Metta sutta part 2

The second half of the Metta sutta (Sn1.8), translated by the Amaravati Sangha:

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.

“Let none deceive another, or despise any being.” This is what we’ve been talking about — the fundamental importance of truthfulness and integrity; without these, metta cannot be undertaken. Deeply buried in these instructions are the ideas that we can’t fool anyone and shouldn’t try, and that no matter what a person has done, our approach to them must be honest and kind (if clear-sighted). By following these simple but powerful guidelines, we move from the position of a judge – of ourselves and others – towards the position of an awakened one.

The key is that this mental state is completely free of greed, hatred and delusion. The object of our metta matters less than the mind from which it emanates. The mind free of grasping is a “sublime abiding”, that is, an excellent place to live.

I think Jesus is quoted as saying words to the effect that whatever we do for the least valued among us, it is as if we do it for Jesus himself. Something of that idea is captured in these verses. We divide the world into people we like and don’t like, people we approve of and those we don’t. But the Buddha asks us to consider the boundless mental state of metta, of giving the most refined and least sticky sort of love to absolutely everyone, in the past, present and future, in places we can see them and in places we can’t.

The example of a mother’s love for her only child is given as the purest form of earthly love. By using this image, the Buddha is trying to move us in the direction of selfless, unconditional love rather than a love that asks for something in return. Once we discover this flavor of love in our hearts, we can apply it (eventually) in all directions, in all situations, to all beings.

Towards the end of the sutta, the Buddha brings the goal back to earth. “Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down”, that is, all the time – this is the time, now, to practice metta. Through walking this path with diligence, we may come to ultimate liberation.

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