A Love Beyond Supreme: A Tribute to METTA

by Thien Huu Nguyen.

Since I started walking the Buddhist path, the practice of metta (loving-kindness) has become more and more an important part of my life. If there were one practice that I would say is the most far-reaching practice for me, it would have to be the meditation on loving-kindness. The benefits of this practice become clearer the more you deepen your understanding and practice of it. Metta has become a small but powerful revolution for me. Metta gives me another option, another way to respond, to people, situations, events, myself. It is something practical that I can develop and mobilize for the war within my mind. Too often our minds are flooded by impatience, frustration, and judgment, or even worse, sadness, anger, ill will, hatred, rage. Metta is often the only protection against these roots of suffering, and it is so much more: A haven of hope, good medicine, a reminder to be lovingly mindful, and a blessing.

But to alleviate suffering and nourish happiness is not only a blessing, it is the actual lived experience of liberation. Because metta gives us another way of think, it therefore gives us another way to act and live, both individually and collectively. This way is immensely positive, loving, and hopeful. Metta then can be a source of joy and a contribution to personal and social justice. It is such a contrast to a way of life and a human world that is often dominated by the negative, hateful, and hopeless, not to mention the brutal. In the midst of this situation, metta is the concrete act of training our minds to be more loving and expressing this loving-kindness. The positive benefits of this simple act I believe are boundless and immeasurable.

So what exactly is metta? Metta is defined as is the strong wish for the happiness, welfare, and liberation of all living beings, starting first and foremost with yourself, and the capacity to act on this wish. The wish for your own happiness and welfare is not only the foundation for the practice of metta, and the Buddha’s path, it is the basis for your happiness and all positive actions you do for the world. At the heart of the practice is the strong wish for the happiness and welfare of others AND the concrete act of promoting their happiness and welfare. Metta is thus very different from our conventional Hollywood understanding of love, which is typically bound up in lust, desire, possessiveness, conditionality, and self-interest. And unlike “respect”, which is so conditional and relative, it is both unconditional and constant. Metta is in fact radically different from anything most of us are used to. It is a love that is boundless and not based on relationships, identity, or conditions. You don’t radiate metta only to people of a particular gender, race, class, personality, or life situation; you radiate it to ALL living beings without distinction. It can be described as a universal unconditional love since it seeks the happiness of literally all living beings throughout the universe without seeking anything in return and without limit.

Just ask yourself when was the last time you even considered the happiness and welfare of not just your family, friends, partner, but ALL living beings? Metta is this all-encompassing loving thought cultivated and repeated over and over again; it is the continuous training of our minds and the expansion of its capacity to be more loving and kind. Consider just how powerful of an act this can be. More and more, the importance of deeply expressing a positive and loving attitude in all that we do and all times and at all places, is becoming clearer to me. The practice of metta meditation must be a continuous expression and force if you really want to benefit all living beings, or at least the ones around you. At the most fundamental level, sometimes the most positive thing you can do is to cultivate an attitude of warmth, friendliness, and loving-kindness and radiate this all around you, and to practice metta at every available opportunity. And during those times when it is most challenging and most difficult to practice it, for example, when we are in the midst of anger, frustration, fear, these are the times in which we need to practice it the most.

In our lives moment-by-moment, we have a choice to either be a living expression of our negativity and suffering, or an expression of our positivity, joy, and loving-kindness. I wish I could begin to describe just how liberating this practice can be, and why I have so much faith and confidence in it as a means to transform our lives. I strongly believe that by flooding our minds with loving-kindness, we can flood the world with loving-kindness, for the benefit of ourselves, our loved ones, and all living beings.

May you and all beings everywhere know happiness, freedom and peace.

October 22, 2007.