(Last Updated on : 06/03/2014)
In Buddhist meditation, 'Metta' is the connotation of 'loving kindness' and 'bhavana' entails 'cultivation'. Metta Bhavana is an ancient Buddhist meditation that leads to the development of unconditional loving kindness and friendliness.
Metta Bhavana in Buddhism
is a type of meditation that balances the insight meditations that purifies the mind and makes insights into a more profound reality. Buddhism says that the cultivation of benevolence must begin with oneself. Thus the Metta bhavana begins with the thought: "May I be free from enmity; may I be free from ill-will; may I be rid of suffering; may I be happy." There is a profound psychological truth in this, for the one who does not hate or despise himself, consciously or unconsciously can feel true loving-kindness for others. Metta, indeed, can be developed only if one gives to it boundlessly without discriminating and without expectation of some thing in return. It should be free of selfishness or attachment. The object of Metta meditation should be infinite beings. This meditation uses the techniques to develop good qualities that already exist in human minds and it further introduce new wholesome qualities.
Metta bhavana is the most universally beneficial form of discursive meditation, and can be practiced in any conditions. Thoughts of universal, undiscriminating benevolence, like radio waves reaching out in all directions, sublimate the creative energy of the mind. With steady perseverance in metta bhavana a point can be reached at which it becomes impossible even to harbour thoughts of ill-will. True peace can be achieved through minds that are at peace. The practice of benevolence as a whole and practicing Metta Bhavana is also a way of paying homage to the Lord Buddha. The practice of universal loving-kindness transcends doctrinal differences and draws all being together by the power of a timeless and all-embracing truth. The classic formulation of 'metta' as an attitude of mind, to be developed by meditation is found in the Karaniya Metta Sutta (Sutta Nipata, Khuddaka-patha). It is recommended that this 'sutta' be recited before beginning the meditation, and again at its close. This practice is invariably followed in the Buddhist countries.
The verses of the 'sutta' embody the highest concept to which the thought of loving-kindness can reach, and it serves both as a means of self-protection against unwholesome mental states and as a subject of contemplation (kammatthana).
The next stage of Metta Bhavana is to widen and extend the benevolence and kindness. This process is of a threefold dimension that includes suffusing metta without limitation; suffusing it with limitation; and suffusing it in all of the ten directions, east, west, north, south, and the intermediate points, above and below. The teaching of Metta Bhavana takes in each of the twenty-two modes of practicing Metta Bhavana is capable of being developed up to the stage of a 'appana-samadhi', that is, the concentration which leads to 'jhana' or mental absorption. For this reason it is described as the method for attaining release of the mind through 'metta' or 'metta cetovimutti'. Moreover, 'metta', 'karuna', 'mudita', 'upekkha' that are loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and detachment are the four states of mind representing the highest levels of mundane consciousness. The attainment of these qualities can enable a person to move and act in undisturbed serenity, armor against the blows of fate and the uncertainty of worldly conditions. And the first of them to be cultivated is 'metta', because it is through boundless love that the mind gains its first taste of liberation. Even Buddhism states that the karmic results that lead to long life, good health, beauty, following, wealth, noble birth can be attributed to acts connected with loving kindness, compassion and sympathetic joy.
There are as many different ways of practicing Metta Bhavana as there are levels of intensity in the practice. The development of concentration through the systematic practice of Metta Bhavana acts as beneficial in counteracting the Five Mental Hindrances of the meditator including sensuality, mental inertia, restlessness and skeptical doubt. The achievement of full concentration of the meditator brings five absorption factors that are applied thought, sustained thought, followed by rapture, ease-of-mind and one-pointedness or unification of mind. The benefit of achieving deep concentration with this positive mind set is that it will tend to imprint the new positive conditioning while overriding the old negative patterns. In this way, old negative habits are changed, thereby, freeing one to form new, positive ways of relating.
The proper practice of Metta Bhavana can lead to the achievement of ultimate serenity, peace and saturation of mind to reach the actuality of existence. Indeed, Metta Bhavana is a tool that allows the generosity and kindness to be applied to all beings and as to the entire universe. Even the practice of Metta Bhavana facilitates the practitioners to attain spirituality with much ease.