Samatha Bhavana – The Cultivation of Tranquillity
Metta bhavana is one of the 40 themes for samatha bhavana listed in the Path of Purification (Visuddhimagga).
That is, the cultivation of loving kindness is one way by which we can attain tranquillity.
Tranquillity or Samatha refers:
firstly – to tranquillity freed of defilements. Truly the defilements of greed, hatred, delusion, jealousy, etc. are torturous and disturbing to the mind. The mind purified of these can truly be said to be peaceful.
secondly – to unification with or concentration of the mind on its object. It is because the mind that wanders to manifold objects is scattered, weak and tends to be restless. The still, fixed and concentrated purity gives strength and stability to tranquillity.
thirdly – to the removal of less peaceful states of mind which furthers and deepens the state of tranquillity. This is done when moving from the lower absorptions (jhana) to the higher ones. For example, while going from the first to second absorption, initial application (vitakka) has to be abandoned.
This book talks of the
rupa jhanas in fivefold (as in the abhidhamma) rather than fourfold (as in
In the development of the mind, one has to be holistic. The mind is involved with every aspect of life, and so every aspect ought to be considered. A good understanding of the teachings of the Buddha is important and with respect to meditation practice in particular.
The preliminary preparations given in the "Path of Purification" have appeared often in manuals and writings on meditation. It can also be applied to metta bhavana as well. We shall go through them briefly with reference to our subject.
1. Purity of morals:
This is the restraint from immoral acts, particularly of body and speech. All unwholesome states oppose wholesome states and so it is one initial level of purification. Those done out of the root of anger e.g. killing and slaughtering would directly indicate a failure of metta. Those done out of greed and ignorance would be an indirect but nevertheless still an opposing force. The first is the direct enemy and the second the close enemy. We are often more unwary of the second.
The four aspects of
2. Cutting off impediments:
The impediments mean anything that can obstruct and hinder one's practice. Ten impediments often quoted are:
Though these are not
necessarily unwholesome, they can take away valuable time meant for the
practice. They can also be a source of attachments, anger or other
defilements, to which a beginner is especially vulnerable.
concerns psychic powers. To maintain them needs concentration itself. And
so it would not be an impediment in metta bhavana. It seems to occur as an
impediment more for vipassana only.
3. Suitable place:
The Anguttara Nikaya
says that a suitable environment ought to have the following:
4. Competent guide:
As in other forms of
meditation, a good guide is an important factor for learning. It is best
if we find one who is learned, well-restrained and accomplished in
meditations. In this case it would be one accomplished in metta bhavana or
the brahma vihara.
5. Suitable subject of meditation:
The subject here is of course loving kindness (metta). Usually the practice of the four divine abidings (brahma vihara) are taken together. They all have a being/beings as the object, or we may say that they are all a positive mental relationship for one or a group of beings.
This form of meditation is especially suitable for those who intend to overcome anger or anger-related problems (e.g. bad temper, jealousy, cruelty, fear, worry and anxiety).
It is also very
practical as it creates good relationship between and among people. This
makes life and work in society easy and happy. This meditation is also
generally suitable for beginners for it brings quick results. It has been
said, for one with metta, the mind calms quickly. It is also fairly safe
without much complication.
6. Severing minor impediments:
This finishes the minor bits of work to be done i.e. tying up all loose ends which may cause some flurry or an unsettled state of mind.
7. Getting detailed or specific instructions on the meditation subject:
Meditation, the development of individual mind, requires specific skills and direct practical experience. As such, although there are general implications, one will still require specific instructions that suit the individual's temperament and situation for maximum effectiveness.
Motivation is an important factor for the accomplishment of any task. For the successful cultivation of loving kindness one has to have a lot of patience to persevere and overcome all sorts of difficulties.
Therefore the initial stage involves reflections on the following:
I. benefits of
Such reflections can also be done as often as possible to serve as a frequent reminder and motivation.
Reflection on Patience
I. Patience means
being able to accept a situation without flurry, anxiety and anger.
Similarly we can also reflect on the Benefits of Loving-kindness.
Benefits of Loving-kindness
1. Happily She/He
These first 3 benefits involve sleeping peacefully, and should not be underestimated. Sleep is a restorative process and plays an important part in our lives. If we do not get proper sleep our body and mind in the day will be badly affected and life will become miserable, as can be seen in the case of insomniacs.
For one who practises loving kindness his mind will bear no ill-will towards beings. His mind is also calm and filled with joy. These are conditions for easy and peaceful sleeping and when dreams do arise, the good states previous to sleep will have a good influence on these dreams.
After such good sleep, on waking up one would also be fit enough to take on the chores of daily life in a happy manner. This in turn makes all one meets happier.
In Buddhist psychology, the state of deep sleep is the life continuum consciousness, a state of mind without any thinking process. It is a result of kamma and acts as the mind door. When thought processes arise, the mind shifts from a passive to active state. Dreaming is also an active state that occurs in the mind. There are many reasons for dreams, of which four are quoted below:
I. Thinking in the day
carried forward even after one has cut off the awareness of one's
Similarly one with
good thoughts will have good dreams.
4. Loved by Human Beings.
5. Loved by Non-human
6. Devas Protect
7. Fire, Poison or
Weapons will not be experienced by that Person.
8. The Mind Calms Down
9. The Complexion of
the Face becomes Clear.
10. Death Takes Place
11. If it goes no
further (ie, the fruits of Arahatta – Enlightenment) the person goes to
the Brahama world.
Dangers of Anger
The converse of the benefits of metta would be the dangers of anger. In brief one would quote the opposite of loving kindness. One sleeps and wakes unhappily and dreams bad dreams. Humans, devas dislike him. Hounded he will be by enemies and demons. His life is likely to meet with violent dangers. His complexion is ugly and he suffers ill health. When death comes he dies confused and reaches the woeful states.
Anger being harmful,
violent and aggressive would cause much harm to oneself and others by the
committing of evil deeds through the body (e.g. killing, destroying,
etc.), speech (cursing, slandering, lying, etc.) and mind. Displeasure or
unhappiness of mind will always be there when there is anger. How can one
be happy? More sadness, fear and terror will follow as a result of deeds
done. In short, one does things which one will be sorry for.