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Vipassana Fellowship Meditation -13 October - 19 October-Moving to the Second Practice (Video)-Saturday - The Boundless States Book-Contemplation - Day 15-Day 16-Day 17-Day 18-Day 19-Day 20-Day 21

This week we begin to explore the first of the Sublime Abode practices -
Mettā or Lovingkindness Meditation. If you are able to meditate for
more than one sitting each day, please work with Mettā in one session
and Mindfulness of Breathing in the other.

Moving to the Second Practice (Video)

Andrew introduces the third week and our new method.

Last modified: Friday, 27 January 2017, 11:10 PM

Saturday - The Boundless States

1. The Boundless States

The Boundless States

have been practising Mindfulness of Breathing and it should have become
clear that regular sessions of meditation can be accommodated within
our daily lives. The experience of the practice will be different for
each of us as it is subject to the conditions we bring to any activity.
Our lives are unique, our experience is particular to us and our
motivations differ.

we have seen previously, the Buddha suggested many objects for
meditation. It can be of considerable help to gain confidence in several
techniques in order that we can work skilfully with different
circumstances as they arise in our lives. Some of the techniques used by
Buddhists develop particular qualities and skills more strongly than
others and if we are not careful our meditation practice can become
pretty unbalanced; perhaps neglecting those areas that may need most

techniques could be characterised as good for developing the ‘head’
aspects - the analytical, improving our concentration, etc. - whilst
others are better at opening up our ‘hearts’. In truth, of course, we
must develop both head and heart practices if we are to have a firm
grasp of the fundamentals. Many meditators who concentrate on a single
technique, believing it to contain everything they need, can end up
neglecting important areas of deficiency or weakness and this can
effectively block their development later. Someone who neglects to work
on the quality of compassion - or the faculty to have joy in the success
of other people - can develop a very hard, concentrated, analytical
practice, but can become self-centred and isolated. They never gain the
ability to consider their relationship to others in a positive way and
instead withdraw from interaction and can end up with a meditation
practise that, whilst supremely concentrated, lacks humanity and is

counterproductive in that it gives them an inflated sense of their own importance and achievements.

have spent a short time looking at a pure concentration exercise. It
has many benefits and is a core technique of Buddhist meditation. We
will continue to use it in the coming months. From tomorrow we will
begin to introduce another form of samatha meditation. This is
complementary to the work we have been doing and we will use it
alongside the Mindfulness of Breathing technique.

inspiration for this new form of meditation, known as brahmavihāra
bhāvanā, is a beautiful formula that frequently recurs in the Pāli

“I will abide pervading one quarter

with a mind imbued with lovingkindness,

Likewise, the second, third and fourth quarters.

So above and below, around and everywhere,

and to all as if to myself.

I will abide pervading the entire world with lovingkindness,

Abundant, exalted, immeasurable; without hostility or ill-will.”

“I will abide pervading one quarter

with a mind imbued with compassion,

Likewise, the second, third and fourth quarters.

So above and below, around and everywhere,

and to all as if to myself.

I will abide pervading the entire world with compassion,

Abundant, exalted, immeasurable; without hostility or ill-will.”

“I will abide pervading one quarter

with a mind imbued with appreciative joy,

Likewise, the second, third and fourth quarters.

So above and below, around and everywhere,

and to all as if to myself.

I will abide pervading the entire world with appreciative joy,

Abundant, exalted, immeasurable; without hostility or ill-will.”

“I will abide pervading one quarter

with a mind imbued with equanimity,

Likewise, the second, third and fourth quarters.

So above and below, around and everywhere,

and to all as if to myself.

I will abide pervading the entire world with equanimity,

Abundant, exalted, immeasurable; without hostility or ill-will.”

There are four brahmavihāras (divine abodes) or apamaññā (boundless states):

Mettā ~ Lovingkindness

Karunā ~ Compassion

Muditā ~ Appreciative Joy

Upekkhā ~ Equanimity

shall be working with each of these practices in turn and the first one
we shall look at is mettā bhāvanā, the development of lovingkindness.

whole range of considerations determines the relationships that we have
with other people. At their most straightforward the brahmavihāra
practices aim at allowing us to see these other beings in a different
light from how we usually perceive them. Often our reactions to other
people are composed of our own projections about them, or are based on
information that is incomplete or misinterpreted. It is not at all
unusual for many of us to write-off individuals simply because we are
having a bad day or they are not deemed useful to us at the time we
encounter them.

we begin to cultivate the brahmavihāra qualities of lovingkindness,
compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity we are working to extend
them to all beings; but it is sensible to focus first on individuals for
whom, or with whom, we can most easily connect. This determines the
arrangement of the sections of each of these practices: suggestions have
been given but individual meditators might need to adjust them to
service their own set of circumstances. Once the connection has been
established with one individual then we move on to the next for whom
there is some empathy; and so on. There is a gradual progression and the
sections become more difficult and require greater application as we
begin to work with people, and other beings, for whom there seems no
spontaneous empathy.

bother? Surely some people are simply beyond the pale and are best
forgotten about? Can there really be any point in trying to feel
compassion, for example, towards a person who seems to relish sadistic

misconception inherent in this type of question - which is common to us
all - is that our meditation practice is designed to effect change in
other people. Often if our upbringing was in one of the theistic
religions we have deeply ingrained conditioning that has a tendency to
turn any spiritual practice into a type of prayer. This deep-rooted
attitude means that our ideas are framed on the basis of belief that it
is possible to change externals by the power of thought or through the
active intercession of another being. Even if we no longer believe in
God or supernatural forces the mechanism for invoking this sort of plea
remains with us.

meditative process in Buddhism is quite different. We are not working
in our meditation sittings to effect change in other people or in the
conditions which affect their lives. These types of goal are not best
accomplished whilst seated on a cushion; there is a need for us to act
skilfully in the world. We are working, in meditation, towards a greater
understanding of those lives and conditions and of our relationship to
them. Meditation techniques tackle this in a number of different ways.
In the brahmavihāra practices, on one level, we are developing an
understanding of how our habitual partiality and sense of separateness
impacts on the relationships we have with others. We begin to see,
through engaging in these practices, that our own perceptions of the
relative merits of individuals, and the qualities we ascribe to them,
normally rest on sets of pretty flaky assumptions. Through
conscientiously working with the brahmavihāra practices we reach an
understanding of the interconnections between us and all other beings
and the necessity for active consideration of their needs and
aspirations. We begin to see people as more than ciphers representing
pleasant or unpleasant attributes. Life is more complex than that.
People cannot be reduced to goodies and baddies - but that is how we
operate most of the time; thus denying others the possibility of
meaningful interaction with us. Denying them and us the understanding
that can bring the cessation of suffering.

surely some people really have transgressed so far that they have ruled
themselves unworthy of our consideration? What about the really
terrible people who seem to offer the world nothing but hate?

are some people whom it would be unwise to include in our meditation
sessions until we are well established in these practices. At some
point, though, we will feel ready to acknowledge even the most difficult
individuals. Remember that the effects these meditation practices have
are on us: if we harbour hate, distrust, resentment, prejudice, anger,
and other such qualities in our minds then we do ourselves violence. We
suffer: our mental states will reflect this bitterness and lack of
tranquillity. We are not excusing the appalling behaviour that people,
sometimes including ourselves, inflict on the world: that would be a
denial of reality - we must always retain an awareness of actions and
their consequences - but we do recognise that these actions are not the
whole story.

using the brahmavihāra techniques we don’t deny the complexity of the
human predicament but we do acknowledge that there is a commonality of
aspiration - to suffer less, to be happier - and that we, like all other
beings, are a part of this. When we reach a deep understanding of this
interconnectedness our attitudes to others and the actions we carry out
will reflect this.

begins this work on the basis of partiality. There are people we like
and others we don’t. Some people are deemed deserving of our compassion
and others, by their actions, are not. In time we will loosen our
predilection for labels as we see their debilitating effects and the
damage they can inflict. Selectively targeting and withholding love and
compassion - these pure and positive qualities of which we can each have
an endless supply - leads only to more suffering for all concerned.

many of these ideas this notion of connectedness can be absorbed on
different levels. On the simplest level we can see that we live in
community with others and are dependent on them. We could not live as we
do without the people who perform the functions that make life liveable
- our parents, doctors, the people who grow and transport our food, the
friends who are there for us when we need help. This is not all taking
and receiving, though, as we are connected to these people and other
beings by the services we render and the interactions we have. We are
also connected in terms of some of our most basic aspirations. There are
few of us who are capable of living alone. Even a hermit monk usually
relies on others for some of his requisites of food and medicine, and
even if we minimise our reliance on other people we are still dependent
on our relationships to other beings, some of which provide food,
companionship, and beauty. And like us, all beings seek to increase
their happiness and reduce their suffering.

to Buddhist doctrine we also share connection because we are all
composed of five common aggregates rather than a personalised Self or
enduring soul. These Five Aggregates are physical form, feelings,
perceptions, mental functionings, and consciousness. If we contemplate
our own nature deeply we will see that in any real sense we are not a
fixed entity. We, and all other beings, are subject to flux. We are
constantly changing because, at any moment, we are composed of a
cocktail of these aggregates. As we get a real understanding of the
aggregates that make up this “me” we realise how insubstantial our
self-view actually is and how we are composed of exactly the same
constantly changing building blocks as every other sentient being. In
this sense we are indivisible from them.

people ask why I have chosen to work with so many different sections
when introducing these techniques; after all, the canonical texts say
little more than that we should unconditionally radiate lovingkindness,
compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity to all. Well, have you ever
tried that? It’s a bit of a tall order - at least, for most of us - and
so we usually need to ease ourselves into it with some solid

sections we are using work to ensure that we don’t shirk from dealing
with difficult situations and also that we don’t underestimate the
amount of compassion and kindness that we, ourselves, need. This is
particularly common; many of us have little difficulty directing
kindness towards others but feel awkward if asked to show it to
ourselves. Working through these fairly rigid structures (if only as an
initial approach) will bring about noticeable changes in our attitudes
and outlook. It’s certainly not that we’ll become all soft and
vulnerable (a common fear) but it will allow us to see our relationships
in a more balanced light. For part of each sitting we will be working
with people that we find difficult or who are hostile towards us. All of
these techniques work on the principle of not taking things personally.
If we can see even these individuals as worthy of love, worthy of
compassion, then through this empathy we can begin to see his or her
actions as the result of a set of conditions - rather than something
directly targeted at us. This doesn’t let them off the hook, of course;
we are not approving of wrongdoing, but we are capable of seeing it in
context. We can often also empathize with what may have conditioned
these unskilful acts. We take a look at the reasons rather than the
excuses. Later, as we come to look at the reality of anicca
(impermanence) we will begin to see the beautiful release that this
offers. We hurt ourselves when we cling to anger and animosity: it
perpetuates our suffering. Akusala kamma is the Pāli term used for
unskilful volitional acts of mind, body or speech. This perpetuation of
our suffering is often akusala kamma of the mind; it creates the
conditions for further suffering. We redouble the hurt. Through the
training we are undertaking we can begin to create the conditions where
all of our actions can be wholesome. In this way, we benefit - but so
too do all of those with whom we interact.

will be sections of the techniques that come less easily than others.
Our view of a family member will not be the same as of a stranger: it
cannot be because the conditions that produce the view are different. It
is perfectly understandable that we will dislike particular people if
there are good reasons to do so. This is different, of course, from
irrational prejudice that is always unskilful; being founded on
ignorance. If a person’s behaviour is wrong and hurtful then there is
every reason for us to not wish to associate with them; indeed the texts
warn us against associating with “fools”. What we must take care of is
that this dislike of wrongdoing does not spill over into unskilful
mental states such as anger and hatred. If we remain mindful then our
actions and responses will always tend towards skilfulness. When we work
within the framework of the brahmavihāra practices we try to radiate
the positive qualities in a balanced way - trying to treat each being as
unique and worthy of love, compassion, the presence of joy - we are not
implying that all beings are the same; but that they do have similar
fundamental needs and aspirations: to overcome all suffering, an
aspiration to happiness. Understanding this will bring changes in the
way that we act in the world. As we see the commonality that exists,
even in a world of difference, we may choose to act in ways that are
less partial. We will be more aware of motivation and intention and will
see the destructiveness that ignorance and hatred bring.

is common for people in modern times to only be aware of, and taught,
mettā bhāvanā from the brahmavihāras. The four practices of mettā,
karunā, muditā, and upekkhā are meant to be complementary and there is
great value in working skilfully with each of them. Mettā should always
be applied first and upekkhā requires an understanding of the other
three brahmavihāras so should always be given last. It is a great pity
that these teachings are not accessed more frequently nowadays - they
are very powerful techniques that can be so very effective in our
spiritual development (and at the same time in promoting healthier
relationships and harmony on a mundane level). Over the next few weeks
we will see how very different these brahmavihāras are from one another
but get a glimpse of the great synergy that can come about through
continued use of all four. We are working on the cultivation of specific
qualities when practising each of the brahmavihāra techniques.
Lovingkindness is distinct from compassion. In daily situations we will
act from a range of motives but in meditation it is important that
clarity of purpose is maintained. If we merge the different brahmavihāra
qualities then there is an imprecision that can impede our progress and
it becomes easier to neglect those aspects that come less easily to us.

fruits of our meditation practice inform how we will act in the world.
This is only one aspect of practice but it is important - meditation is
never a selfish activity. Recognising that the cultivation of these
positive mental states is an important factor in our ability to act
effectively is part of a maturing practice. In our meditation sittings
we are not trying to effect change in external situations or in other
people. The practices are about fully developing our competences; but
from this development flows the intention and ability to act more
skilfully than we might otherwise have done in daily life. If we have
complete empathy with another being then how can we choose to commit
unskilful acts towards him or her?

people will find that some of these techniques are more difficult than
others and that within a particular technique individual sections will
be challenging for them. This is a reflection of the areas of strength
and neediness that we all have in different measure because of our
conditioning. All of these techniques are about cultivating positive
states of mind anchored in reality and each of us will benefit from
working with them. None of us, at this stage, is likely to be perfected
in lovingkindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity but we
can strive towards that end through dedicated practice. We need it for
our spiritual development; and the resultant positive changes will also
benefit our loved ones, families and communities.

Contemplation - Day 15

90. In
one whose journey has ended,

sorrowless and fully liberated,

from all bonds -

fever exists.

91. The
mindful, ever active,

unattached to homes:

move on repeatedly,

swans fly from the

to new abodes.

92. Not

of the nature of food,

abode is Deliverance:

and signless.

the tracks of birds in air,

difficult to trace.

93. Defilements

to food,

abode is Deliverance:

and signless.

the tracks of birds in air,

difficult to trace.

94. With
senses subdued,

like horses well-trained by a charioteer.

from conceit and corruption,

even the gods hold such a one dear.

95. Like
the earth, resenting nothing.

as a strong high pillar,

as a lake unsullied by mud,

such a balanced one,

more births arise.

Last modified: Thursday, 12 January 2017, 1:28 PM

Sunday - Mettā: Lovingkindness Meditation

1. Lovingkindness Meditation

Lovingkindness Meditation

“…whatever kinds of worldly merit there are,

all are not worth one sixteenth part of the

heart-deliverance of loving-kindness;

in shining and beaming and radiance the

heart-deliverance of loving-kindness far excels them.”

- The Buddha (Itivuttaka, 27)

use the compound word ‘lovingkindness’ when translating the term mettā
into English to distinguish it from the casual way in which the word
love has come to be used. Love in its truest sense is entirely wholesome
but in modern times is often confused with lust, craving and
attachment. Often it is selectively given and selectively withheld. We
fail to act altruistically and begin to behave in patterns that have
more to do with ownership, possession, power struggles and egotism.

the mettā bhāvanā practice we try to return to the real meaning of love
- the sort of pure love that may lead a devoted mother to lay down her
own life to protect her child - and to work on developing our ability to
radiate this love to all living beings. The capacity to direct this
lovingkindness to others should not be determined by our likes and
dislikes. As living beings we survive on the basis of our connections
with others. Just as we wish to receive the kindness of others, so too
do they require and deserve our love. In our practical everyday lives we
soon make judgements about people and about their motivation for the
deeds they enact. The mettā bhāvanā practice does not focus on this or
on the rights and wrongs of our relationships. We begin the practice of
lovingkindness from the understanding that all living beings are seeking
the same thing - freedom from suffering. The time that we set aside for
this meditation practice is a way of reconnecting with that
commonality. Just as we wish happiness for ourselves and those we like,
so too can we extend that same wish to all other sentient beings.
Without condition, without judgement.

are various different methods of practising mettā bhāvanā. The method
we shall primarily be using works on the principle that we first show
lovingkindness to those we respect and like and on to people about whom
we feel neutral or even actively dislike. From there we broaden out the
subjects on whom we focus to encompass all other humans and ultimately
all other living beings. This may seem a tall order at this stage but,
when we work with diligence and commitment, gradually the heart opens a
little more and we feel the love flowing more freely. Over time we will
steadily find it easier to radiate our love to those people with whom we
currently have difficulties. It is important at the outset to clarify
that we are not expected to necessarily like them - in fact such a
judgement does not really come into it - we are, however, able to love
them. It will be difficult initially, particularly if we are unused to
contemplating our feelings, or if we feel we have recently been wronged.

some people the practice can be difficult to grasp or take seriously.
It may seem a little like one of the positive thinking therapies; but do
not underestimate the importance of the technique. In order to develop
spiritually it is necessary to ensure that our practice encompasses the
whole range of our experience - and that includes the emotional as well
as the analytical. It may be a truism but if we have a strong reaction
against this way of working, it is likely that we are most in need of
it. Try to make the commitment.

meditators react in different ways and each will settle into his or her
own manner of working with the technique. Reactions to guided
meditations are often dependent on whether we have a visual or verbal
imagination, or whether we are predominantly analytical or emotional. A
balanced approach is advocated here, but you will need to make
adjustments dependent on your own experience.

we are aiming to achieve in the early stages of this type of meditation
is an ability to radiate lovingkindness to specific individuals and
groups equally. Initially we will use statements such as “May they be
well, may they be happy” as a base, but these should not really be seen
as affirmations or mantras. They are a way to begin engaging with the
emotion that is lovingkindness. Try to really mean them. When we are
secure in the practice, we will be able to tap into this resource
without any script.

in our last practice, please ensure that you give equal attention to
the separate sections. It is likely that you will find some sections
much easier than others. Try to ignore this and just work with
consistency. As you become more established in the practice you will see
fluctuations in the relative ease or difficulty of the various


Concentrate on really feeling the lovingkindness. It will be stronger
in some sections than others. Don’t worry about the words or images too

This is not mantra meditation or wishful thinking. We are trying to
connect to the actual truth of the emotion and to be able to radiate it
impartially to others.

(3) Stay with the sections for an equal amount of time. Don’t favour any particular person or group of beings.

(4) Don’t focus on the same individuals too often. Choose different people (or rotate them) in different sittings.

Concentrate only on living beings. It is unwise initially to focus on
people to whom you are sexually attracted or whom you hate.

We are not trying to change the other person. We are allowing our
lovingkindness to flow with generosity, regardless of who they are.

(7) Be gentle with yourself - and others.


If you are new to meditation allow 20 to 30 minutes for each session. Try to practise at a regular time each day.

a quiet place and set up your posture in a way which will aid alertness
and which does not place strain on the body. Keep the spine straight if
possible. Sit for a few moments, allowing any stresses and strains of
the day to subside, quietly determining to spend the time you have set
aside for your meditation solely for that purpose. Not analysing, not
planning. Allow a gentle smile to play on the face and close your eyes.

the attention to focus for a few moments on the breath as it rises and
falls. As always, observing the normal breath. Not trying to change its
rhythm or depth. Reflect for a moment on the wretchedness of anger and
malice, on the hurt that it causes, on how it impacts on our lives and
those of others. Consider the advantages of patience.

bring the centre of your attention to the heart area. There is kindness
there and we can give it unconditionally. Share the warmth without any
expectation of reward. Allow yourself to emanate pure love towards
yourself and others. Allow it to flow without judgement and without
attachment. Everyone needs our love, our kindness. We have a boundless
capacity to radiate lovingkindness to sentient beings. We may find it
easier initially to share this love with people we like, but we can
share it with everyone. All sentient beings need love. Those with whom
we have had problems also need lovingkindness: often if their actions
did not seem kind, it may help to see those actions as a response to
their own suffering. Try to let the love flow to them regardless.

begin to work outwards from yourself, radiating lovingkindness. The
object of our meditation is to share our capacity for kindness, real
love, with all sentient beings.

Preliminary Reflection - Oneself

it can be difficult to show kindness to ourselves, so before beginning
the main meditation session we try to develop this ability. We are all
too aware of our failings and mistakes. We may have feelings of
inadequacy or guilt. We may be conscious of how we are seen by others,
or may be overly self-critical. Others of us may sometimes have an
overdeveloped sense of their own self-worth and success, and may feel
they do not need lovingkindness. We all need it. If we are unable to
show lovingkindness to ourselves it will be difficult to share it with
others. Persevere with this section of the meditation. Always begin with
it and make sure you give it an equal period of time.)

to focus on yourself as an individual. As someone who is in need of
love and kindness. Someone who wishes to be free from suffering and
hardship. Emanate mettā to yourself. Unconditionally.

May I be well and happy,

May no harm come to me,

May I abide in well-being,

May I be peaceful,

May I maintain mindfulness,

May I attain bliss,

May I be free from anger…..

First Section - A Benefactor

(Someone for whom you have respect, to whom you feel gratitude. Maybe a parent or spiritual teacher.)

Just as for myself … so too for…

May they abide in well being,

May they enjoy good health,

May they be happy,

Free from anger, free from hurt…….

Second Section - A Friend

(Someone around the same age as yourself, and for whom you feel warmth but not sexual attraction.)

Just as for my benefactor … so too for…

May they be well and happy,

May they be peaceful,

May they live harmoniously…….

Third Section - A Neutral Person

you have not formed a strong opinion about. You neither like nor
dislike them. Maybe someone you met in a shop today or in the course of
your business.)

Just as for my friend … so too for…

May they be happy,

May they attain peace,

May they be well,

May they be mindful…….

Fourth Section - A Difficult Person

to whom you feel some animosity or is hostile towards you. Perhaps he
or she has wronged you. Do not choose someone you hate. Work gently with
this section. This person needs your kindness too.)

Just as for someone about whom I feel neutral… so too for…

May they abide in well being,

May they be free from harm,

May they be peaceful,

May they enjoy success…….

Fifth Section - The Wider Community

out to share our love with other human beings. They have the same
needs. They need our mettā. Share it with them - you have a limitless

Just as for individual people… so too for…


…the people in this building…

…the people in this town…

…the people in this country…

…all people everywhere…


… they be happy,

May they be peaceful,

May they live in harmony…..

Sixth Section - All Sentient Beings

(Radiating our lovingkindness to all other living beings. Those we like, those we don’t.)

Just as for human beings… so too for…




…fish and insects…

May they

…be happy and peaceful,

May they be free from harm,

May they be free from anger.

May all beings live in harmony,

May they be free from anger and ill-will,

May they attain true peace.

the end of the session reflect for a few moments on the expansive
nature of lovingkindness and resolve to let this quality enter into your
interactions throughout the day. When you are ready open your eyes.

Summary Of The Practice

Show lovingkindness to oneself and then begin to direct it outward:

1. A Benefactor

2. A Friend

3. A Neutral Person

4. A Difficult Person

5. The Wider Community - those close by, and far away

6. All Sentient Beings - animals, birds, etc.

As you begin you may find it useful to mentally use phrases like:

“May they be well, may they be happy”

“May they be peaceful”

repetition may be mechanical at first, but the intention is to really
feel the sentiment and radiate it to the person or group. You may find
that the phrases are unnecessary or that images are more useful in
bringing the quality of lovingkindness to mind. Try to devote equal time
to each of the sections.

to really feel the lovingkindness as you radiate it. It will be
stronger in some sections than others. If you are able to work with all
sections for an equal amount of time you will gradually find that the
mettā strengthens in those places where it seems difficult. If a
particular section is very painful then take things slowly. You may need
to drop that section for a while and return to it later - gradually
increasing the amount of time given to it until it receives equal
attention with all the other sections. Try to avoid relegating sections
that seem difficult unless you need to. Always reintroduce them gently.
Most meditators will be able to work with all the sections from the
outset with varying degrees of discomfort and frustration. This
discomfort is subject to change as we practise. For some of us it may be
overwhelming. In that case we should begin by working with the sections
where we can feel mettā and come back to the others later.

Contemplation - Day 16

96. Calm
in thought, calm in speech,

in deed.

is one who truly knows:

tranquil and equipoised.

97. Relying
not on blind faith,

who knows the uncreated,

has severed all links,

all causes, abandoned all desire,

indeed, is the ultimate man.

98. Whether
village, forest, vale or hill;

indeed, is a place

the Perfected dwell.

99. Delightful
are the forests,

worldlings dislike.

passion-freed delight there,

no sense pleasures.

Last modified: Thursday, 12 January 2017, 1:31 PM

Monday - The Discourse on Mettā

1. Discourse on Mettā

The Discourse on Lovingkindness

The Karaniya Mettā Sutta

“One who is skilled in wholesomeness

and seeks the calm that is Nibbāna,

should act thus:

Be sincere to oneself, upright and conscientious,

soft of speech, gentle and without conceit.

Contented, living simply, peaceful and unburdened,

with senses calmed, prudent, modest,

and without showing anxiety for support.

One should not commit any slight wrong

for which the wise might censure one.

May all beings be happy and secure,

may their hearts be wholesome.

Whatever living beings there are -

whether mentally feeble or strong,

physically long, stout or medium,

short, small or large,

the seen or unseen; dwelling far or near;

those who are born and those yet to be born -

may they all, without exception, be happy.

Let no one deceive another

nor despise anyone whatsoever in any place;

nor in anger or ill-will wish harm upon another.

Even as a mother would risk her life

to protect her only child,

so should one cultivate a boundless

heart towards all beings.

Let thoughts of infinite lovingkindness

pervade the whole world -

above, below and around -

unobstructed, free of hatred or enmity.

Whether standing, walking, sitting or lying down,

as long as one is awake, such mindfulness

should be developed:

this, the wise say, is the highest conduct here.

Not embracing false views,

endowed with virtue and insight,

and having given up

attachment to sense desires -

such a person will not come again

to lie in a womb.”

Buddhist ethics focus both on the things to be done (cāritta), and those to be refrained from (vāritta).
The Karaniya Mettā Sutta, given by the Buddha, speaks of both of these
as well as giving the basic instructions for mettā meditation. The first
part tells of the virtues that are necessary for effective meditation.
This is followed by instruction on how mettā may be practised and then
we are given details of the abstinences that are necessary for our
development. The sutta ends with the promise that one who seeks to
perfect this practice in every waking hour will not face subsequent
rebirths (if they have also developed virtue and insight. This yoking of
a traditional samatha practice with insight meditation can amount to a
complete path to liberation).

The Benefits of Mettā

tradition holds that there are eleven benefits that come to someone who
develops lovingkindness. As we practice it can be useful to reflect
upon these as an incentive. We can also begin to recognise some of these
signs arising in our fellow meditators:

We will sleep soundly

We will wake easily, like a lotus opening

We will have only pleasant dreams

People will love us

Non-human beings will love us

Deities will protect us, as a parent guards a child

Poisons, weapons and fire will not harm us

Our mind will be easily concentrated

Our face will be serene

Our death will be peaceful and unconfused

If we are reborn, it will be in fortunate circumstances

Contemplation - Day 17

100. Better
than a thousand useless words

one useful word,

which, one finds peace.

101. Better
than a thousand useless verses

one useful line,

which, one finds peace.

102. Better
than chanting hundreds of useless verses

the chanting of one verse of Dhamma,

which, one finds peace.

103. One
may conquer a thousand times

thousand men in battle,

a nobler victor is one

conquers his self.

104-105. Self
conquest excels

conquest of all others.

gods, nor gandhabba,

even Mara with Brahma,

reverse the victory

one who conquors self

lives in restraint.

Last modified: Thursday, 12 January 2017, 1:32 PM

Tuesday - Expectations, Strengths, Cultivation

1. Expectations, Strengths, Cultivation

Expectations and Strengths

Meditation can come as quite a shock. Rather than the expected feelings
of beneficence and warmth, a whole range of disparate emotions can
occur. Most meditators will experience some periods of melancholy or
anger, as well as happiness and positivity. Often these emotions are
related to the particular beings to which we are radiating
lovingkindness. This is one of the main reasons why we should try to
ensure that equal time is given to each section. Otherwise we might try
to rush through the difficult sections (or wallow in them, depending on
our character type) and then bask in those sections we find easier.

relative ease or difficulty we find in radiating mettā is very complex.
Some meditators find the first section, that focuses on themselves,
incredibly difficult; others find it easy and have more problems with
one of the other sections. If we insist on giving equal attention to all
sections we will gradually find that our ability to give mettā becomes
more consistent. It is usual to initially encounter more distractions
with this practice than ānāpānasati. The mettā bhāvanā is far more
visually and emotionally based and we also have to make choices about
the subject of each of the sections. The rules are, however, as before.
When distractions occur simply acknowledge them and return to radiating
mettā to the individual or group you have chosen.

images arise and simply take the form of a visual representation of the
person or group to whom you are radiating mettā then use this as a tool
for empathy but ensure that you do not engage in working through little
scenes to reinforce this. Concentrate on radiating real lovingkindness
from you to them. If they are represented visually that is a help for
most people. Some meditators also like to visualise the `source’ of the
mettā - perhaps as an open or overflowing heart. Whilst not literally
true, this image - or others like a ray of golden light - can be helpful
in initially recognizing the emotional force of the lovingkindness. The
danger is to become over-reliant on the imagery. Guard against creating
layer-upon-layer of visual metaphor if possible. We are not engaging in
Creative Visualisation.

Meditation is very strong medicine. For some people it can be difficult
to tap into that well of mettā and feel able to radiate it equally to
other beings. If we are not in tune with our emotions or have buried
resentments these will surface during the practice. Sometimes we may
feel we are emotionally sound, only to find that this powerful technique
delves deeper than we have heretofore realised is possible. The mettā
bhāvanā is a very deep practice that can unlock aspects of ourselves
that we have been suppressing or have not come to terms with. It is
amazing how many confident gregarious people find that it opens them to
aspects of themselves of which they were unaware. The choice for us then
is whether to put the lid back on the bottle we have opened or to take a
peek inside. If we force the lid back on then the contents may ferment
or go acrid - they would have anyway. If we take a look then we will
find what has been neglected and then make an informed decision about
the method we use to put it right.

are essentially building on what is already there. We may currently be
unable to open to this resource particularly in relation to particular
individuals or groups and this technique, slowly, will enable us to do
so. We are not trying to synthesise anything - it’s the real feeling
that is already present which we are radiating. It could be looked upon
as liberating a quality that is currently imprisoned by the barriers and
views we have constructed. This is where it is misleading to think that
the phrases we may use are to be treated as affirmations. The mettā
bhāvanā may share some of the vocabulary - possibly only because of our
language limitations - but the intention is quite distinct. Rather than
working as active phrases, which will permit some transformation in
another individual, they are simply a way of connecting with our ability
to behave nobly.

resource that is Lovingkindness is already present in each of us. The
practice allows us to make a conscious effort to bestow it on all beings
without fear or favour. We are not trying to change them in any way -
we accept them as they are. Instead we acknowledge the partial,
discriminatory way that we habitually choose to act with Lovingkindness.
The giving and the withholding of kindness is often bound with notions
of approval and disapproval of a person’s actions. We see them as the
action rather than as another being, however flawed, seeking the same
happiness that we seek, suffering from life’s vicissitudes in just the
same way. This process works to develop an altruistic spirit and an
equanimous approach to the people with whom we interact. It develops our
sense of the relationship we share with all beings - our non-separate

will be sessions of the mettā practice that will leave us elated and
there will be others whose effect will be to remind us of the work that
is required. There is a fluidity to this practice that means that we can
be pretty certain that all of us will experience highs and lows. You
have been disturbed by a difficult session early on. This is unlikely to
predominate in future sessions if you approach them (as much as
possible) in the spirit that each will be a novel experience.

A Process of Cultivation

people presume that this form of meditation will be easy. Those who
have difficulties with it downplay its role. I did myself until a kalyāna
mitta - a good spiritual friend - showed me the mistake I was making.
It can sometimes seem at a cursory glance to have too many similarities
to more modern techniques prevalent in the New Age movement. Where it is
different is that it forms one part of a complete and demanding system.
It has rigour and integrity. Each of the strands works together to
ensure that nothing is ignored; nothing is pandered to. We are working
for the deliverance of the heart, for others and ourselves and this is
the most important, and probably the toughest, work we can do.

in all important work, there are risks to our self-image and the views
we hold of others, and there will be uncomfortable sessions - for each
of us - but the effectiveness of the technique will show itself in a
myriad of small ways after a short period of practice. Faith or
confidence can lead us on from there. So go steadily, gently - always
gently. Remembering the good in you at every stage and accepting that
all beings - including yourself - are worthy of respect; looking for
happiness; are imperfect but often trying their best. It will help. The
mettā bhāvanā does work.

may be many reasons why mettā may seems more difficult for you. Often
one of the problems is that we do not feel worthy of showing ourselves
lovingkindness. We skip quickly over the first section to the other
sections where we try to begin to radiate the quality outward. For other
people there is sometimes the problem that they feel they currently
have a limited quantity of mettā to radiate. They may be blocked by
anger, guilt or resentment. Still others are disposed to taking on the
suffering of the world like a heavy weight on their shoulders and find
the positive qualities harder to relate to.

is why perseverance is so very necessary on the spiritual path. We are
inclined to avoid what is difficult for us and pander to what most
easily matches our character. Some meditators excel at the more abstract
or analytical techniques but find difficulty in those where positive
emotional states are being cultivated. Some people indulge themselves in
suffering and pain where others choose to luxuriate in only the
‘positive’. These approaches are unbalanced and at different times we
may each incline toward one or the other. If we find it difficult to
give lovingkindness equally to ourselves and to others then it is an
aspect of our practice that requires work. If we find it easier to take
on suffering than to appreciate what is joyful that also requires
attention. One of the great skills that we need to nurture is to notice
the pull of the preferred and the push of the problematic. We have such a
great capacity for not seeing our underlying habits.

tuning in to mettā is difficult for you in all sections of the practice
then concentrate on those sections where there is at least a scintilla
of recognition and come back to the more difficult sections later. As
you work with these stronger sections you will become more familiar with
mettā’s quality and feel more able to extend it to the weaker sections.
You can use imagery from times when you were happiest to capture a
glimpse of what you would wish for yourself and others. This connecting
with memory is a short-cut to initial practice and can prove useful in
feeling more comfortable with emotional work. It is not the practice
itself but can help us work towards it. Recollect a moment of pure
happiness - however brief - and remember how that felt. Acknowledge that
happiness is what you desire. Acknowledge your connection with others -
they too seek happiness. Will that they should experience such a moment
because they seek it.

believe unequivocally that everyone can benefit from mettā meditation;
there are few of us who can show unconditional love to our fellow beings
without such a practice. Without developing this ability we will
continue to inhabit an interior landscape conditioned by attachment,
possessiveness, jealousy and anger. By being partial - by displaying
love only to those with whom we are ‘in-love’ or approve of - we
separate ourselves from the opportunity to offer greater happiness and
less pain to all. When combined with hard work on compassion,
appreciative joy and equanimity mettā’s power as a tool to reduce the
suffering we both cause and experience in our daily interactions is

course some of us will find it easier to work with particular
techniques than others. Dependent on our character type and life
experiences we may believe we are more suited to the analytical or
abstract forms of meditation. In truth most of us will have plenty of
work to do in the realm of the emotions as well as that of clear seeing.
Neglecting one of these aspects will undoubtedly, sooner or later,
impede our progress in the other. It took a very perceptive teacher to
awaken me to the stagnation in my own practice some years ago when I
thought that formal vipassanā techniques alone paved the path to the
cessation of suffering. For some hardy individuals maybe those
techniques are sufficient, but I know I am not alone in requiring
sustained work in all areas of this particular heart-mind.

work that we do is not easy. Our reactions and resentments about
particular areas of this path are a useful barometer for the amount of
work we still have to do. Often those techniques which feel most natural
or easier for us may not be addressing the most pressing needs that we
have. Sometimes it has to be a struggle - but it is a struggle worth
engaging with. If mettā practice does not come easily to you at this
point please persevere with it for a while. Often those of us who are
justifiably critical of New Age excesses set up an unnecessary barrier
to this sort of technique because some of the vocabulary is shared. We
must remember what differentiates this technique: it is (like all
aspects of the Dhamma) a rigorous practice, blessed by over 2500 years
of attested experience, which forms one part - an important part - of a
practical teaching which permits the possibility for each of us for the
total cessation of dukkha. The mundane benefits may be useful in making
our lives run a little more harmoniously but they are really little more
than hors d’oeuvres.

Contemplation - Day 18

106. One
may conduct a thousand sacrifices,

after month, for a hundred years.

honouring a Perfected One, for only a moment,

a century of sacrifices.

107. One
may tend the sacrificial fire,

the forest, for a hundred years.

honouring a Perfected One, for only a moment,

a century of fire-sacrifices.

108. Sacrifices
and offerings, made in this world

an entire year, by one desiring merit,

not worth a quarter of the merit gained

the Upright, which is truly excellent.

109. To
one respectful,

eager to honour the elders,

blessings accrue:

life, beauty, happiness, and strength.

110. Better
to live one day

and meditative,

a hundred years

and uncontrolled.

111. Better
to live one day

and meditative,

a hundred years

and uncontrolled.

Last modified: Thursday, 12 January 2017, 1:34 PM

Wednesday - Connection and Extension

1. Connection and Extension

first step in mettā bhāvanā practice is to identify and connect with
lovingkindness as it is already known to us. Initially the
identification may not be very strong but the purpose of this technique
is to develop the capacity already present. We are not looking for
something extraordinary but a quality that is already within us and may
be nurtured. The ability to show kindness or pure love to another being
is something that most of us already do in one way or another: the
difference here is that we are working in a systematic way in order that
we can train ourselves to be less choosy about whom we select to bestow
our goodwill upon. We are not, in this practice, identifying joy and
happiness in another person or empathising with their good fortune. We
are working to will towards them the best that can be offered - it is in
the spirit of a gift from us to them without expectation of reward. It
is an opening of our hearts to allow the possibility of showing kindness
to all.

are not starting from scratch; there is unlikely to be anyone on
working with these practices who has not given love to someone or
treated another with kindness. The process of mettā bhāvanā begins by
recognising those moments and understanding that we can work to extend
this purity of intent, this nobility of heart, to all other beings. This
will not happen immediately; it takes sustained effort. By identifying
and reconnecting with the capacity that is already within us we can
steadily apply the technique and overcome our reluctance or resistance
to radiating lovingkindness more widely.

of these techniques and practices use ordinary everyday stuff as their
material. Sometimes we have a tendency to be unable to recognise the
very qualities that are already within us because we go hunting for
something bigger or flashier. Meditation is concerned with reality - and
sometimes that means we have to tone down our expectations in the
initial stages. It effects great change - but the practices are always
initially rooted in the mundane and the commonplace. This is why the
realisation that this path takes a degree of stability, discipline and
acceptance before it can bear fruit is so important. Recognising and
then working with the ordinary and the everyday acts of kindness is a
base from which we may strive to refine and extend our ability to offer
lovingkindness to all.

are not looking for anything special or unusual to transmit to another
person. We are simply reconnecting with something that we all have - the
ability to be kind. It can be useful to remember incidents in your life
where you have benefited from someone else’s kindness and also when you
have performed acts of kindness. It may help to remember the
expressions on the faces of the recipients of your kindness. When
working in mettā bhāvanā we are simply wishing each of the beings the
best that we can offer. It is about generously caring about the welfare
of ourselves and others - indiscriminately.

is a practice without recrimination. It is not a question of being
‘cold hearted’ or ‘warm hearted’ but of having the will to develop from
the point each of us is currently at. All of us require sustained work
if we are to be able to show mettā to every other sentient being. No one
can manage anything like that without a process of sustained effort. We
start where we are and work from there. This is a tried and tested
method that can work for everyone. We may need to tinker with phrases or
imagery but the principles behind the practice are universally
applicable and will bear fruit.

one way to approach this is to see what we are doing as an act of
giving - pure love, our kindness as something to be offered without the
need for reciprocity or acknowledgement. This is a very generous form of
practice where we are looking to be fully open to sharing all that is
positive with each of the beings on whom we focus. We are working with
different sections because that is a helpful training device for many
people, but our aim is to be able to radiate this quality of care
without discrimination towards all sentient life. There is no need to
feel that one is giving up rationality; just that it is not the quality
that is specifically being developed during the 30 minutes or the hour
we have set aside for our meditation sitting. We are simply recognising
that there are different qualities and skills that need to be cultivated
at different times. What we are using here is not oppositional to
rationality - we certainly need that too - but complementary to it.
Quite clearly the rational mind will spring back into action without any
prompting once we have moved on from this sitting - if it holds off
even that long! - there is no need to fear that it will be damaged by
placing our attention wholeheartedly on these brahmavihāra techniques as
one part of our practice.

Contemplation - Day 19

112. Better
to live one day

determined effort,

a hundred years

and inactive.

113. Better
to live one day

of arising and ceasing,

a hundred years

of arising and ceasing.

114. Better
to live one day

the Deathless,

a hundred years

seeing the Deathless.

115. Better
to live one day

the supreme Dhamma,

a hundred years

of the supreme Dhamma.

Last modified: Thursday, 12 January 2017, 1:35 PM

Thursday - Unconditional and Whole-hearted

1. Unconditional and Whole-hearted

of the abilities we are attempting to cultivate, in these practices, is
that of equanimous and unconditional beneficence. We are intent on the
welfare of all. Whether the individual technique emphasises
lovingkindness, compassion, appreciative joy or equanimity we need to
aspire to being able to show it for all beings. This is a tall order -
and many years of work for most of us - but it is eminently possible. If
we currently feel overwhelmed in some sections, and find this
debilitating, then it may be skilful for a short while to pull back from
working with those sections to allow us the space to concentrate on the
others where the emotion comes less easily. The aim is not to luxuriate
in the feeling of possessive love for the few to whom we are close, but
to work skilfully and gradually at recognising the nature of that love
and seeing if it is actually mettā. Mettā, remember, is devoid of
possession and the need for control. It can be directed to all, whether
they are well known and liked or a casual acquaintance of whose actions
we disapprove. In terms of the phrases that we have been using to align
our hearts and minds to the necessary willingness to share, then “May
they be well, may they be happy” is about the level we are aiming at: a
genuine feeling of wishing the person well, nothing more or less.

is always tricky when we are dealing with such profound feelings.
‘Love’ and even ‘kindness’ have so many associations in our language. We
are not concerned here with any of the notions of romantic love (being
‘in love’) or with the fondness that comes from being related to others.
Neither are we engaging in some sort of warm and cosy ‘love-in’. Mettā
is the indiscriminate and heartfelt expression of our yearning for the
welfare of all. The quality of mettā should not seem overwhelming: it is
produced by the will of one person who cares so much for all others
that she or he wants only what is best for them.

we may think that concentration on a few individuals, to the exclusion
of other beings, is likely to result in ignoring the welfare of the
many. Mettā is different: it is not a finite resource that we need to
work with frugally. As we ease forward in our practice we cannot fail to
see its limitless nature. Mettā cannot be applied in a partial manner;
we may begin our work focusing on a small circle of a few people and
from there we must work to extend this active kindness to everyone.

this form of practice we are looking to cultivate an equanimous
approach based in our ability to care; not discriminating between the
different groups and individuals to selectively bestow and withhold
goodwill according to perceived merit. There is nothing wrong with an
attitude that is even-minded - indeed it should be that way - but we
must ensure it is not also careless and unfeeling. Sometimes people
think that because the brahmavihāra practices focus on the emotions and
relationships that they should feature great swellings or outpourings of
emotion: this may happen for some people, but not for everyone, and it
is not something we need to crave or try to manufacture. We are products
of different sets of conditions and our particular experience in
meditation, as in all other things, necessarily reflects this. Those who
do experience extreme emotions during meditation will often find that
these emotions are anything but evenly distributed and that working for a
balanced outlook is, for them, quite challenging. Those of us with a
temperament not given to outward display of emotion have different
challenges - but they certainly do not lie in trying to conform to an
idea of what should arise in our sittings.

is a wholehearted concern for the welfare of all beings - the arising
of the unconditional will to beneficence. There are many different ways
that this manifests and they need not involve strong emotional mood
swings. A practice that is a roller coaster of emotions is likely to be
debilitating, being most likely to be founded on passion, preference and
partiality. Meditators who experience this initially will soon find
greater evenness and balance occurs quite naturally as the engagement
with this work continues.

people genuinely do not feel negatively about individuals and worry
that this needs rectifying in some way. If they truly do not feel any
anger or hatred towards others then it is pointless to try to conjure
them up just to fit a particular technique. If mild irritation or
annoyance is present then work with that - but don’t try to engineer
negative mental states for the sake of it. We are working with what is
present rather than making our experience fit some preconceived notion
of how it should be. The suttas say that we should work to pervade the
whole world with lovingkindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and
equanimity - all beneficial qualities. If you already do not feel
animosity towards others then that is a positive step towards achieving
this end.

the question that should be asked as we get to grips with this practice
is not “Am I feeling the right emotion?” or “Am I sufficiently
emotional?” but simply “Do I care about these people?” In most cases, I
suspect, there are already people and other sentient beings for whom you
do care - perhaps deeply - and that you aspire always to act kindly and
unselfishly, then that is a very firm basis for development. Sustained
work will permit this seed of lovingkindness to grow and blossom into
unconditional mettā - where lovingkindness becomes integral to every
decision you take and is imprinted upon every action you perform
regardless of who it affects.

techniques are relatively crude but useful devices that help us to
refine certain skills and develop particular qualities - but we must not
feel enslaved by them. If there is a section of the mettā technique
which you feel cannot be populated because, genuinely, there is no one
with whom you have difficulty then it is fine to work without that
section for a while… but if there is anyone for whom there remains the
slightest degree of animosity, irritability or resentment, then there
is still necessary work to be done.

is not mantra meditation. Mantra meditation is the continual mental
repetition of a single sound or phrase over and over again. The mantra
would provide the focus for one-pointedness (much like the point of
contact in the 4th stage of ānāpānasati) and would not be directed
towards another being. In most traditions, mantras usually do not have a
clear meaning, and many have no discernible meaning at all. The phrases
we have been using as we begin mettā bhāvanā are suggestions or
reminders of an attitude that we are trying to cultivate towards others;
they are always readily intelligible and are a practical device used to
evoke a specific response in the meditator which may then be directed
unconditionally to another being.

as it may seem, it is both possible and necessary that we work to
extend lovingkindness to all sentient beings. Mettā is not really mettā
at all unless it is offered unconditionally. If we choose to selectively
bestow and withhold it, based only on our wishes, then this is
indicative that we are seeing others only in terms of what they can do
for us. That approach denies the interconnections that are
characteristic of our world. It places us at a fixed centre around which
everything else revolves and we arrogate the right to determine what is
of value and whom to respect.

are complex beings. We may habitually identify an individual by a
particular act (good or bad) but this can only ever be regarded as part
of the story. Lovingkindness Meditation does not require that we approve
of the unskilful actions that a person carries out; it does not even
require that we feel warmly towards his or her personality. It is,
instead, both an acknowledgement and a commitment that we have chosen to
inform all our actions with the quality of lovingkindness. It may not
be reciprocated, although that often happens, but in a sense this is

choosing to orientate our outlook and behaviour towards kindness and
generosity we ensure that the optimum conditions are in place for
tranquillity and mental peace to arise. Our own minds will not be
debilitated by stress, anger and hatred. One practical aspect of this is
that we are likely to be less shaken by the unsavoury events that
sometimes arise throughout life; we will see them in perspective rather
than compounding the suffering we experience with our own anger and
frustration. This is a mundane effect, but the

reorientation of our viewpoint through the opening of the heart is crucial for spiritual development to take place.

of this is easy and many of us have an instinctive resistance to
unequivocally offering mettā to all. Try to remember that this is not
about condoning hurtful behaviour or approving of reprehensible acts; it
is about training ourselves to act skilfully. We are not in control of
how others choose to act, but we can make sure that we always work from
the best of motives. Lovingkindness Meditation is part of the training
that can help to make this a reality.

Contemplation - Day 20

116. Be
swift in doing good;

the mind from doing evil.

one is slow to do good

mind delights in evil.

117. If
one commits an evil act,

refrain from repeating it.

not take pleasure in it:

painful is the accumulation of evil.

118. If
one commits a good act,

do it repeatedly.

pleasure in it:

blissful is the accumulation of good.

119. Even
an evil-doer sees happiness

the fruit of his deed is yet to ripen.

when it matures,

they see suffering.

120. Even
a good-doer sees suffering

the fruit of his deed is yet to ripen.

when it matures,

they see happiness.

121. Don’t
think lightly of evil

“It will not come to me”.

by drop is the water jar filled.

acting little by little,

themselves with evil.

122. Don’t
think lightly of good

“It will not come to me”.

by drop is the water jar filled.

wise, acting little by little,

themselves with good.

Last modified: Thursday, 12 January 2017, 1:37 PM

Friday - The Third Precept

1. The Third Precept


kāmesu micchācārā veramani sikkhā padam samādiyāmi

I take the precept to abstain from sexual (or sensual) misconduct

rule of training, voluntarily entered into, is an undertaking to act
responsibly within our relationships. It is about valuing other people
and treating them with commitment and respect. It is an acknowledgement
of the damage caused to others and ourselves by engaging in sex outside
the context of a solid relationship. Our minds and those of others with
whom we engage cannot achieve tranquillity if they are filled with
deceit, jealousy, intrigue, and guilt. If we use other people for sexual
purposes in a casual manner we neglect to see them as full human
beings, and are not treating them with kindness and compassion. We mess
up their lives, having used them selfishly, and walk away. We mess up
our lives and face the consequences at the very least in terms of damage
to our equilibrium. If the process of meditation is about relief from
all suffering why do we choose to engage in causing unnecessary
suffering to other people and to ourselves? How easy is it for our minds
to settle in meditation when we are racked by shame, anger and guilt.
How conducive to peacefulness are the abusive practices some carry out
in the guise of sexual behaviour? How conducive to a stable harmonious
society, supportive of the practise of Dhamma, is unrestrained sexual

Some translators state that this precept should read:

I take the precept to abstain from sensual misconduct.

can look upon this as a deepening of the practice. It would include all
of the above plus what is generally known as guarding the sense doors.
We can abstain from indulgence and simplify our lives. We can use what
is necessary to live and strengthen our commitment to the serious
pursuit of working toward liberation - rather than indulging our senses
in transient things.


the Third Precept is interpreted as condoning relationships only within
the context of marriage but until recently marriages have been a
secular rather than a religious affair in Buddhist countries. Marriage
still has the widest acceptability in terms of a socially sanctioned
long-term relationship and provides the optimum stability for the
rearing of children. There is great value in this for most lay people
and it should be encouraged and nurtured. Because it is so socially
acceptable it has the advantage of not setting one apart from, or
bringing one into conflict with, the wider community. This may lead to
more tranquil mind states than if one is constantly at odds with others.
One can see that this is very useful to the contemplative life.

some societies anything other than a legally constituted relationship
would be taboo and life would become a constant struggle against the
status quo if one did not accept the social norm. In the modern
developed world there are more choices which, as always, is a blessing
and a trap. Many who have relationships that would have been unthinkable
only a few years ago (or even today in other societies) manage to lead
moral stable and loving relationships unblessed by church or state and
in ways which do not provoke in them mental states conditioned by anger
and agitation.

loving relationships, which are not based on indulgence and insularity,
can be a firm foundation in which spiritual development can take place.
This is not a cop-out and we must be careful that our behaviour is
always tempered by what tends to the good rather than merely following
the latest fashion or, conversely, holding rigidly to convention. Some
things will always be unhelpful and damaging. Our mental equilibrium is
so easily upset and no one can make much spiritual progress if they are
flitting between different partners and living a life based on
fickleness and sensual indulgence. Stability of relationship and
attention to ethics within that relationship are what is called for. The
simple questions ‘Does this behaviour harm?’ or ‘Does this behaviour
help?’ are usually all that are required.

all of the precepts the Third Precept requires a context. If we look
back to the Buddha’s time or to cultures that are different from our own
then the idea of what constitutes sexual misconduct will vary. This is
not a question of moral relativism as there are absolutes: anything that
is harmful to others or ourselves represents unskilful behaviour. In
this context we are not simply concerned with the effects of our chosen
behaviour on the emotional and physical level; we are also concerned
with how it may effect our spiritual development. In the East and the
West people engage in practices which are damaging to themselves, their
partners and their communities; but as lay people we can choose to act
skilfully in this as in any other area of our lives.

of the things to consider (after the more obvious concerns about power
and consent) is the effect that particular sexual acts will have on the
equilibrium of the participants. Strong emotions, behaviour which put us
at odds with the community in which we live, lust, attachment and
craving, etc. all have a tendency to push out whatever space we have
made for the mind to settle in contemplation, tranquillity and
one-pointedness. If we are racked by guilt and craving we will be unable
to make much progress in the contemplative life. This may be more
important for some than for others dependent on the place that
meditation has for us and the urgency with which we wish to devote
ourselves to liberation. It is unlikely that promiscuous relationships,
for example, will provide anything other than turbulent mental states
for those involved (and perhaps a lack of consideration for the welfare
of any offspring) and would therefore be a hindrance rather than help on
this path of calm and insight.

acts are always detrimental. Rape and non-consensual sex are always
harmful. We will also find that promiscuity brings about more harmful
results than benefits particularly in relation to the mental states of
the participants. Treating other people as commodities cannot ever be
skilful nor can abusing any power, physical or mental, that we exercise
over them. For lay people meaningful long term relationships based on
mutual support, love and care may even be beneficial for their spiritual

we look at books on Buddhist ethics we often find that the social mores
of the era or the culture of the writer are reflected in how the
precepts are interpreted. This sometimes leads to very concrete ideas
about which sexual acts are prescribed and which are proscribed. If we
return to the Pāli Canon we see that whilst the vinaya is very specific
for monks and nuns there are no similar lists for lay people. The
approach of listing what lay people should and should not do has its
merits but we should remember that the precepts are not commandments; we
can deepen our commitment and observance of them in the light of
experience. Whatever the era or culture, acts like adultery are wrong
because they rely on deceit and are likely to cause guilt for the
instigator and pain, quite probably, to all involved. We must be careful
not to blind ourselves to the damage that our egos can inflict,
however, and we should not simply do what ever we crave at the time. The
spiritual path is a commitment that requires steady attention to our
motivation in all our activities.

is useful to see sexual misconduct as part of a wider notion of sensual
misconduct. This means that we need to guard against excesses, craving
and attachment wherever we meet them. The sexual arena is particularly
important because of the strength of those attachments and cravings, but
in essence is no different to other arenas where we can also become
indulgent and engage in practices which shore up our self-view, blind us
to the needs of others, and prevent us from seeing reality because of
tendencies to indulge in fantasy.

we come to look at non-standard relationships the position is less
clear, and must take cognisance of the expectations and tolerance of the
community in which we live. If we are constantly battling against our
society or our activities are beyond the tolerance level of it, then
life will be spent in conflict and turbulence and this may prevent us
from developing positive mental states conducive to the pursuit of
enlightenment. This explains why some forms of behaviour may, quite
legitimately, be spiritually permissible in one society whilst being
taboo in another.

we consider the precepts and the other recommendations on behaviour
aimed at the laity, such as those contained in the sigalovada sutta, we
should always be aware that we remain the arbiter of what is skilful and
unskilful. We become our own authorities: we can accept the advice of
others but must test its validity against our own experience. If our
behaviour is conducive to wholesome and stable relationships founded on
love and respect then that may provide a fertile environment for the
nurturing of a meaningful and spiritual life. If the relationships we
choose are driven primarily by lust, jealousy and possession then it is
unlikely that spiritual progress will be made. As in all moral decisions
we need to ask in each case whether our activities are likely to help
or harm the spiritual development of those concerned. There may be many
forms of relationship that when conducted with integrity provide a
nurturing environment. Stability, balance, honesty and the types of
qualities embodied in the brahmavihāra practices are the bedrock of an
ethical relationship - whether Buddhist or otherwise.

Aware that all beings desire freedom from suffering

- I choose to honour and respect them.

Aware that commitment and stability is important

- I choose not to deceive or ill-treat others.

Aware that I seek happiness and peace

- I choose not to act in ways which produce guilt and shame.

Contemplation - Day 21

123. The
merchant with rich goods and

protection avoids a perilous route.

should one avoid evil,

one who desires life avoids poison.

124. The
woundless hand can hold poison.

does not penetrate

there is no wound.

who does no evil

free from evil.

125. Evil
returns to one who harms

innocent, the pure and the faultless,

fine dust thrown against the wind.

126. Some
are born in the womb,

evil in woeful states,

good in blissful states.

stainless attain Nibbana.

127. Not
in the sky, mid-ocean

a mountain cave.

on earth exists

refuge from your evil deed.

128. Not
in the sky, mid-ocean

a mountain cave.

on earth exists

refuge from your death.

Last modified: Thursday, 12 January 2017, 1:39 PM

Chant Workshop 3 (optional)

1. Chant Workshop 3

meditation practices we are using are drawn from the Theravāda
tradition which bases its teachings on the words of the Buddha and his
early followers as recorded in the Pāli Canon. Pāli is a written
liturgical language and is often also used for traditional chants that
many meditators find helpful as part of their spiritual practice. During
the course we will introduce a small number of these chants in Pāli or
in translated English form.

the weeks the individual chants build to form the text for a puja, or
dedication ceremony, that some practitioners may wish to use as a way of
periodically rededicating their meditation practice. Please use the
chants if you find them helpful; please ignore them if you prefer.

CHANT 3: Iti Pi So

Ratanattaya Vandanā Gātha

iti’pi so bhagavā araham sammā sambuddho

vijjācarana sampanno

sugato lokavidhu

anuttaro purisadamma sārathi

satthā devamanussānam

buddho bhagavā’ti

svākkhāto bhagavatā dhammo

sanditthiko akāliko

ehipassiko opanayiko

paccattam veditabbo viññuhi’ti

supatipanno bhagavato sāvakasangho

ujupatipanno bhagavato sāvakasangho

ñāyapatipanno bhagavato sāvakasangho

sāmicipatipanno bhagavato sāvakasangho

yadidam cattāri purisayugāni


esa bhagavato sāvakasangho

āhuneyyo pāhuneyyo

dakkhineyyo añjalikaraniyo

annuttaram puññakkhettam lokassā’ti

Verses in Praise of the Three Jewels

Such indeed is the Blessed One:

Exalted, Omniscient, Perfect in knowledge and conduct,

Fully accomplished, Knower of worlds,

Incomparable Guide for the training of persons,

Teacher of gods and humans, Enlightened, Blessed.

Well expounded is the Dhamma by the Blessed One:

to be self-realized, with immediate fruit,

inviting investigation, leading onward (to Nibbāna),

comprehended by the wise, each for oneself.

Of good conduct are the disciples of the Blessed One

Of upright conduct are the disciples of the Blessed One

Of wise conduct are the disciples of the Blessed One

Of gentle conduct are the disciples of the Blessed One

The disciples of the Blessed One

- these Four Pairs of Persons, the Eight Kinds of Individual -

are worthy of gifts, worthy of reverence;

an incomparable field of merit to the world.

Play this chant:



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Last modified: Thursday, 13 September 2018, 4:39 PM

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