Ven. Walpola Piyananda, the author of this book, tells
a story of when he was a 12 year old samanera (novice monk). His teacher
sent him to the front gate of the temple which raced east. At either
side of the entrance was a jasmine bush. The teacher advised young
Piyananda to water each plant equally and give them eqal amounts of
fertiliser. But, he was to speak kindly and warmly to one plant, and to
use language unbecoming of a monk to the other plant. The young novice
thought this was quite funny, and took a lot of ribbing from his fellow
Since you already know the topic of this book, you
probably know the result of the above experiment. The plant which was
praised and comforted grew faster and flowered more luxuriantly.
This experiment had what was probably the teacher’s
intended effect on the young monk, piyananda, who has since then spent
much of his time practicing and teaching what Buddhism calls "metta",
variously translated as loving kindness, love, friendliness, universal
friendship, and other like terms. The key idea is that of a feeling of
love totally devoid of lust, clinging or desire in any form, one which
does not distinguish among the object of its love.
There are countless stories of the Buddha’s love and
compassion, and the Buddhist texts, both canonical and post-canonical
have been full of discussions of this subject. It has been an integral
part of Buddhist practice since earliest times.
In the present work, the subject is taken up in several
ways. The first part is an article discussing what are called the
"sublime states" in Buddhism, which are love, compassion, sympathetic
joy and equanimity.
The second part begins with the story of Angulimala, a
story which I feel is the archetypical embodiment of the power of love
and compassion. It is followed by a series of textual examples of
different aspects of the Buddha’s sense of love, and this is followed by
an instrumental essay on the practice of loving-kindness. The main part
of the text ends with a meditation practice technique commonly used in
Ven. Piyananda’s teaching. A short afterword discusses the role of
loving-kindness meditation within the whole of our path and goal.
There is a certain amount of repetition of materials in
the two parts, but this was unavoidable since we wanted to maintain the
integrity of each of the individual articles, which were originally
written on separate occasions, though all material in this book has been
specially edited for this occasion. Numbered notes in the text refer to
the back of the text where the references are available for those
wishing to examine the original sources further.
It is hoped that this short booklet will serve as a
solid introduction to a subject which transcends the religious beliefs
of one group, and which addresses our need to have the right attitiude
in human relations if we are to live on this planet. At the same time,
it is also an instructional text which we hope will serve those who wish
to implement the practice of the ending of enmity, anger, and ill-will
in all its forms.
Universal love, friendliness, loving-kindness, or
however we choose to call it, is a firm ethical basis for human life
beyond the confines of any religion, though it is also an integral of
Buddhism of all types, and a tool in the religious meditational
practices of Buddhism leading to awakening. We hope it may serve you in
one or all of these ways.