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MEDITATION ON LOVING-KINDNESS

Loving kindness, or metta, is the first of the four "Abodes of the Buddha," also known as the Brahmaviharas. Meditation to arouse and sustain loving-kindness is a staple of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement for community development in Sri Lanka, and is accorded minutes of silence at the outset of every meeting. Organizers and village workers find it useful in developing motivation for service and overcoming feelings of hostility or inadequacy in themselves and others.

I first received instruction in this meditation from a nun in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Here is a version that I have adapted for use in the West.

Close your eyes and begin to relax, exhaling to expel tension. Now center in on the normal flow of the breath, letting go of all extraneous thoughts as you passively watch the breathing-in and breathing-out

Now call to mind someone you love very dearly...in your mind's eye see the face of that beloved one...silently speak her or his name...Feel your love for this being, like a current of energy coming through you...Now let your-self experience how much you want this person to be free from fear; how in-tensely you desire that this person be released from greed and ill-will, from confusion and sorrow and the causes of suffering...That desire, in all its sincerity and strength, is
metta, the great loving kindness......

Continuing to feel that warm energy flow coming through the heart, see in your mind's eye those with whom you share your daily life, family members, close friends and colleagues, the people you live and work with...Let them appear now as in a circle around you. Behold them one by one, silently speaking their names...and direct to each in turn that same current of loving--kindness...Among these beings may be some with whom you are uncomfortable, in conflict, or tension. With those especially, experience your desire that each be free from fear, from hatred, free from greed and ignorance and the causes of suffering......

Now allow to appear, in wider concentric circles your relations, and your acquaintances...Let the beam of loving-kindness play on them as well, pausing on the faces that appear randomly in your mind's eye. With them as well, experience how much you want their freedom from greed, fear; hatred and confusion, how much you want all beings to be happy
......

Beyond them, in concentric circles that are wider yet, appear now all beings with whom you share this planet-time. Though you have not met, your lives are interconnected in ways beyond knowing. To these beings as well, direct the same powerful current of loving-kindness. Experience your desire and your intention that each awaken from fear and hatred, from greed and confusion...that all beings be released from suffering


As in the ancient Buddhist meditation, we direct the loving-kindness now to all the "hungry ghosts," the restless spirits that roam in suffering, still prey to fear and confusion. May they find rest...may they rest in the great loving kindness and in the deep peace it brings......

By the power of our imagination let us move out now beyond our planet, out into the universe, into other solar systems, other galaxies, other Buddha-fields. The current of loving-kindness is not affected by physical distances, and we direct it now, as if aiming a beam of light, to all centers of conscious life...And to all sentient beings everywhere we direct our heartfelt wish that they, too, be free of fear and greed, of hatred and confusion and the causes of suffering...May all beings be happy......

Now, as if from out there in the interstellar distances, we turn and behold our own planet, our home...We see it suspended there in the blackness of space, blue and white jewel planet turning in the light of its sun
......Slowly we approach it, drawing nearer, nearer, returning to this part of it, this region, this place...And as you approach this place, let yourself see the being you know best of all...the person it has been given you to be in this lifetime...You know this person better than anyone else does, know its pain and its hopes, know its need for love, know how hard it tries...Let the face of this being, your own face, appear before you...speak the name you are called in love...And experience, with that same strong energy-current of loving-kindness, how deeply you desire that this being be free from fear, released from greed and hatred, liberated from ignorance and confusion and the causes of suffering...The great loving-kindness linking you to all beings is now directed to your own self...know now the fullness of it.