Beginning Practice of Loving-Kindness
There is no one posture in which you cannot send thoughts of metta. In intensive metta exercises, one radiates loving kindness all the time in whatever position one is in – standing, walking, sitting and (if not sleepy) lying down.
Usually sitting is alternated with walking. Gradually the sitting is lengthened.
When radiating metta while walking one does not really pay attention to the sensations or phenomena involved with the process of walking meditation as in vipassana. One just radiates as one walks along. As the concentration becomes more intense, slowing down would be only natural. At times one may just stand still and radiate. When the flow of metta ceases one will have to stop to arouse it again. The active nature of walking is involved with the energy faculty and hence helps keep up the arousing and sustaining of the flow of metta, i.e. the 1st and 2nd jhana factors – initial and sustained application (vitakka, vicara). A suggested period for walking is 1 hour. It also serves as an exercise for physical health.
The best posture is sitting in the full lotus with both legs crossed, soles facing upwards. The back is straight and hands on the lap with palms on top of each other, facing upwards.
Because most people are not able to withstand the strain at the ankles, most may adopt half lotus, one leg crossed above the other. There are other variations like the Burmese method where both legs are folded, but not pressing one on each other. There are sitting sideways postures and so on.
Generally the posture has to be balanced, back straight and legs folded in. This helps to keep an alert mind whilst keeping the body fairly comfortable. In Samatha meditation this is very essential especially at the start, after which one ought not to shift one's posture but remain still for long periods.
We can try to do it by relaxing from head to toe or toe to head, part by part, from externally, the skin, to internally, the bones and organs. Next we must make a resolution to put away all matters for the period of meditation. All matters must be put aside! Now is the time for meditation. Nothing else matters! If one is decisive enough most thoughts can be put away. Then we can make sure the mind is relaxed and peaceful. We also maintain an awareness or mindfulness or else it will fall to sloth.
After sitting in the desired posture, one ought to remain still with utmost relaxation to the point until the physical body is as if dead and not a single strain is felt. The body is as if it is not there at all. Then one may proceed to giving metta to oneself. When it is being done, try to do so very gently or else strain or restlessness may arise as well. Each thought aroused is as if it is a very small, subtle, soft bubble or mist suffusing out of the mind. In such a way we can preserve and increase the tranquillity.
Sometimes people think
that giving metta to oneself is selfish. That is because they
misunderstand what is being done and the mental state
One thus makes these wishes or aspirations one after another and lets them sink deep into the mind, creating far-reaching effects. One recites not just the words in the mind but rather sincerely makes the wish, understanding fully the meaning or idea.
This is done for the first 5 minutes (of the sitting) which should last at least an hour. It serves several purposes.
I. Setting onself
III. Serves as
Selecting An Individual
According to their relationship to one at the time of starting meditation, individuals may be classified into 5 categories:
1. extremely intimate
In selecting an individual as an initial object of metta bhavana, one is advised to choose the 2nd, a lovable individual because metta can arise easily. The 1st may arouse attachment, the 3rd may pose some difficulties and the 4th and 5th may arouse anger instead. One is also advised against giving it to the opposite sex as it may arouse lust. What if she is his own mother or he, her father? Usually it is not preferred for the unstable mind may wander to another of the opposite sex. The other individual not recommended is the deceased. It does not produce deep concentration as the person is no longer present and is already in a different state.
Therefore the lovable
individual should be alive and of the same sex as one. "Lovable" means he
(or she) inspires metta in you the moment you think of him. He would most
likely be one with a lot of metta himself besides many other virtues like
morality, concentration, wisdom, patience, humility and so on. It is
someone whom you think of or meet with a lot of respect and friendliness.
Someone whom you can call a true friend. If you have known him for some
time and had spent many moments and events together with little or no
misunderstandings, it would be better. Then you can call up all the good
that he has done for you as well as the happy events in the past to arouse
Arousing of Metta
The near cause of metta is the lovable person or being. Therefore we have to see the favourable aspect of the person or being.
One way is to think of
his or her virtues or good qualities. We can perhaps enumerate them, e.g.
The more we have of these the better. The mere thought of one will inspire metta. We may use this sparingly so that it will last us a long time.
For example, when we think about v1, metta arises. Every time it dies down, we can use v1 to stir it up again. After some time v1 may not be effective (for the time being), then we use v2 to arouse metta. We will then continue to use v2 to arouse metta. When it loses effectiveness we can return to v1 again. One can go on arousing metta with v1 and v2 until both do not seem to work. Then we proceed to v3.
The other way is to see the lovableness of the person and thus to arouse metta is to recall the events one has associated with him or her that would inspire metta. It may be the help given, gifts offered or just kind, gentle words. One would naturally have to avoid recalling unpleasant moments. We can again enumerate the events:
Event 1. gifts given
at birthday – E1
We may apply the principle on the use of virtues to ensure ease of arousing metta.
When metta arises it has got to be sincere and come from the depth of one's heart. It should be encouraged to flow abundantly and freely without inhibition. There is nothing wrong with giving metta to anyone, only it is to be given in a suitable manner with wisdom and guarded against attachment.
When metta arises one
enables and urges it on with the use of 4 aspirations.
The principle is that when we make each aspiration we do so with metta. This would arouse more metta to keep it flowing on. It is also important that we understand the meaning of these aspirations clearly and sincerely mean it. Before the metta from the first one dies down, we make it continue on by using the next. When we have used the 4th aspiration we start again with the first. This can go on indefinitely.
The second point is that when one aspiration, e.g., "May he be free from enmity", is very effective and can produce strong metta which can last a long time, then we can let this flow go on as long as possible, in which case it would continue to deepen.
However, if the aspiration is not very effective, we may skip it or pass through it quickly.
A third point here is that there is a more positive aspect of each aspiration which can be borne in mind. If one intends to emphasise a more positive aspect it can be used with much effectiveness looking into the meaning of each aspiration.
1. MAY HE/SHE BE FREE
2. MAY HE/SHE BE FREE
FROM MENTAL SUFFERING.
3. MAY HE/SHE BE FREE
FROM PHYSICAL SUFFERING.
4. MAY HE/SHE TAKE
CARE OF HIMSELF/HERSELF HAPPILY.
The last of those
aspirations is by itself positive. The negative variant can be "May he not
have any trouble, problems, obstacles in taking care of himself".
Here we also notice
that too many aspirations for the beginner may not be beneficial to
concentration. Hence we stick to just 4 aspirations.
These are more specific and therefore not applicable all the time and to everyone. Nevertheless, it is a wholesome wish of metta and, when made with strong and deep concentration, will have its effects.
At the beginning, the flow is not smooth and does not last long. One has to guard against just merely reciting the aspiration without feeling. One has to guard against indiscriminate and uncontrolled thinking (which leads to restlessness) while trying to arouse metta. One also has to guard against frustration if metta does not arise. Therefore it is very important that mindfulness is present when these hindrances arise.