelings. If we want to conquer anger and dwell in much-praised metta, we should comb our past experiences and find such a soothing moment. When we repeatedly reflect on such a moment, we can intensify loving-kindness and enjoy its healing effects.
However, the whole problem is, we have not practiced to savor loving moments as we readily entertain corrosive and destructive moments of anger. Yes, indeed we entertain anger! We justify this callous and dangerous emotion in various ways. One reason for this insane behavior is that we enjoy a strong sense of ‘self’, when we are angry. People continue to welcome a known devil rather than an unknown angel!
When our mind is influenced by evil inspiration, heat (thejo dhatu) is generated in our body. This is further stressed by anger, fear and jealousy like defilement. Despite the discomfort it derives, our bodies are well-addicted to the torment of this fire. Just think how people relish eating chilli…. With eyes streaming and noses running, yet they enjoy the burning sensation of this fiery pod in their meals. We get used to such tolerance in a sweeter sense through continuous usage. This explains why people get easily addicted to alcohol. Alcohol too burns with its innate fieriness. At first, wheedled by others, people take to alcohol, but before too long, they become slaves of it.
This behavior is different when it comes to drinking water. Because water does not have the power of heat but it cools body down. In fact, many people do not drink enough water!
All this makes it clear that we should develop a force against the obsession for getting burnt in life brought about by various impulses.
Instead of heat, loving-kindness produces coolness within us. He who wants to develop metta, should reflect on such a moment which sparks loving-kindness in our heart. Upon repeated reflection, we should make it bright in our mind. In Dhamma, such a sign which triggers metta in your heart is called a nimitta (an object).
Depending upon your personality, this object can be a baby, a pet or a caring friend. However, to find an efficient nimitta, you have to put forth some effort. When you find such a nimitta, you should reflect upon it again and again to make it brighter in your heart. The power of imagination can be used to kindle the fire of metta. If you hit the right sign, you will feel a kind of a coolness, a gentleness and a tenderness in your heart. Try to make it stronger by repeated reflections. Then, you can use the above mentioned well-known phrases like: ‘May my friend be well, happy and peaceful; May he be free from physical suffering; May he be free from mental suffering’, etc., to spread that feeling to various groups of fellow beings who share this world with us.
But before that, we should identify what metta is. Otherwise, we will continue to spell only a set of words in the name of metta meditation without an inner change. Some Sri-Lankans claim that they have practiced metta for many years, but when an undesirable event takes place in front of them, they burst out with anger! The reason is their inability to identify true metta and cultivate it in their hearts.
If you use a person of an opposite sex as aforementioned nimitta, you should be very careful. Because in one dimension, metta and lust are very close. So, you might end up in fostering lust, instead of metta! (Photo courtesy- Wikipedia)
Ven. Matthumagala Chandananda Thero
This particular dhamma audio clip has less sound quality. Please use headphones.
- Sutamaya Panna – knowledge acquired through listening and reading. It is often not clear.
- Cintamaya Panna – knowledge acquired through thinking and speculation. It is not always accurate.
- Bavanayama Panna – knowledge gained through contemplation or meditation. It is clear and accurate.
(Diga Nikaya iii)