Metta in Daily Life
In our daily lives we are engaged in manifold activities. When we are less busy we may try to get whatever deep concentration we can reach. At other times when we meet with people or animals, we can mentally have thoughts of metta. These thoughts of metta, even though they may be only thoughts for a start, play a very important part. We know people disagree even on the most insignificant things. Many strained relations and enmity can be dissolved if we can just forgive and overlook the past and start anew. Very often it may be just "tension in the air" which we cannot pinpoint. Metta can create the mental atmosphere conducive to goodwill as well as spark off whatever good speech and actions that follow.
So besides mental action, we also have to express it in words or other forms of communications to others. Speaking gently, with kindness, truthfulness and for the benefit of others are elements of right speech.
Actions of metta are actions such as lending help materially or spiritually, giving medical and nursing attention to the elderly or kindness for animals, courtesy, hospitality, etc.
Therefore metta in daily life is more active and expressive in nature. In families and offices where there is frequent metta shown, it becomes a house or dwelling that is truly happy.
One thing to bear in
mind is that according to the situation the other brahma vihara may play a
part. This is compassion when there are people suffering and sympathetic
joy for those doing very well. And when the things are beyond our control,
we have to reflect on kamma to be equanimous. These 3 are complementary to
bring about a more stable and appropriate relationship. Even to the same
person, it may be appropriate to use one or another at a different
So we may take note as to:
(i) when to and when
not to use metta.
As to 'in what way' we can perhaps look into the Sigalovada Sutta where a chart of human relationships is given by the Buddha.
1. PARENT AND CHILD
DUTIES OF PARENTS
I. restrain him from
DUTIES OF CHILD
I. supports them after
having being supported by them
2. TEACHERS AND PUPILS
I. give thorough
DUTIES OF PUPILS
I. rise to greet
Here again the loving-kindness relationship is compassion and respectfulness. This occurs more frequently when the question of money is not involved. Otherwise the teachers' dissatisfaction with their career may interfere with the relationship.
3. HUSBAND AND WIFE
DUTIES OF HUSBAND
DUTIES OF WIFE
I. properly organising
The metta relation here hinges on trust and faithfulness. As you may expect the Indian lady in those days was often considered more as a maid. The Buddhist clause of handing over authority to her demonstrates that her position was more than that. The other aspects of good wives – the motherly, sisterly or friendly aspects – show the favourable relationship the Buddhist looks for.
4. FRIENDS AND COMPANIONS
The metta relationship here involves sincere care and protection for each other, with mutual self-respect obviously playing a part here.
5. MASTER AND
I. arranging their
work according to their strength
The metta relationship here hinges on generosity on the master's part and diligence and trustworthiness on the part of the servant.
6. ASCETICS, BRAHMIN
I. restrain him from
DUTIES OF LAYMEN
The above is more or less like the teacher-and-pupil relationship except here it covers a more spiritual form of education.
An elucidation in these relations would be compassion on the upper hand and humility and obedience on the other. There is then a reciprocation between generosity and diligence. Trust and faithfulness also play a part in the relationship. If the role by one party is not fulfilled, e.g. the servant is lazy, we may expect the relation to suffer. Then it depends largely on the virtue of the other party (e.g. the employer), if his compassion or patience is to last long.
As to how the other virtues play in the workings of metta, we can see it in the Karaniya Metta Sutta itself.