The Practice of Loving-Kindness (Metta)

Buddha, the Founder of Buddhism

Compiled and translated by Ñanamoli Thera

Contents

Introduction [go to top]

The word "love" — one of the most compelling in the English language — is commonly used for purposes so widely separated, so gross and so rarefied, as to render it sometimes nearly meaningless. Yet rightly understood, love is the indispensable and essential foundation no less for the growth and purification of the individual as for the construction of a peaceful, progressive and healthy society.

Now love can be considered in two principal moods: that of lovers for each other, and that of a mother for her child. In its spiritualised form, love can draw its inspiration from either the one or the other. Spiritual love idealizing the love of lovers is often conceived as a consuming flame, and then it sometimes aspires to purification through torture and the violence of martyrdom. But spiritual love that looks for guidance to the love of a mother for her child uplifts itself to the ideal of the pure fount of all safety, welfare and spiritual health (and a mother best serves her child if she guards her own health). It is this latter kind which the Buddha takes as the basis for his teaching of universal love.

Where Greek distinguishes between sensual eros and spiritual agape English makes do with only the one word "love." But the Pali language, like the Sanskrit, has many words covering many shades of meaning. The word chosen by the Buddha for this teaching is metta from mitta, a friend (or better "the true friend in need").

Metta in the Buddha's teaching finds its place as the first of four kinds of contemplation designed to develop a sound pacific relationship to other living beings. The four are: metta, which will be rendered henceforward by "loving-kindness," karuna, which is "compassion" or "pity," mudita which is "gladness at others' success," and upekkha, which is "onlooking equanimity." These four are called Divine Abidings (brahma-vihara), perhaps because whoever can maintain any one of them in being for even a moment has lived for that moment as do the Highest Gods (the Brahma Deva).

In the Buddha's teaching these four Divine Abidings, the "greatest of all worldly merit," if practiced alone, without insight into the true nature of existence, can lead to rebirth in the highest heavens. But all heavenly existence is without exception impermanent, and at the end of the heavenly life-span — no matter how long it may last — the being dies and is reborn according to his past actions. This is because some craving for existence (for being or even for non-being) and some sort of view of existence that is not in conformity with truth still remain latent in him, to burst out again when the result of the good actions is spent. And where he will be reborn after that is unpredictable though it is certain that he will be reborn.

The Buddha's teaching of Insight is — in as few words as possible — the training in knowledge and seeing of how it is that anything, whatever it may be whether objective or subjective, comes to be; how it acquires existence only through dependence on conditions, and is impermanent because none of the conditions for its existence is permanent; and how existence, always complex and impermanent, is never safe from pain, and is in need of a self — the will-o'-the-wisp idea, the rainbow mirage, which lures it on, and which it can never find; for the comforting illusion has constantly to be renewed. And that teaching also shows how there is a true way out from fear of pain. In its concise form this is expressed as the Four Noble Truths: the truth of suffering, the truth of suffering's origin (craving or need), the truth of suffering's cessation (through abandonment of craving), and the truth of the way leading to suffering's cessation. These four truths are called the teaching peculiar to Buddhas (Buddhanam samukkamsika-desana) since the discovery of them is what distinguishes Buddhas.

The way (the fourth Truth) is also called the Middle Way because it avoids the two extremes of sensual indulgence and of self-mortification. It's eight members are: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. The practice of loving-kindness alone will give effect in some measure to all the members except the first: but it is only with right view (without self-deception) that Nibbana can be reached. Right View gives insight into the real nature of existence of being and non-being, with all its mirages and deceptions, and it is only with its help that the practice of loving-kindness is perfected, lifted out of the impermanence of even the highest heavens, and directed to the true cessation of suffering.

That true cessation comes with the elimination of deception by wrong views and with the exhaustion of the stream of craving in its two forms of lust and hate. This extinction of lust, hate and delusion, is called Nibbana.


The discourses that follow show (in that order) the wretchedness of all anger and hate (there is no righteous anger in the Buddha's teaching); the rewards of loving-kindness; the practice of loving-kindness as a meditation and contemplation; its result in rebirth; the seeing of all things and all existence as impermanent, suffering and not-self, that is needed in order to have a vision in conformity with truth, without which the first stage of unshakable deliverance cannot be reached (for it is with this insight into how being comes to be that it is seen why the price of birth and life, even in heaven, is death); and lastly the attainment of arahantship, by which all lust, hate, and delusion are overcome, lust for being and even for non-being cured, and rebirth ended for good.

But first, before coming to these discourses, some details from the meditation manual, the Visuddhimagga or "Path of Purification," will not be out of place.

Metta (loving-kindness) is defined as follows: "Loving-kindness has the mode of friendliness for its characteristic. Its natural function is to promote friendliness. It is manifested as the disappearance of ill-will. Its footing is seeing with kindness. When it succeeds it eliminates ill-will. When it fails it degenerates into selfish affectionate desire."

The Visuddhimagga recommends going to some quiet place, where one can sit down in a comfortable position. Then, before starting the actual meditation, it is helpful to consider the dangers in hate and the benefits offered by forbearance: for it is a purpose of this meditation to displace hate by forbearance, and besides, one cannot avoid dangers one has not come to see or cultivate benefits one does not yet know.

Then there are certain types of persons towards whom loving-kindness should not be developed in the first stages. The attempt, at the outset to regard a disliked person as dear to one is fatiguing, and likewise trying to regard a dearly loved friend with neutrality, and when an enemy is recalled anger springs up. Again it should not be directed towards members of the opposite sex, to begin with, for this may arouse lust. Right at the start, the meditation of loving-kindness should be developed towards oneself repeatedly in this way: "May I be happy and free from suffering" or "May I keep myself free from hostility and trouble and live happily" (though this will never produce the full absorption of contemplation). It is by cultivating the thought "May I be happy" with oneself as example, that one begins to be interested in the welfare and happiness of other living beings, and to feel in some sense their happiness as if it were one's own: "Just as I want happiness and fear pain, just as I want to live and not to die, so do other beings." So one should first become familiar with pervading oneself as example with loving-kindness. Only then should one choose someone who is liked and admired and much respected. The meditation can then be developed towards him, remembering endearing words or virtues of his, and thinking such thoughts about him as "may he be happy." (In this way the full absorption of contemplation, in which the word-meditation is left behind, can be attained.)

When this has become familiar, one can begin to practice loving-kindness towards a dearly beloved companion, and then towards a neutral person as very dear, or towards an enemy as neutral. It is when dealing with an enemy that anger can arise, and all means must be tried in order to get rid of it. As soon as this has succeeded, one will be able to regard an enemy without resentment and with loving-kindness in the same way as one does the admired person, the dearly loved friend, and the neutral person. Then with repeated practice, jhana absorption should be attained in all cases. Loving-kindness can now be effectively maintained in being towards all beings; or to certain groups of beings at a time, or in one direction at a time to all; or to certain groups in succession.

Loving-kindness ought to be brought to the point where there are no longer any barriers set between persons, and for this the following example is given: Suppose a man is with a dear, a neutral and a hostile person, himself being the fourth; then bandits come to him and say "we need one of you for human sacrifice." Now if that man thinks "Let then take this one, or that one," he has not yet broken down the barriers, and also if he thinks "Let them take me but not these three," he has not broken down the barriers either. Why not? Because he seeks the harm of him who he wishes to be taken and the welfare of only the other three. It is only when he does not see a single one among the four to be chosen in preference to the other three, and directs his mind quite impartially towards himself and the other three, that he has broken down the barriers.

Loving-kindness has its "enemy within" in lust, which easily gains entry in its wake, and it must be well guarded against this. The remedy for lust is the contemplation of ugliness (in the body) as in the Satipattana Sutta (Digha Nikaya Sutta 22 and Majjhima Nikaya Sutta 10). Its "enemy without" is its opposite, ill-will, which finds its opportunities in the intervals when loving-kindness is not being actively practiced. (Full details will be found in Chapter IX of the Visuddhimagga).

In many discourses the Buddha lays emphasis on the need to balance contemplative concentration with understanding. The one supplies the deficiencies of the other. Concentration alone lacks direction; understanding alone is dry and tiring. In the discourses that follow the simile of a mother's love for her child is given. Now the incomparable value of a mother's love, which sets it above all other kinds, lies in the fact that she understands her child's welfare — her love is not blind. Not love alone, nor faith alone, can ever bring a man all the way to the cessation of suffering, and that is why the Buddha, as the Supreme Physician, prescribes the development of five faculties in balanced harmony: the faculties of faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration and understanding.

So concentration of love in its highest form — the form that only the Buddha, and no one else, has given — seen as a means to the end, becomes absolutely purified in one who has gained personal experience of the "supreme safety from bondage" (anuttaram yogakkhemam), which is Nibbana, as the ultimate welfare of beings. For he knows from his own experience that their welfare is only assured permanently when suffering has been diagnosed, its origin abandoned, its cessation realized, and the way maintained in being. Then he has verified the Four Noble Truths for himself and can properly evaluate beings' welfare.

"Bhikkhus, it is through not discovering, not penetrating to four truths that both you and I have been trudging and traveling through the roundabout of rebirths for so long" (Digha Nikaya, Vol. II, p. 90). For the benefit of all those who have not yet done this, the way has been discovered and pointed out by the Buddha and its practicability attested by the arahants.

The last discourse given in this collection, in fact, shows how this personal discovery and penetration to the Four Noble Truths can be achieved by using loving-kindness as the vehicle.


Note on Sources

References to the Anguttara Nikaya are to nipata followed by the number of the sutta. The reference to Samyutta Nikaya is to samyutta followed by the number of the sutta.


The Practice of Loving-kindness [go to top]

The Wretchedness of Anger

1. From the Anguttara Nikaya, 7:60
(spoken by the Buddha)

Bhikkhus, seven things gratifying and helpful to an enemy befall one who is angry, whether a woman or a man. What are the seven?

Here, bhikkhus, an enemy wishes thus for his enemy: "Let him be ugly." Why is that? No enemy relishes an enemy's beauty. Now when this person is angry, a prey to anger, ruled by anger, be he ever so well bathed, and well anointed, with hair and beard trimmed, and clothed in white, yet he is ugly through his being a prey to anger. This is the first thing gratifying and helpful to an enemy that befalls one who is angry, whether a woman or a man.

Also an enemy wishes thus for his enemy: "Let him lie in pain." Why is that? No enemy relishes an enemy's lying in comfort. Now when this person is angry, a prey to anger, ruled by anger, for all he may lie on a couch spread with rugs, blankets and counterpanes with a deerskin cover, a canopy and red cushions for the head and feet, yet he lies only in pain through his being a prey to anger. This is the second thing gratifying to an enemy that befalls one who is angry, whether a woman or a man.

Also an enemy wishes thus for his enemy: "Let him have no prosperity." Why is that? No enemy relishes an enemy's prosperity. Now when this person is angry, prey to anger, ruled by anger, he mistakes bad for good and he mistakes good for bad, and each being taken wrongly in the other's sense, these things for long conduce to his harm and suffering, through his being a prey to anger. This is the third thing gratifying and helpful to an enemy that befalls one who is angry, whether a woman or a man.

Also an enemy wishes thus for his enemy: "Let him not be rich." Why is that? No enemy relishes an enemy's having riches. Now when a person is angry, a prey to anger, should he have riches gained by endeavor, built up by the strength of his arm, earned by sweat, lawful and lawfully acquired, yet the king's treasury gathers (in fines) through his being a prey to anger. This is the fourth thing gratifying and helpful to an enemy that befalls one who is a prey to anger, whether a woman or a man.

Also an enemy wishes thus for his enemy: "Let him not be famous." Why is that? No enemy relishes an enemy's having fame. Now when a person is angry, a prey to anger, ruled by anger, what fame he may have acquired by diligence he loses through his being a prey to anger. This is the fifth thing gratifying and helpful to an enemy that befalls one who is a prey to anger, whether a woman or a man.

Also an enemy wishes thus for his enemy: "Let him have no friends." Why is that? No enemy relishes and enemy's having friends. Now when this person is angry, a prey to anger, ruled by anger, the friends he may have, his companions, relatives and kin, will keep away from him through his being a prey to anger. This is the sixth thing gratifying and helpful to an enemy that befalls one who is a prey to anger, whether a woman or a man.

Also an enemy wishes thus for his enemy: "Let him on the dissolution of the body, after death, reappear in a state of deprivation, in a bad destination, in perdition, even in hell." Why is that? No enemy relishes an enemy's going to a good destination. Now when this person is angry, a prey to anger, ruled by anger, he misconducts himself in body, speech and mind, and by his misconduct in body, speech and mind, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in a state of deprivation, in a bad destination, in perdition, even in hell, through his being a prey to anger. This is the seventh thing gratifying and helpful to an enemy that befalls one who is angry, whether a woman or a man.

When anger does possess a man;
He looks ugly; he lies in pain;
What benefit he may come by
He misconstrues as a mischance;
He loses property (through fines)
Because he has been working harm
Through acts of body and speech
By angry passion overwhelmed;
The wrath and rage that madden him
Gain him a name of ill-repute;
His fellows, relatives and kin
Will seek to shun him from afar;
And anger fathers misery:
This fury does so cloud the mind
Of man that he cannot discern
This fearful inner danger.
An angry man no meaning knows,
No angry man sees the Dhamma,
So wrapped in darkness, as if blind,
	Is he whom anger dogs.

Someone a man in anger hurts;
But, when his anger is later spent
With difficulty or with ease,
He suffers as if seared by fire.
His look betrays the sulkiness
Of some dim smoky smoldering glow.
Whence may flare up an anger-blaze
That sets the world of men aflame.
He has no shame or conscience curb,
No kindly words come forth from him,
There is no island refuge for
	The man whom anger dogs.

Such acts as will ensure remorse,
Such as are far from the true Dhamma:
It is of these that I would tell,
	So harken to my words.

Anger makes man a parricide,
Anger makes him a matricide,
Anger can make him slay the saint
As he would kill the common man.
Nursed and reared by a mother's care,
He comes to look upon the world,
Yet the common man in anger kills
	The being who gave him life.

No being but seeks his own self's good,
None dearer to him than himself,
Yet men in anger kill themselves,
Distraught for reasons manifold:
For crazed they stab themselves with daggers,
In desperation swallow poison,
Perish hanged by ropes, or fling
Themselves over a precipice.
Yet how their life-destroying acts
Bring death unto themselves as well,
That they cannot discern, and that
	Is the ruin anger breeds.

This secret place, with anger's aid,
Is where mortality sets the snare.
To blot it out with discipline,
With vision, strength, and understanding,
To blot each fault out one by one,
The wise man should apply himself,
Training likewise in the true Dhamma;
"Let smoldering be far from us."
Then rid of wrath and free from anger,
And rid of lust and free from envy,
Tamed, and with anger left behind,
	Taintless, they reach Nibbana.

How to get rid of Anger

2. From the Dhammapada, vv. 3-5, and Majjhima Nikaya, Sutta 128
(spoken by the Buddha).

"He abused me, he beat me,
He worsted me, he robbed me."
Hate never is allayed in men
That cherish suchlike enmity.
"He abused me, he beat me,
He worsted me, he robbed me."
Hate surely is allayed in men
Who cherish no such enmity.
For enmity by enmity
Is never in this world allayed;
It is allayed by amity — 
That is an ancient principle.

3. From the Anguttara Nikaya, 5:161
(spoken by the Buddha)

Bhikkhus, there are these five ways of removing annoyance, by which annoyance can be entirely removed by a bhikkhu when it arises in him. What are the five?

Loving-kindness can be maintained in being towards a person with whom you are annoyed: this is how annoyance with him can be removed. Compassion can be maintained in being towards a person with whom you are annoyed; this too is how annoyance with him can be removed. Onlooking equanimity can be maintained in being towards a person with whom you are annoyed; this too is how annoyance with him can be removed. The forgetting and ignoring of a person with whom you are annoyed can be practiced; this too is how annoyance with him can be removed. Ownership of deeds in a person with whom you are annoyed can be concentrated upon thus: "This good person is owner of his deeds, heir to his deeds, his deeds are the womb from which he is born, his deeds are his kin for whom he is responsible, his deeds are his refuge, he is heir to his deeds, be they good or bad." This too is how annoyance with him can be removed. These are the five ways of removing annoyance, by which annoyance can be entirely removed in a bhikkhu when it arises in him.


Loving-kindness and its Rewards

4. From the Majjhima Nikaya, Sutta 21
(spoken by the Buddha)

Bhikkhus, there are five modes of speech that others may use when they address you. Their speech may be timely or untimely, true or untrue, gentle or harsh, for good or harm, and may be accompanied by thoughts of loving-kindness or by inner hate.

Suppose a man came with a hoe and a basket, and he said, "I shall make this great earth to be without earth"; and he dug here and there and strewed here and there, and spat here and there and relieved himself here and there, saying "Be without earth, be without earth." What do you think, bhikkhus, would that man make this great earth to be without earth? — No, venerable sir. Why is that? Because this great earth is deep and measureless; it cannot possibly be made to be without earth. So the man would reap weariness and disappointment.

Suppose a man came with lak or gamboge or indigo or carmine, and he said, "I shall draw pictures, I shall make pictures appear, on this empty space." What do you think, bhikkhus, would that man draw pictures, would he make pictures appear, on that empty space? — No, venerable sir. Why is that? Because that empty space is formless and invisible; he cannot possibly draw pictures, make pictures appear there. So the man would reap weariness and disappointment.

So too, bhikkhus, there are these five modes of speech that others may use when they address you. Their speech may be timely or untimely, true or untrue, gentle or harsh, for good or for harm, and may be accompanied by thoughts of loving-kindness or by inner hate. Now this is how you should train yourselves here: "Our minds will remain unaffected, we shall utter no bad words, we shall abide friendly and compassionate, with thoughts of loving-kindness and no inner hate. We shall abide with loving-kindness in our hearts extending to that person, and we shall dwell extending it to the entire world as our object, with our hearts abundant, exalted, measureless in loving-kindness, without hostility or ill-will." That is how you should train yourselves.

Even were bandits savagely to sever you limb from limb with a two-handled saw, he who entertaineth hate on that account in his heart would not be one who carried out my teaching.

Bhikkhus, you should keep this instruction on the Simile of the Saw constantly in mind.

5. From the Itivuttaka, Sutta 27
(spoken by the Buddha)

Bhikkhus, whatever kinds of worldly merit there are, all are not worth one sixteenth part of the heart-deliverance of loving-kindness; in shining and beaming and radiance the heart-deliverance of loving-kindness far excels them.

Just as whatever light there is of stars, all is not worth one sixteenth part of the moon's; in shining and beaming and radiance the moon's light far excels it; and just as in the last month of the Rains, in the Autumn when the heavens are clear, the sun as it climbs the heavens drives all darkness from the sky with its shining and beaming and radiance; and just as, when night is turning to dawn, the morning star is shining and beaming and radiating; so too, whatever kinds of worldly merit there are, all are not worth one sixteenth part of the heart-deliverance of loving-kindness; in shining and beaming and radiance the heart-deliverance of loving-kindness far excels them.

6. From the Anguttara Nikaya, 11:16
(spoken by the Buddha)

Bhikkhus, when the heart-deliverance of loving-kindness is maintained in being, made much of, used as one's vehicle, used as one's foundation, established, consolidated, and properly managed, then eleven blessings can be expected. What are the eleven?

A man sleeps in comfort; he wakes in comfort; he dreams no evil dreams; he is dear to human beings; he is dear to non-human beings; the gods guard him; no fire or poison or weapon harms him; his mind can be quickly concentrated; the expression of his face is serene; he dies without falling into confusion; and, even if he fails to penetrate any further, he will pass on to the world of High Divinity, to the Brahma world.

7. From the Samyutta Nikaya, 20:3
(spoken by the Buddha)

Bhikkhus, just as clans with many women and few men are readily ruined by robbers and bandits, so too any bhikkhu who has not maintained in being and made much of the heart-deliverance of loving-kindness is readily ruined by non-human beings. And just as clans with few women and many men are not readily ruined by robbers and bandits; so too any bhikkhu who maintains in being and makes much of the heart-deliverance of loving-kindness is not readily ruined by non-human beings. So, bhikkhus, you should train in this way: The heart-deliverance of loving-kindness will be maintained in being and made much of by us, used as our vehicle, used as our foundation, established, consolidated, and properly managed. That is how you should train.

8. From the Anguttara Nikaya, 1:53-55, 386
(spoken by the Buddha)

Bhikkhus, if a bhikkhu cultivates loving-kindness for as long as a fingersnap, he is called a bhikkhu. He is not destitute of jhana meditation, he carries out the Master's teaching, he responds to advice, and he does not eat the country's alms food in vain. So what should be said of those who make much of it?

9. From the Digha Nikaya, Sutta 33
(spoken by the arahant Sariputta)

Here, friends, a bhikkhu might say: "When the heart-deliverance of loving-kindness is maintained in being and made much of by me, used as my vehicle, used as my foundation, established, consolidated, and properly managed, ill-will nevertheless still invades my heart and remains." He should be told: "Not so. Let the worthy one not say so. Let him not misrepresent the Blessed One. It is not good to misrepresent the Blessed One. The Blessed One would not express it thus." Friends, it is impossible, it cannot happen, that when the heart-deliverance of loving-kindness is maintained in being and made much of, used as one's vehicle, used as one's foundation, established, consolidated, and properly managed, ill-will can invade the heart and remain; for this, that is to say, the heart-deliverance of loving-kindness, is the escape from ill-will.


Loving-kindness as a Contemplation

10. Metta Sutta
From the Sutta-nipata, vv. 143-152
(spoken by the Buddha)

What should be done by one skillful in good
So as to gain the State of Peace is this:

Let him be able, and upright and straight,
Easy to speak to, gentle, and not proud,
Contented too, supported easily,
With few tasks, and living very lightly;
His faculties serene, prudent, and modest,
Unswayed by the emotions of the clans;
And let him never do the slightest thing
That other wise men might hold blamable.

(And let him think:) "In safety and in bliss
May creatures all be of a blissful heart.
Whatever breathing beings there may be.
No matter whether they are frail or firm,
With none excepted, be they long or big
Or middle-sized, or be they short or small
Or thick, as well as those seen or unseen,
Or whether they are dwelling far or near,
Existing or yet seeking to exist.
May creatures all be of a blissful heart.
Let no one work another one's undoing
Or even slight him at all anywhere:
And never let them wish each other ill
Through provocation or resentful thought."
And just as might a mother with her life
Protect the son that was her only child,
So let him then for every living thing
Maintain unbounded consciousness in being;

And let him too with love for all the world
Maintain unbounded consciousness in being
Above, below, and all round in between,
Untroubled, with no enemy or foe.
And while he stands or walks or while he sits
Or while he lies down, free from drowsiness,
Let him resolve upon this mindfulness:
This is Divine Abiding here, they say.

But when he has no trafficking with views,
Is virtuous, and has perfected seeing,
And purges greed for sensual desires,
He surely comes no more to any womb.

11. Methodical Practice: from the Patisambhidamagga
(traditionally ascribed to the arahant Sariputta)

The heart-deliverance of loving-kindness is practiced with unspecified extension, with specified extension, and with directional extension.

That with unspecified extension is practiced in five ways as follows: May all beings be freed from enmity, distress and anxiety, and may they guide themselves to bliss.

May all breathing things... all creatures... all persons... May all those who are embodied be freed from enmity, distress and anxiety, and may they guide themselves to bliss.

That with specified extension is practiced in seven ways as follows: May all women be freed from enmity, distress and anxiety, and may they guide themselves to bliss. May all men... all Noble Ones... all who are not Noble Ones... all deities... all human beings... may all those in the states of deprivation be freed from enmity, distress and anxiety, and may they guide themselves to bliss.

That with directional extension is practiced in ten ways as follows:

May all beings in the eastern direction be freed from enmity, distress and anxiety, and may they guide themselves to bliss. May all beings in the western direction... in the northern direction... in the southern direction... in the eastern intermediate direction... in the western intermediate direction... in the northern intermediate direction... in the southern intermediate direction... in the downward direction... May all those in the upward direction be freed from enmity, distress and anxiety, and may they guide themselves to bliss.

May all breathing things...

May all creatures...

May all persons...

May all who are embodied...

May all women...

May all men...

May all Noble Ones...

May all who are not Noble Ones...

May all deities...

May all human beings...

May all those in the states of deprivation in the eastern direction be freed from enmity, distress and anxiety, and may they guide themselves to bliss... May all those in states of deprivation in the upward direction be freed from enmity, distress, anxiety, and may they guide themselves to bliss.

12. From the Abhidhamma Pitaka, Appamannavibhanga
(traditionally ascribed to the Buddha)

And how does a bhikkhu abide with his heart imbued with loving-kindness extending over one direction? Just as he would feel friendliness on seeing a dearly beloved person, so he extends loving-kindness to all creatures.


As practiced without Insight in the Four Truths

13. From the Majjhima Nikaya, Sutta 99
(spoken by the Buddha)

"Master Gotama, I have heard it said that the Monk Gotama teaches the path to the retinue of the High Divinity. It would be good if Master Gotama would teach me that."

"Then listen and attend carefully to what I shall say."

"Even so, sir," the student Subha Todeyyaputta replied. The Blessed One said this.

"And what is the path to the retinue of the High Divinity? Here a bhikkhu abides with his heart imbued with loving-kindness extending over one quarter, likewise the second quarter, likewise the third quarter, likewise the fourth quarter, and so above, below, around, and everywhere and to all as to himself; he abides with his heart abundant, exalted, measureless in loving-kindness, without hostility or ill-will, extending over the all-encompassing world. While this heart-deliverance of loving-kindness is maintained in being in this way, no action restricted by limited measurement is found there, none persists there. Just as a vigorous trumpeter could easily make himself heard in the four directions, so too when the heart-deliverance of loving-kindness is maintained in being in this way no action restricted by limited measurement is found there, none persists there. This is a path to the retinue of the High Divinity."


As practiced with Insight in the Four Truths

14. From the Anguttara Nikaya, 4:125
(spoken by the Buddha)

Here, bhikkhus, a certain person abides with his heart imbued with loving-kindness extending over one quarter, likewise the second quarter, likewise the third quarter, likewise the fourth quarter, and so above, below, around, and everywhere, and to all as to himself; he abides with his heart abundant, exalted, measureless in loving-kindness, without hostility or ill-will, extending over the all-encompassing world.

He finds gratification in that, finds it desirable and looks to it for his well-being; steady and resolute thereon, he abides much in it, and if he dies without losing it, he reappears among the gods of a High Divinity's retinue.

Now the gods of a High Divinity's retinue have a life-span of one aeon. An ordinary person (who has not attained the Noble Eightfold Path) stays there for his life-span; but after he has used up the whole life-span enjoyed by those gods, he leaves it all, and (according to what his past deeds may have been) he may go down even to hell, or to an animal womb, or to the ghost realm. But one who has given ear to the Perfect One stays there (in that heaven) for his life-span, and after that he has used up the whole life span enjoyed by those gods, he eventually attains complete extinction of lust, hate and delusion in that same kind of heavenly existence.

It is this that distinguishes, that differentiates, the wise hearer who is ennobled (by attainment of the Noble Path) from the unwise ordinary man, when, that is to say, there is a destination for reappearance (after death, but an arahant has made an end of birth).

15. From the Anguttara Nikaya, 4:126
(spoken by the Buddha)

Here, bhikkhus, a certain person abides with his heart imbued with loving-kindness extending... over the all-encompassing world.

Now whatever therein (during that state of contemplation) exists classifiable as form, classifiable as a feeling (of pleasure, pain, or neutrality), classifiable as perception, classifiable as determinative acts, or classifiable as consciousness, such ideas he sees as impermanent, as liable to suffering, as a disease, as a cancer, as a barb, as a calamity, as an affliction, as alien, as being worn away, as void, as not-self. On the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears (as a nonreturner) in the retinue of the Gods of the Pure Abodes (where there are only those who have reached the Noble Path and where extinction of greed, hate and delusion is reached in less than seven lives without return to this world). And this kind of reappearance is not shared by ordinary men (who have not reached the Noble Eightfold Path).


The Arahant

16. From the Anguttara Nikaya, 3:66
(spoken by the arahant Nandaka)

Thus I heard. On one occasion the venerable Nandaka was living at Savatthi in the Eastern Monastery, Migara's Mother's Palace. Then Migara's grandson, Salha, and Pekhuniya's grandson, Rohana, went to the venerable Nandaka, and after salutation they sat down at one side. When they had done so the venerable Nandaka said to Migara's grandson Salha:

"Come, Salha, do not be satisfied with hearsay or with tradition or with legendary lore or with what has come down in scriptures or with conjecture or with logical inference or with weighing evidence or with a liking for a view after pondering it or with someone else's ability or with the thought 'The monk is our teacher.' When you know in yourself 'These things are unprofitable, liable to censure, condemned by the wise, being adopted and put into effect, they lead to harm and suffering,' then you should abandon them. What do you think? Is there greed?" — "Yes, venerable sir." — "Covetousness is the meaning of that, I say. Through greed a covetous man kills breathing things, takes what is not given, commits adultery, and utters falsehood, and he gets another to do likewise. Will that be long for his harm and suffering?" — "Yes, venerable sir." — "What do you think, is there hate?" — "Yes, venerable sir." — "Ill-will is the meaning of that, I say. Through hate a malevolent man kills breathing things... Will that be long for his harm and suffering?" — "Yes, venerable sir." — "What do you think? Is there delusion?" — "Yes, venerable sir." — "Ignorance is the meaning of that, I say. Through ignorance a deluded man kills breathing things... Will that be long for his harm and suffering?" — "Yes, venerable sir."

"What do you think? Are these things profitable or unprofitable?" — "Unprofitable, venerable sir." — "Reprehensible or blameless?" — "Reprehensible, venerable sir." — "Condemned or commended by the wise?" — "Condemned by the wise, venerable sir." — "Being adopted and put into effect, do they lead to harm and suffering, or do they not, or how does it appear to you in this case?" — "Being adopted and put into effect, venerable sir, they lead to harm and suffering. So it appears in this case." — "Now that was the reason why I told you 'Come Salha, do not be satisfied with hearsay... When you know in yourself "These things are unprofitable," then you should abandon them.'

"Come Salha, do not be satisfied with hearsay... or with the thought, 'The monk is our teacher.' When you know in yourself: 'These things are profitable, blameless, commended by the wise, being adopted and put into effect they lead to welfare and happiness,' then you should practice them and abide in them. What do you think? Is there non-greed?" — "Yes, venerable sir." — "Uncovetousness is the meaning of that, I say. Through non-greed an uncovetous man does not kill breathing things or take what is not given or commits adultery or utter falsehood, and he gets another to do likewise. Will that be long for his welfare and happiness?" — "Yes, venerable sir." — "What do you think? Is there non-hate?" — "Yes, venerable sir." — "Non ill-will is the meaning of that, I say. Through non ill-will an unmalevolent man does not kill breathing things... Will that be long for his welfare and happiness?" — "Yes, venerable sir." — "What do you think? Is there non-delusion?" — "Yes, venerable sir." — "True knowledge is the meaning of that, I say. Through non-delusion a man with true knowledge does not kill breathing things... Will that be long for his welfare and happiness?" — "Yes, venerable sir."

"What do you think? Are these things profitable or unprofitable?" — "Profitable, venerable sir." — "Reprehensible or blameless?" — "Blameless, venerable sir." — "Condemned or commended by the wise?" — "Commended by the wise, venerable sir." — "Being adopted and put into effect, do they lead to welfare and happiness, or do they not, or how does it appear to you in this case?" — "Being adopted and put into effect, venerable sir, they lead to welfare and happiness. So it appears to us in this case." — "Now that was the reason why I told you 'Come Salha, do not be satisfied with hearsay... when you know in yourself "These things are profitable..." then you should practice them and abide in them.'

"Now a disciple who is ennobled (by reaching the Noble Path), who has rid himself in this way of covetousness and ill-will and is undeluded, abides with his heart imbued with loving-kindness extending over one quarter, likewise the second quarter, likewise the third quarter, likewise the fourth quarter, and so above, below, around, and everywhere, and to all as to himself; he abides with his heart abundant, exalted, measureless in loving-kindness without hostility or ill-will extending over the all-encompassing world. He abides with his heart imbued with compassion... gladness... equanimity extending over the all-encompassing world. Now he understands this state of contemplation in this way: 'There is this (state of Divine Abiding in me who have entered the Stream). There is what has been abandoned (which is the amount of greed, hate and delusion exhausted by the stream-entry Path). There is a superior goal (which is arahantship). And there is an ultimate escape from this whole field of perception.'

"When he knows and sees in this way, his heart is liberated from the taint of sensual desire, from the taint of being, and from the taint of ignorance. When liberated (by reaching the arahant Path), there comes thereafter the knowledge that it is liberated. He knows that birth is ended, that the Divine Life has been lived out, that what had to be done is done, and that there is no more of this to come. He understands thus: 'Formerly there was greed which was bad, and now there is none, which is good. Formerly there was hate, which was bad, and now there is none, which is good. Formerly there was delusion, which was bad, and now there is none, which is good.' So here and now in this very life he is parched no more (by the fever of craving's thirst, his fires of greed, hate and delusion are) extinguished and cooled out; experiencing bliss, he abides (for the remainder of his last life-span) divinely pure in himself."

Suggestions for Further Reading

Source: The Wheel Publication No. 7 (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1987). Transcribed from the print edition in 1994 under the auspices of the DharmaNet Dharma Book Transcription Project, with the kind permission of the Buddhist Publication Society. Copyright © 1987 Buddhist Publication Society. Reproduced and reformatted from Access to Insight edition © 1994 For free distribution. This work may be republished, reformatted, reprinted, and redistributed in any medium. It is the author's wish, however, that any such republication and redistribution be made available to the public on a free and unrestricted basis and that translations and other derivative works be clearly marked as such.

Translate the Page

Search Hinduwebsite

Follow Us