5. Ariya Metta Bhavana (Loving Kindness Meditation)

The top 10 posts in this section describe a way of using meditation in following the Noble Path and to attain the Sotapanna stage of Nibbana. The rest of the posts in this section are on possible meditation subjects and together with other posts at the site can be used to clarify unresolved questions, and to gain samadhi. It is recommended that the first 11 posts be followed in that order, at least initially.

1. We all have acquired innumerable “bad kamma vipaka” in this cycle of rebirths (sansara) that has no beginning. There is a very simple recipe for stopping many of such “bad kamma vipaka” from coming to fruition by “wearing out”  and ultimately removing the “kamma seeds” associated with them.

  • We acquire a bad “kamma seed” when we do something wrong to a living being, and we become indebted to that being. Just like we can become “debt-free” by paying off debts, we can pay off that debt. The problem is that we have become indebted to innumerable beings in previous rebirths. In the “Metta Sutta” (haliddavasana sutta) and other suttas, the Buddha has explained how much of this debt can be paid off by doing the Ariya metta bhavana and also by transferring merits to “all beings” when we do a good deed; see, “Transfer of Merits (Pattidana) – How Does it Happen?“.
  • Here we focus on the  Ariya metta bhavana. First some background material to clarify what this means.

2. The standard metta bhavana (loving kindness meditation) goes something like, “May myself and all beings be free of suffering, healthy, happy, and be free of all suffering”, or some similar (longer) passages.

  • Any type of such meditation is of course good. It makes your own mind calm down, and makes you think about the (mundane) welfare of the other beings.

3. However, the Ariya metta bhavana has a much more deeper meaning. It is done with at least some idea of the complexity of “this world” with 31 realms and the status of the beings in those realms. In order to cultivate true compassion and loving kindness one NEEDS TO FEEL the possible suffering in all those realms; see, “The Grand Unified Theory of Dhamma“:

  • The beings in the lowest four realms (apayas) undergo unimaginable suffering, both physical and mental.
  • In the lowest five realms (the apayas and the human realm), beings have physical bodies that are subject to sicknesses, body aches, and getting old before dying.
  • The sixth through eleventh realms are that of the devas. They have spontaneous births with fully formed (but less dense) bodies that are not subjected to sickness, aches and pains, and visible signs of old age until close to death. But they also have all five physical senses just like the lower five realms, and could be subjected to repulsive touch, distasteful/unpleasant tastes, smells, and sounds, and visuals.
  • The higher 20 realms that include rupa loka and arupa loka have even less dense bodies than the devas, and do not have the physical sense faculties for taste, smell, and body touch. Thus any suffering they have is all mental, and not as intense as in the lower realms.

4. However, no living being is free of FUTURE suffering in any of the 31 realms, because unless the Sotapanna stage of Nibbana has been attained, even the beings in the highest realm can end up even in the apayas (lowest four realms) in future rebirths.

  • And the only way to attain the Sotapanna stage of Nibbana is by comprehending the Three Characteristics of this world of 31 realms: anicca, dukkha, anatta.
  • The first level of understanding of anicca, dukkha, anatta leads to the Sotapanna stage; when one attains the Sotapanna stage, one becomes free from the apayas FOREVER. This happens via the inability of the mind of a Sotapanna to generate certain cittas with “apayagamikammic power; see, “Akusala Citta – How a Sotapanna avoids Apayagami Citta” and “Conditions for the Four Stages of Nibbana”.
  • When the next stage of Nibbana (Sakadagami stage) is attained, one becomes free of births in the lower five realms where suffering due to physical ailments and diseases are possible. Thus one PERMANENTLY becomes “healthy” by attaining the Sakadagami stage.
  • At the Anagami stage, one removes more akusala citta (and other fulfil other conditions; see, “Conditions for the Four Stages of Nibbana”), and will never be born again in kama loka including the deva realm. Thus one becomes PERMANENTLY free of any physical suffering.
  • Then at the Arahant stage, all defilements are removed from the mind and one will never be reborn in any of the 31 realms. The mind truly becomes free and one attains permanent niramisa sukha; see, “The Three Kinds of Happiness – What is niramisa sukha?” and other posts on niramisa sukha.
  • As you can see, the Ariya metta bhavana is similar in structure to the conventional one, but the words have deeper meanings. For example, by saying “be healthy” now it is meant to be healthy forever, i.e., not to be born ever with a body that is subject to diseases and old age.

5. Now we can see how the Ariya metta bhavana is formulated:

  • “May myself and all living beings attain the Sotapanna stage and be free from suffering in the apayas forever”
    “May myself and all living beings attain the Sakadagami stage and be healthy forever”.
    “May myself and all living beings attain the Anagami stage and be content (attain peaceful happiness)  forever”.
    “May myself and all living beings attain the Arahant stage and be free from all suffering and attain the full Nibbanic bliss”.
  • All four Brahma vihara (metta, karuna, mudita, upekkha) are cultivated with this bhavana.

6. What matters is not the particular set of word used, but what is felt in one’s heart. In order to do that one needs to truly comprehend that there is REAL SUFFERING in this world, not only at the human or animal realms, but in many other realms.

  • The impact of the metta bhavana increases gradually with increased understanding of anicca, dukkha, anatta, because then one realizes the dangers and suffering that all living beings face in future lives.
  • The potential of the metta bhavana is enormous. The Buddha said one could attain the Anagami stage by correctly doing the metta bhavana. But that entails understanding anicca, dukkha, anatta, i.e., attaining the Sotapanna stage or at least embark on the path to Sotapanna stage.
  • However, even before attaining the Sotapanna stage, one could reap many benefits by doing this correct Ariya metta bhavana; see, “Kamma, Debt, and Meditation“.
  • It is best to do Ariya metta bhavana and vipassana bhavana (meditation on anicca, dukkha, anatta and other dhamma concepts) in a sitting meditation session every day; see, “What do all these Different Meditation Techniques Mean?“.
  • Initially 10-15 minutes would be good for formal meditation, and can be increased as the niramisa sukha sets in one starts seeing the benefits; one could stay in mediation for hours. Of course anapanasati  needs to be practiced the whole day, which means being aware of what is “taken in” (ana) and what is “discarded” (pana); see, “What is Anapana?” and other related posts in the meditation section.
  • Listening to discourses and reading about Dhamma are also forms of meditation, and should be done during quite times so the key concepts can be absorbed.

7. The Ariya metta bhavana is one of the most POTENT tools that we have. It is simple concept, but the main difficulty is with the “Ariya” part; one needs to comprehend anicca, dukkha, anatta  for the bhavana to be fully effective.

  • Still even the mundane version stated in #2 above is good start. As one follows the Path and understands the concepts better (not the book knowledge), the javana power in one’s thoughts become strong, and the bhavana becomes stronger and more effective.
  • In the Abhidhamma language, the most potent kusala citta is the “somanassa sahagata nana sampayutta asankharika citta“, i.e., the “thought that arises with joy and wisdom automatically”. This thought also gets stronger with increasing wisdom, and gets stronger as one gets to Sotapanna magga, Sotapanna phala, etc and optimum only at the Arahant stage.
  • Yet even when one is following the mundane eightfold path, this citta is there, at a lower strength. It needs to be cultivated; see, “Buddha Dhamma – In a Chart“, and “What is Unique in Buddha Dhamma“.

Next, “Anapanasati Bhavana  (Introduction)“, ……..

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