The Conditioned Nature of Metta
In the first part
of the metta sutta we come across conditions important for one who
wishes to develop metta. If we study them we can see into their relevance
and as to what way it works as it concerns our practice of it in our
1. He should be
Capability in his own materiality and spiritual welfare will determine
how much of a service he can give to others. Surely an immoral man
cannot urge another or practise morality effectively. He himself has
to know how. Similarly you cannot help another materially if you do
not have any yourself. Capability involves human potential and resource.
One must have confidence to carry it out, e.g. the cultivation and
the application of metta.
2. He should be
Frankness or straightforwardness is a sign of sincerity. One has to
be true to oneself as well as to others and unless one can be true
to oneself, one cannot be so to others. One has to establish a good
heart-to-heart communication to have metta. When there is trust then
the working metta can grow unhindered. This covers all fields of work,
including running businesses. In meditation too, this quality is important.
One has to relate honestly as to the progress of one's meditation.
Only then can the teacher guide one effectively. Reflection on our
motive of what we do puts us back in the right place. Morality too
can help us here.
3. Extremely honest.
This extreme honesty and sincerity may be translated as one which
can extend for a long period of time and under great tests. It signifies
the dependability and deep trust that one can give. To one with this
quality, people would readily open their hearts and go to them in
times of trouble. Obviously one with such a quality is a person of
strong principle, courage and understanding.
4. One should
Meekness means one who is obedient, and not stubborn. Again, a person
who is stubborn does not listen to others even if they wish him well.
How then can his metta be developed effectively? We must realise that
we can learn a lot from others' criticism and we can even learn to
listen to children. It also says a lot for the anger and pride present.
Definitely people would like to work or live with a meek person.
Gentleness in our thoughts and thus speech and action
can work wonders, besides avoiding a lot of unnecessary conflicts.
Harshness is hurtful as people can be very sensitive. Gentleness,
on the other hand, is pleasing and soothing like patting a child to
sleep. People's pride is like an open wound. To cure it we have to
be gentle. As they say mildness controls better than anger.
It's better to speak softer, and work carefully. Never say or do anything
when there is a trace of anger in the heart. When gentleness is in
the mind it keeps it soft, then stress does not settle in. On the
other hand it helps concentration to settle in quickly and joy follows.
Metta is also easily aroused. Learning to be gentle is worthwhile.
6. Not proud.
Metta has a lot to do with seeing others as important as oneself.
Pride on the other hand is self-centred and so a proud person cannot
properly see others' good points or understand their needs well. Such
understanding is fundamental in the arousing of metta. So when we
learn that "there is so much good in the worst of us, and so
much fault even in the best of us", we can see each other better.
Contemplation of impermanence also helps in the elimination of conceit.
In daily life it is even more obvious when trying to apply metta.
People's pride is hurt when they are put down. So they would rather
not communicate unless they have to.
Contentment means being satisfied with what is available or suitable.
A discontented person has anger and greed. It is not easy to work
or live with a greedy person. If there's a lot of greed in one trying
to practise metta one may let greed defile what are otherwise purely
wholesome deeds. Being contented also means that one will have a lot
of extra material things and time. One who is discontented has never
In monks, contentment helps their practice as well as giving a good
impression to people.
8. Easy to support.
"Subharo" in Pali actually means "easy to support".
This was said in reference to monks in the Karaniya Metta Sutta, a
sermon given to monks. Hence being easy to support by laypeople is
giving them less burdens even if one has to suffer a lot more. This
is one way of giving metta to them. Nevertheless everyone has to depend
on one another in some way. If we are too demanding or particular
then we become a nuisance and a pain the neck for others. So what
can be done without so as not to trouble others then
those things we shall do without. Taking chases people away, giving
brings people in. If we must borrow, then we must return, better if
we return more than we borrowed. Gratefulness begets appreciation.
9. Have few duties.
To develop any form of meditation it is best that we spend all the
time and effort in it. In that way we can get deep concentration and
fast. This also goes for metta even in daily life. If we are to develop
greater and deeper metta for others, such as our family and friends,
we will have to spend a greater amount of time with them. As the saying
goes they can have the money but not the love. Time therefore
is the important factor. Whole-hearted involvement is the other.
This refers to monks who are light in their living. Light refers to
having little possessions so that one may move about easily and freely
with little worries and attachments. Wherever one may be or go one
is flexible and versatile to fit into practice.
11. Serene in
The faculties are that of the senses eye, ear nose, tongue,
body and mind. To be calm in these means that we are neither excited
with attachment to whatever pleasurable that is seen, heard, etc.
nor disturbed with any unpleasant object. Even with neutral objects,
one is mindful and not deluded. The exercise of restraint keeps the
mind calm and controlled. It keeps the mind free from defilements.
This contributes greatly to the deepening concentration of the mind.
It will really strengthen and deepen the metta very much as when exercising
metta where there is no distraction and weakness.
Prudence refers to the knowledge as to what is suitable and advantageous,
especially in the spiritual sense. With reference to metta bhavana,
it will have specific implications as to say what are the best internal
and external conditions to have so that metta can develop best. In
daily life we find that this is all the more important. Metta without
wisdom can be dangerous. We may do more harm than good to ourselves
and to others. An example is a well-meaning correction of another's
mistake at a wrong time, place or person which may cause anger instead
of appreciation. It is always better to reflect and think twice as
to how best to help another.
13. Free from
Rudeness is coarseness in behaviour. Deeper states of consciousness
are refined states of mind. To develop metta we have to refine our
thoughts, speech and body. This would involve practising a lot of
mindfulness and wisdom. It will also involve proper behaviour, politeness,
etiquette and morality. Such refinement would definitely help us avoid
a lot of trouble and misunderstanding when dealing with people in
our daily lives.
14. Not favouring
This conditions just means not going around currying favour. This
happens when one is defiled by greed and attached to what others can
give. Usually it will not be too long before it becomes obvious to
others. We will then become a prey of as well as preying on others.
Attachment or greed is the failure of metta. It fails because its
enemy, attachment, has won. Then the magic is gone and only some nightmare
15. Should not
do even the slightest thing which other wise men might deplore.
Wise men deplore all unwholesome actions, and any of these counteracts
the pure mind of metta. All forms of evil no matter how insignificant
should not be underestimated and are best avoided. Mindfulness
again becomes all important as the guarding and guiding factor even
in metta bhavana itself.