Mettā-Sutta – boundless love and kindness
It is sad to see that the violent crime against George Floyd was necessary to finally create a louder, collective voice against racism in our societies. However, it is wonderful to see compassion and awareness rising in so many ways. This week’s yoga class is about compassion and generating mettā-sutta, the practice of boundless love and kindness.
In the earliest collections of the Buddha’s teachings, the Sutta-nipta, he refers to the concept of immeasurable friendliness called Mettā-Sutta. Mettā can also be seen as the starting point of an ethical life including the choice of words, thoughts and acts of integrity.
Mettā creates the foundation for compassion, joy, and equanimity.
“Yoga” means “to bind”. The ultimate aim of Yoga and meditation is to go beyond the “ego”, the limited self and to feel connected to all beings and to generate the infinite awareness of All that Is. So, for me practicing yoga and meditating daily becomes also a way of doing social good and working on my own behavioural patterns that I like to leave behind in order to be a better part of the whole.
“He who is rooted in oneness realises that I am in every being, wherever he goes, he remains in me. When he sees all beings as equal in suffering or in joy because they are like himself, that man has grown perfect in yoga.”
If we want to achieve equality in our society, practicing mettā is a good way to start. It starts at the individual level, rather than separating the us as individuals from the whole. We tend to put the responsibility of our future and our collective, societal behaviours onto someone else or blaming the system for it.
If you feel like it is no longer acceptable to live in a society of racism, neither non-racism, but of anti-racism – start with yourself.
This is about understanding that if we “begin to see that our capacity to radically change our mind of the moment through mettā is to change the shape of our world of the moment… Mettā does not ask for the ambitious desire to save the entire world but simply to rescue the mind and the heart of this moment from the compulsion of ill will.” It is the “behavioural gesture of the heart.” *
The concept is not about loving everyone like you would your husband and kids, but about treating each other with respect and tolerance.
Sometimes, I find myself still judging people by accident, based on where they come from, how they look, what income they have etc. Even if this is racism in very subtle, non-violent ways – it is not the person I want to be. These underlying assumptions and prejudices that we hold feed the overarching problem of seeing a difference between any people.
A Tibetan teacher put it that way:
Do not take lightly small misdeeds,
Believing they can do no harm;
Even tiny spark of fire
Can set alight a mountain. ***
Mettā is a the practice of cultivating to swim against the tide of habitual and impulsive habits and patterns that cause suffering. If you realise that love is the most binding and healing way for our society, love is something you can choose actively. It is an “attitudinal commitment brought to all moments of experience. When we cultivate our capacity of boundless kindness we open the door for compassion, joy, and equanimity.*
“Hatred does not cease by hatred. By kindness alone is hatred healed.” Buddha **
* I quoted and referred to the book “Boundless heart” by Christina Feldman
** Ven. Narada Theratrans., The Dhammapada, Murray 1954
*** Patrul Rinpoche, Teh words of my perfect teacher: A complete Translation of the Classic Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism