metta questions & answers

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

ON METTA MEDITATION

 

Q: I am just repeating the phrases mechanically. I don’t feel the metta. Am I doing it right?

 

What is metta? Metta is simply and purely goodwill. Every time you wish someone, “May you be happy,” you are expressing goodwill. It is as simple as that. You may think that you are saying the phrases mechanically but the fact is that you are wishing for the person to be happy, not once, but many times – isn't that goodwill? Actually, as you are arousing and maintaining the thought throughout the meditation session you are generating and sending not just a little goodwill, but a lot of it.

 

Naturally, because you are repeating the phrases again and again, your wishing may understandably feel somewhat mechanical at times. However, this does not diminish or lessen your goodwill in any way. How else can you arouse and maintain your metta than by repeatedly expressing your wish for another's happiness?

 

Furthermore, ‘mechanical’ is essentially just an idea, a concept or notion that you have formed with regards to the repetition of the phrases. Instead of looking at the process as mechanical, try to appreciate it as a gentle and consistent repeating of well-wishing phrases that keeps your metta alive and flowing.

 

With understanding, the term 'mechanical' should actually be regarded in a positive light here. It can be understood as our metta going automatically, by itself. In fact, the prior intention to radiate metta is a strong supportive condition to keep the goodwill flowing.

 

When you say it is ‘mechanical’ you may mean that there is no genuine emotion of warmth or love present. However, in Buddhist psychology, metta is a mental factor (sankhāra) and the feeling (vedanā) associated with it may be a calm and equanimous one.

 

Please bear in mind that meditation is a mental activity. Therefore you are developing metta at a mental level by repeating the well-wishing phrases again and again. This repetition and focus on metta builds up your concentration in metta which actively strengthens and conditions your mind to speak and act with metta in everyday life.

 

Now, coming to the question of feeling – what kind of feeling do you think you should have when radiating metta? Can you say? A kind of warm and fuzzy feeling in the heart? Possibly there may be a misunderstanding regarding the feeling you think or imagine you should have.

 

Actually, in Buddhist psychology, metta is not classified as a feeling (vedanā) but as a mental factor (sankhāra or cetasika). Metta is the mental factor of goodwill, lovingkindness, friendliness and benevolence. Similarly, the opposite of metta – hatred, ill-will or anger – also counts as a mental factor. In Buddhist psychology, feeling is categorized into three types – pleasant, painful and neutral.

 

Thus, metta can be accompanied by a pleasant or neutral feeling. In this case, neutral can be equated with a calm and peaceful feeling. Hence, you can radiate metta accompanied by either a pleasant feeling or a calm and peaceful feeling. In comparison, when hatred or anger are present in the mind, the accompanying feeling is always painful or unpleasant.

 

The ‘feeling’ or experience of metta may be felt generally in the mind or perhaps in the chest area or heart region – a feeling of goodwill, kindliness, friendliness or warmth radiating from there.

 

When radiating metta, you can deliberately and intensely concentrate on the meaning of the phrase, “May you be happy.” You can deeply feel your earnest wish for the person to be happy. Similarly, when you repeat the other phrases, you can consciously feel your earnest wish for the person to be safe, peaceful, healthy and to be able to take care of himself or herself happily. That is goodwill – your earnest wish for the wellbeing of the person.

 

So you can say there is a kind of feeling there when you concentrate on the meaning of the words. Of course, as you keep on repeating your wishes, you can not and may not always reflect so elaborately on the meaning of the phrases and the repetition may seem mechanical. Yet although you don’t concentrate on or think about the meaning, you already know it well without having to reflect on it each time. You fully comprehend that these phrases express your wish for the wellbeing of the person.

 

Thus, you may be repeating your metta phrases in a calm, peaceful and relaxed manner. This repetition does effectively build up concentration, having a mantra-like effect by keeping out irrelevant and extraneous thoughts. At times, concentration may wane and the mind wanders. The meditator’s work then is just to keep bringing the mind back to metta whenever it wanders.

 

Whenever you want to feel the wish more intensely or clearly, you concentrate on the meaning of the phrases and on your wish for the person to be happy. However, it may be tiring to continuously do this, so you alternate between this form of concentration and the more relaxed "sitting back" and just repeating the phrases in a more “mechanical" manner. Though somewhat perfunctory, you are, as we have explained above, maintaining and sustaining metta in your mind.

 

With time, the mind will find its own balance between the concentration on the wish and the more relaxed form of repetition. As you practise more, you will experience a good and wholesome feeling as you keep repeating the phrases – the mind feels calm, peaceful and pleasant. And that is as it should be, for this is the feeling that goodwill naturally produces. Furthermore, when you get up from your metta sitting, you feel happy that you have applied yourself to your practice, that you have dedicated time to wish well for specific individuals and for beings in general.

 

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Q: Must we keep repeating the phrases? Is there a time when we just let go of the phrases and maintain a wordless form of metta?

 

A: Metta is the wish for the welfare of a being or beings. Actually, the very phrase expressing the wish is the metta. Without expressing the phrase, there is no metta. If you would just sit there observing the breath, body and mind as you do in vipassana (insight) meditation, then you are practising vipassana and not metta. Thus, repeating the phrase is the most natural thing to do and is precisely what keeps the metta flowing.

 

Metta operates in the realm of concepts. It is a conceptual practice. There is a concept or idea, i.e., the phrase wishing for the welfare of a being. That being, too, is a concept, for in Buddhist teachings, a being is a conventional idea since ultimately that being is seen as made up of impermanent aggregates that lack an intrinsic selfhood.

 

In the famous Metta Sutta (Discourse on Lovingkindness), the Buddha instructed that the practitioner of metta should wish: “May all beings be happy and safe. May they have happy minds.” ("Sukhino vā khemino hontu, sabbe sattā bhavantu sukhitattā!”) Here or in any other suttas (discourses) the Buddha gave no instruction to eventually drop the phrase.

 

On a practical or rational level, it doesn’t make sense to drop the phrase as reciting/repeating the phrase is precisely what keeps the metta going. Once we stop thinking the thought, “May so-and-so be happy” or “May all beings be happy,” the metta stops. Sure, the feeling of goodwill may linger for a while but if we don’t pick up the thought again, that feeling will taper off. Then we are back to perhaps resting in the breath and body and mind awareness. We can still remain calm and peaceful but we are now resting in vipassana objects, not practising or radiating metta.

 

When I was doing intensive samatha practice, including metta and the other three brahmaviharas (divine abidings), for five months after 11 months of vipassana practice at the Mahasi Centre in Rangoon in 1988, my teacher Sayadaw U Pandita also did not instruct me to drop the repetition of the metta phrases.

 

I can understand why there is a school of thought that thinks that the repetition of phrases should eventually be dropped because it is perceived that the repetition might get in the way of the developing concentration and that metta should ideally be practised without words. But as we have pointed out, no repetition means no metta and that the words, in fact, bring out the metta. In other words, the phrases and the metta are inter-dependent and inter-connected. They are, in fact, inseparable.

 

Now it needs also to be pointed out that the repetition has a mantra-like effect – it builds up and intensifies the concentration by keeping the mind on metta and preventing it from wandering off elsewhere. With practice, we gain skill and dexterity to the extent that the repetition is effortless and the metta keeps flowing naturally and easily.

 

There are many ways to do the repetition and, of course, it is all a mental activity. The standard phrases are “May so-and-so be happy,” “May she be safe,” “May she be peaceful,” “May she be healthy,” “May she take care of herself happily.” We can repeat the phrases at a slow, moderate or fast pace. We can repeat one phrase several or many times before moving on to the next. We can also choose to recite just one particular phrase. Sometimes we can also stay with just one single word, “happy, happy.”

 

In addition we can formulate our own phrases or a specific wish that comes to our mind for that person. Thoughts about the person may arise, memories of time spent together, recollection of the person’s kindness to us, etc. This need not necessarily be distracting – it can help us to arouse metta and the feeling of goodwill, affection and gratitude towards the person.

 

With practice and familiarity, we find the metta phrases and thoughts flow very smoothly and easily. Even when the mind moves from one person to another, it is effortless and seamless. It is like a monkey swinging gracefully from one branch to another and stretching out a hand to pluck a fruit.

 

The mind becomes nimble, versatile, flexible, swift, light and agile. It can send metta to one, several or many persons for a longer or shorter time. It can move back and forth between persons. It can send metta to all beings. There is no fixed one way of doing metta. The mind is creative, innovative and imaginative.

 

We can compare this to a music conductor, who, flourishing his baton, directs an orchestra and making the most beautiful music with highs and lows and in-betweens, with pauses and resounding crescendos. Or to an artist who applies himself to the process of creating a beautiful painting, starting off with dabbing colours here and there, progressing steadily with strokes of his brush, applying the paint gradually on the whole canvas, and finally achieving a work of art, a finished masterpiece.

 

When repeating the phrases, you find the mind may be inclined differently at various times. Sometimes it likes repeating the phrase word for word, clearly and slowly. On occasion it goes amazingly fast as the words just flash through the mind. At times we may just say, “Be happy, be safe, be peaceful….” At other times we may stay with just one word, “happy,” “happy.”

 

Visualisation may occur. At times, the face of the person appears and you can feel your metta going to him or her.

 

Vitakka and vicāra

 

Here I would like to discuss the important role of vitakka and vicāra, two of the five mental factors of the first jhāna (meditative absorption). Vitakka is translated as “thought” and as “initial application of mind to the object” and vicāra as “examination/evaluation/exploration” and “sustained application of mind on the object.”

 

In our metta practice we can see how these two factors are at work. The phrase, “May you be happy,” is a thought; in this case, a wholesome thought of metta directed towards a being or beings. Meditative concentration has been aptly described in the Visuddhimagga (the Path of Purification), a fifth century Theravadian meditation manual, as “wholesome one-pointedness of mind (kusalacittekaggatā).”

 

Besides "thought", vitakka, in the context of meditation, is the "initial application of mind to the meditation object". Vitakka works in tandem with vicāra, which is the factor that keeps the mind on the object, hence it is translated as “sustained application of mind on the object.” In metta meditation, there may be thoughts in the role of examination and exploration connected with metta. For example, thoughts may arise, recollecting the kindness of a person, giving rise to gratitude and a strong feeling of appreciation, goodwill and affection towards the person.

 

The other three factors of the first jhana are pīti which is translated as joy, rapture, zest, delight and interest, sukha (happiness) and ekagattā (concentration or one-pointedness of mind). When ascending to the second jhana, vitakka and vicāra are dropped while the other three factors remain.

 

One way of considering how vitakka and vicāra are dropped in metta meditation is to understand that at this stage the metta is flowing effortlessly. Vitakka and vicāra, having performed their respective function in their role as initial and sustained application of mind, fall away as the metta goes on by itself, propelled onwards by its own momentum. The metta phrase runs in the mind like a mantra automatically. Practically no effort is needed. Persons, being wished for, come and go easily. Or the metta is simply directed towards all beings with the thought, “May they be happy,” or just “happy, happy.”

 

When it comes to jhana, there is, however, no consensus on what the actual experience is like. It is a controversial subject. Teachers and practitioners hold different views. Even the jhanas described in the Visuddhimagga, a Commentarial work, and those expounded in the Suttas are viewed as different. Each person’s experience is subjective and how he perceives, describes and interprets his experience is also subjective.

 

Thus, we can only keep on practising and attain as deep a concentration and absorption as we possibly can.

 

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Q: How about visualisation? Can’t we do metta through imagery and visualisation?

 

A: Actually in the Metta Discourse and the Visuddhimagga, no instructions on visualisation are mentioned. But I understand that some practitioners find that imagery is helpful for them. They may imagine a golden light of metta radiating from their heart and many other forms of imagery. For some people this might be a way of arousing and radiating metta to beings. It is their way of expressing, ‘May you be happy” without words but in images, in which case the images are taking the place of the words. Perhaps they may also use both words and images.

 

My view is that we are allowed to be creative and imaginative in meditation, there being no fixed one way or method. If it works for you, it is fine. Whatever works is fine. Whatever helps you to bring out the metta is good. The important point is that you feel the metta or goodwill being radiated and your mind is concentrated and absorbed in metta.

 

Even when we repeat the phrases we can, at times, employ imagery. For example, when wishing someone happiness we can imagine her smiling and being happy. When wishing safety we can imagine the person being encompassed by a golden or white light or surrounded by devas (heavenly beings) who protect her. When wishing for peace, we can imagine the serene smile of the Buddha on Buddha images or a still expanse of water like a calm sea or lake.

 

Such visualisation may be used when the mind is so inclined, when it helps to arouse the metta or bring out the wish.

 

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Q: This repetition of phrases feels artificial to me and even a waste of time. I feel real lovingkindness and compassion is being out there doing something to help someone and not just reciting phrases in the head.

 

A: We do try to live a kindly life and metta meditation helps and supports us a lot. It has a positive effect on our speech and actions. You will find much warmth, friendliness and goodwill exuding through your speech and deeds. You have to do the meditation to find out for yourself. Try to suspend your doubts and scepticism and give the practice a chance before jumping to a conclusion.

 

Meditation works on a mental level. When you spend a period of time daily to repeat those phrases, you are strongly conditioning the mind towards lovingkindness and compassion. Brain science has clearly confirmed, through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), definite positive changes in the brains of meditators. Those practising the meditation on compassion are found to be more attuned and responsive to the suffering of others. You only have to search the internet to find many reports on such studies.

 

Every time you do the meditation you are keeping the mind wholesome for that length of time through the presence of lovingkindness and compassion. This is, in itself, a great benefit. Furthermore, throughout the day you are encouraged to frequently think thoughts wishing well for specific individuals and all beings in general. This again is a laudable mental act, for otherwise such thoughts may not arise at all. It is wonderful that you remember those who are suffering and wish them well. Such thoughts will also influence you to speak and act kindly towards all those you come into contact with.

 

In reality, most of us are not spending all our time serving and helping beings throughout the day. Thus, having such thoughts is beneficial and not something to be thought light of or underestimated. As already mentioned, these directed thoughts will have a positive influence on our speech and actions. We will tend to be warm, friendly and kind towards others.

 

The Buddha himself had declared that “whatever a person frequently thinks or ponders upon, that will become the inclination of his mind.” (Majjhima Nikaya Sutta 19).

 

Another important benefit is that metta meditation is the antidote against anger. It checks and diminishes our tendency towards anger. When anger is absent, not only do we not suffer but we also do not cause suffering to others. The Buddha said metta is beneficial for both ourselves and others which is what we definitely would call today a win-win situation.

 

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Q: Will our wishes reach those we are wishing for? Will they have a positive effect on the people wished for?

 

A: A person is just a thought away. Space and distance are not a barrier. When you think of a person, it is as if he or she is right there before you. You wish him well. You send thoughts, which are mental vibes or mental energy, to the person. Because it is intended for the person, these thoughts go, like a missile, straight and instantly, to him, even if he may be at the other end of the world. How can we know what effect our thoughts that are concentrated on the person, wishing for his well-being, may have on him? Who can say for sure?

 

Perhaps our well-wishes may shore up the person in some way or have some positive or uplifting effect on his mind-stream, especially if we are frequently bringing him to mind and wishing him well. Perhaps it may contribute in some way to his healing and happiness or his ability to cope with difficulties and challenges in life. It is interesting to note that in quantum physics, the observer has been found to have an effect on the thing observed. So, who knows, if our wholesome thoughts, too, may have an effect on the person towards whom they are aimed?

 

There have been numerous anecdotal accounts about hostilities being dissolved and relationships improved after metta is sent by a person to another who is hostile towards him. In the case of healing, scientific studies have been carried out to determine if prayers sent by people from a distance for patients in hospitals have an effect on those patients. While some studies reported positive results, other studies have proven inconclusive.

 

Where healing is concerned, we must remember that Metta is only one amongst many other influencing factors, such as vipāka (i.e. results of past karma/actions), individual choices and actions, natural, environmental, political and social conditions. Obviously, people will still succumb to diseases, no matter how much metta they may receive. Relationships, too, may never be reconciled despite the best efforts, kindness and goodwill shown by one party to another.

 

We cannot know, measure or quantify the effect of metta on the recipients but we do believe there is some positive energy being transmitted and that this may contribute in some way to the recipients’ wellbeing, especially if the metta is sent on a regular basis.

 

In the case of a hostile person, there is already a positive change in the relationship when one party is able to overcome his own misgivings and aversion to wish well for the difficult one. Even if there is no reconciliation, there is, at least, on the part of the one sending metta, no ill-will or hatred. Furthermore, the metta practitioner is better poised to respond positively should the hostile person later have a change of heart and show genuine contrition and goodwill.

 

And, who knows, if the good vibes might not, in some cases, soften the hostile person and bring about improvement in the relationship or, at least, some damage control in the sense of things not deteriorating further.

 

In the case of healing, we are referring to both physical and mental healing. Thus, even if a cure is not possible, we pray that the person may be healed mentally by his or her ability to accept and bear up with the sickness and to maintain a peaceful, strong and steady mind.

 

To frequently and regularly bring the person to mind and wish him well is in itself a laudable action. It shows that we have not forgotten and that we care. Besides, when we keep a person in mind, we are liable to follow up by keeping in touch and offering words of comfort and whatever assistance we are able to give.

 

So far, we have spoken about metta being radiated to individuals. How about the metta that we radiate to all beings? Does it have an effect on the world? It is wonderful that, besides sending metta in formal meditation, we also make it a habit, every now and then in the course of our daily activities, to think the thought, “May all beings be happy,” or “May all beings be free from suffering.” We are sending wholesome vibes into the universe. Surely, the world can do with less hostility, violence and cruelty! And who can say that our wholesome vibes may not contribute to a kinder, more peaceful and less violent world?

 

When we are around a hostile or angry person, we can feel how the atmosphere is charged with negative energy and tension. Conversely, when we are in the presence of a kind, friendly, warm and gentle person, we feel relaxed and comfortable.

 

When we are in the habit of radiating metta and living with lovingkindness, we find that generally we get a positive response and reception from the people around us. Metta improves relationships and helps make our everyday life and interactions with people more pleasant and harmonious.

 

Let the doubters put aside their doubts and give metta a chance. Let us promote the practice of metta and see the difference it will make in our lives!

 

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Q: When I send metta to all beings, I find the feeling is not the same as when I send to someone I know, especially one who I like and is dear to me. When the person is a friend, a dear one, or a benefactor, I can see her or his face, I can feel my heart opening and there is a warm feeling flowing towards her. But as regards all beings, I find the concept rather abstract, the people appear general and faceless, and the feeling seems kind of flat or neutral and not warm. Can you comment?

 

A: This is perfectly understandable. As you mentioned, the concept of “all beings” is general, abstract and faceless. You don’t spontaneously feel a personal connection as you would towards someone you know. It is also perfectly understandable and natural that when you send metta to a dear one, a friend or someone, who has been good and kind to you, you feel a warm feeling towards that person and your metta flows from your heart with ease.

 

However, you do not wish to confine your metta to only dear ones. You want your metta to be expansive; you want to extend your goodwill to all beings, without exception. That is why you are happy, practising sending metta to all. The mantra, “May all beings be happy” is ever on your mind and lips, rolling out of you frequently and easily, not only during meditation but also as you go about your everyday life.

 

This, too, is in accordance with the instruction of the Buddha - that our metta should be boundless and immeasurable, including all beings without exception. Whether we are standing, walking, sitting or lying down or in whatever posture or activity we are in, we can radiate metta. The Buddha encouraged us to constantly radiate metta, describing such practice as a divine way of living (Brahmam-etaṃ vihāraṃ idha-m-āhu).

 

As you practise sending metta to all, you will find the feeling of goodwill growing and welling up in you. More and more you will feel a spontaneous and natural feeling of goodwill, sympathy, warmth and friendliness towards others. You will see and feel it in your interactions with your dear ones, friends, and people around you. The metta that you generate in your mind and heart will be reflected in your words and deeds. You can’t help it – it is a natural and wholesome result of your metta practice. So keep practising and you will reap and enjoy the fruits of your effort.

 

Now, there are also ways of reflecting to help us feel a connection with all beings which will, in turn, spur on our metta practice. As the Dalai Lama often said, we should look at our shared common humanity – all of us want happiness and nobody wants suffering. In that sense we are all the same, even if some of us may, because of delusion or a paucity of wisdom, seek happiness in unskilful ways and cause suffering to others.

 

Our stories and dramas are the same. We all have experienced great happiness and suffering – what the Taoists called the ten thousand joys and sorrows in life. We have experienced grief through the loss of loved ones from sickness, aging, accidents, calamities, natural disasters and suicides. We have suffered heart break and pain from unhappy marriages and relationships, divorces and breakup of friendships, loss of job, status and wealth, disappointments, disillusionments, betrayals, etc. You name it and you will find others who will tell you that they have been there, too, and have suffered what you suffered.

 

It is the same with happiness. All of us have our share of it, too, when things are rosy and we feel like it is heaven on earth. As Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh put it in one of his poems -

 

“My joy is like Spring, so warm

It makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.

My pain is like a river of tears,

so vast it fills the four oceans.”

 

When we go beyond race, religion, nationality, views, and all other superficial and narrow divisions, we can see our common humanity – that all our blood is red and all our tears are salty. We realize that the feeling of joy and sorrow, pain and happiness, is the same for all of us. It is not different.

 

Reflecting in this way, we don’t feel so alienated from others. Next time when you see a sea of faces in a busy area or even if you were just to pick out one face from a crowd, you can reflect: “We are all the same, not different. We share the same stories, the same dramas. We all have our joys and sorrows, our highs and lows, our ups and downs, our laughter and tears.”

 

“Who knows, if I were to get to know this person, we could become good friends. How often have we heard of strangers, meeting under uncanny and unexpected circumstances, becoming fast friends for life!”

 

As we keep reflecting and practising, our metta will grow and more and more we can feel our goodwill extending to all beings.

 

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Q: Can you explain the rationale of sending metta to difficult ones? Why, for example, should I send metta to someone who has grievously hurt or abused me? Bringing this person to mind would only rake up painful memories.

 

A: Sometimes we choose to send metta to a hostile or difficult person in order to overcome feelings of hatred, anger and resentment that we may have towards the person. Metta is a powerful and effective tool in the practice of forgiveness. Including the difficult ones is also a demonstration of our goodwill towards all beings, without discrimination or exception.

 

When sending metta to a difficult one, memories of past hurt or events may arise. Do not dwell on them. If those memories arise, make the effort to drop them. Keep on reciting the metta phrases and eventually you will find your mind getting in the flow of metta. You feel happy that you can wish well for this person despite his hurtful actions towards you, that you still have goodwill towards him, and that you are free of feelings of hatred and anger which are unwholesome mind states.

 

In some cases, you can send metta to a person from afar without having anything more to do with him or her. You can choose to disassociate from a person who is abusive and hurtful towards you. Practising metta does not mean that you condone the unwholesome deeds of somebody, that you do not exercise your wisdom to protect and take care of yourself and uphold your self-respect and dignity.

 

Sometimes you may ask how you can wish for someone who is causing harm to you and others to be happy, safe, peaceful, and healthy. Won’t this person then continue to cause harm to you and others? Besides individuals who may have grievously hurt you in your personal life, take the case of terrorists, dictators, corrupt leaders and criminals who are causing harm to people. If we wish them to be safe, peaceful and healthy, won’t they continue to harm others? Rather than being peaceful, shouldn’t they be filled with regret and remorse for their unwholesome actions? Shouldn’t they repent and make amends? Shouldn’t they be arrested and punished? Shouldn’t justice be done?

 

Here we should make a few things clear. When we wish happiness for a person, we are exclusively wishing for a wholesome happiness that is not based on hurting and harming others. Thus, we are not wishing for him to be happy by hurting or abusing others.

 

In accordance with the law of kamma, that person has to take responsibility for his own happiness. He has to take the right kinds of action that will produce a blameless happiness. If he wants safety and peace of mind, then he has to avoid actions that will cause him remorse and fear of karmic retributions. If he wants to be healthy, he has to take proper care of his body.

 

Thus, our wishing well for him does not negate his obligation to do the proper things if he wishes to enjoy a blameless kind of happiness and to have safety and peace of mind. If he committed crimes, then he has to face the consequences of his actions, including being brought to justice.

 

Our wishing well for him is just an expression of our goodwill towards all beings without exception. We strive for removing any feeling of hatred, anger or ill will that we may have against anybody.

 

If you are unable to radiate metta to a difficult person because of being overwhelmed by strong negative emotions, you can fall back on sending metta to the likable and neutral persons. Then later, if you feel strong enough to send metta to the difficult one, you can attempt again to do so till you eventually succeed.

 

Once we have accomplished to send metta to the difficult one, it does not mean that we must constantly and repeatedly send him metta. It is understandable that we spend more time sending to those who have been kind and good to us as this is a fitting way of showing our gratitude and appreciation to them for their kindness.

 

Inevitably, our metta will extend to neutral ones as many will come to mind in the course of our practice. Neutral ones may be people associated with those we know, such as friends of friends and family members of friends. Neutral ones may be acquaintances, people we have met in the course of the day in shops and offices and on the streets, people we encounter in the workplace and neighbours who we may not know so well.

 

But in order to liberate ourselves from hatred, anger and resentment we can deliberately apply ourselves to send metta to the difficult ones. It is our aim to practise forgiveness. We don't want to harbour ill feelings in our hearts and minds, that only cause us suffering.

 

Forgiveness is a process and needs time and practice. Don't be discouraged if you don't succeed straight away. And when we send metta to all beings in general, the difficult people are also included.

 

Below are some inspiring quotations on forgiveness:

 

“Forgiveness is not always easy. At times, it feels more painful than the wound we suffered, to forgive the one that inflicted it. And yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.” - Marianne Williamson

 

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” - Lewis B. Smedes

 

“Let us not listen to those who think we ought to be angry with our enemies, and who believe this to be great and manly. Nothing is so praiseworthy, nothing so clearly shows a great and noble soul, as clemency and readiness to forgive.” - Marcus Tullius Cicero

 

“Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.” - Jonathan Lockwood Huie

 

“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” - Alexander Pope

"And he should wish: 'May all beings be happy. May they be safe. May they have happy minds.' ......Whether standing, walking, sitting or lying down, so long as he is awake, let him develop this mindfulness (on lovingkindness). This is, indeed, a divine way of living." - from the Metta Sutta, the Buddha's discourse on Lovingkindness

 

"I know of no other thing that is so effective in checking and overcoming anger as the practice of lovingkindness. For one who develops lovingkindness, unarisen anger does not arise and arisen anger is abandoned." - Buddha, Anguttara Nikaya

 

"So many gods, so many creeds,

So many paths that wind and wind,

While just the art of being kind,

Is all this sad world needs."

- Ella Wheeler Wilcox

 

"I am no longer as inspired by expertise as I once was. Perhaps the worth of any any lifetime is measured more in kindness than in competence." - Rachel Naomi Remen