Patience – mettā

Still considering right action and the first precept, we can look to a positive construction of the principle. Rather than limiting ourselves to the definition of  refraining from killing living beings, we can aim to  care for all living beings.

Leigh Brasington is a Dharma teacher who specializes in the jhana practice. His attitude and voice present the Dharma with clarity and directness, with kindness and (sometimes) humor.


The first of the precepts is, “I undertake the training to refrain from killing living beings.” We are vastly interrelated and that interrelatedness needs to be recognized. We share this planet with lots of other creatures. They have as much right to be here as we do. So we want to act towards them in ways that are in harmony with this interrelatedness and not generate the hate that is necessary to kill something. So we undertake the training to refrain from killing living beings, which includes the insects and spiders that might annoy you, as well as your fellow human beings.

A higher level of this precept would be to not harm living beings; to not only not kill them, but to not harm them. If there is a spider in your room, get a cup, get a piece of paper, trap the spider and take it outside. See if you can avoid having creatures encountering harm because of your actions.

And then the highest level of this precept would be to love all living beings. Love is a way of acting in harmony with this interrelatedness. It turns out that if you act in harmony with reality, life just goes so much better than if you are acting at cross purposes with reality.

Using this advice as a guide, we can not only restrain ourselves when we have aggressive impulses, but we can actively seek ways to treat others with kindness, even love.

The Buddha teaches that the direct remedy for anger is mettā, or loving-friendliness. This can be hard to apply in moments when we’re caught up in negative emotions. But patience – patience – can be usefully applied to almost any situation.  We can recall to mind often that we intend to be kind protectors, relating to others with patience rather than fear or defensiveness. If we rely on patience as a strategy, we may find that mettā grows in our hearts, and the impulse to harm diminishes.

About lynnjkelly

Australian/American. Practicing Buddhist.
This entry was posted in Harmlessness, Precepts, The 8-fold path. Bookmark the permalink.

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