Karaniya Metta Sutta – Metta Bhavana

October 7, 2018; revised September 6, 2019; February 11, 2021

Karaniya Metta Sutta is one of the popular suttā in Buddhist countries.  However, like many suttā, it has not been appropriately translated in most current English translations.

1. First of all, the actual name of the sutta is Karaniyamattha Sutta. It comes from “karaniyama” meaning “essential to do” (කල යුතුම  in Sinhala) and “attha” meaning “oneself.” That means this sutta summarizes what one must do (to make progress on the Path). But this is not a significant error since Metta bhāvanā is there too.

  • Those “requirements” are in the first three verses.
  • The actual “Metta bhāvanā” part is in verses 4 through 8.
  • Verse 9 says that one should do this bhāvanā in all four postures. This bhāvanā is the “Brahma Vihāra” or “living like a Brahma” or “living with the mindset of a Brahma.
  • Verse 10: When one fulfills the “requirements” at the basic level, one will get to the Sōtapanna stage. With the cultivation of Metta bhāvanā, one will get to be an Anāgāmi (not born in a womb again).
1Karaṇī­ya­mattha ­kusa­lena,
Yantam santaṃ padaṃ abhisamecca;
Sakko ujū ca suhujū ca,
Sūvaco cassa mudu anatimānī
What kusala should be done by one who is seeking cooling down (by seeing the unfruitful nature of this world): moral, upright and disciplined, with pleasing manners and humble.
2Santussako ca subharo ca,
Appakicco ca sallaukavutti;
Santindriyo ca nipako ca,
Appagabbho kulesua­nanu­giddho
Always happy, bearing only good (gati), with few mundane duties and simple life, with senses calmed and a cooled mind, with few burdens (possessions), and treating everyone the same (regardless of race, color, etc.).
3Na ca khuddamsamācare kiñci,
Yena viññū pare upavadeyyuṃ;
Sukhino va khemino hontu,
Sabbe sattā bhavantu sukhitattā
Not engaging in harmful/lowly actions (and this thought that one always holds), may all beings attain Nibbāna (and get to the ultimate happiness).
4Ye keci pāṇabhūtatthi,
Tasā vā thāvarā vā anavasesā;
Dīghā vā ye mahantā vā,
Majjhimā rassaka aṇuka thūlā
Whoever there may be with a breath of life (including microscopic beings or aṇuka) , trapped by greed for so long in sansāra, may they be free of fear and greed without exception.
5Diṭṭhā vā ye va adiṭṭhā,
Ye ca dūre vasanti avidūre;
Bhūtā vā sambhavesī vā,
Sabbe sattā bhavantu sukhitattā
Those who are seen or unseen, those dwelling far or near, those born as well as those seeking birth (gandhabbā), may all beings attain Nibbāna.
6Na paroparaṃ nikubbetha,
Nātimaññetha katthacinam kañci;
Byārosanā paṭighasañña,
Nāññamaññassa duk­kha­mic­cheyya
May no one deceive another, treat everyone like close relatives. May they not wish each other harm, and by seeing the unfruitful nature of this world, may they be free of suffering.
7Mātā yathā niyaṃputtam
āyusā eka­puttama­nurak­khe;
Evampi sabbabhūtesu,
Mānasaṃbhāva ye aparimāṇaṃ
Just as a mother would protect her only child with her life, may this protection affect all beings on an equal footing.
8Mettañca sabbalokasmim,
Mānasaṃbhāva ye aparimāṇaṃ;
Uddhaṃ adho ca tiriyañca,
Asambādhaṃ avera­m a­sapat­taṃ
May all cultivate mettā towards all beings on an equal footing, those who live above, below, or across. May all be unhindered and without enmity.
9Tiṭṭhaṃ caraṃ nisinno vā,
Sayāno vā yāvatassa vighatamiddho;
Etaṃ satiṃ adhiṭṭheyya,
Brahmametaṃ Vihāra­m i­dhamāhu
Whether standing, walking, sitting or lying down, may all sustain this mettā mindset (what the Buddha called Brahma Vihāra).
10Diṭṭhiñca anupaggamma,
Sīlavā dassanena sampanno;
Kāmesu vinaya gedhaṃ,
Na hi jātug­abba­seyyam punaretī”ti
Being moral based on right vision (a Sōtapanna), and by removing kāma rāga with effort one will never again be in a womb (Sakadāgāmi or higher).

Note: The pdf file of the sutta itself can be downloaded here: “Karaniya Metta Sutta.”

2. Deeper explanations are in some words like “abhisamecca” (“abhi” + “san” + “avecca“), and “dukkhamicceyya” (“dukkham” + “avecceyya“).

  • Avecca is the keyword in both cases, and I discussed the deep connection to “icca” and thus Tilakkhana in the post, “Sotapatti Anga – The Four Qualities of a Sotāpanna” (starting at #9 in the post).
  • If anyone needs more explanations of other words, we can discuss it at the discussion forum, but we will look at one more next.

3. Another keyword is “mānasaṃbhāva,” which comes from “mānasan” and  “bhava,” meaning one’s mind (ideally) does not contaminate beyond the “mānasan” stage.

  • When thoughts (citta) arise, they get contaminated within a fraction of a second due to one’s gati. That is discussed in the post, “Amazingly Fast Time Evolution of a Thought (Citta),”
  • Therefore, the goal is to improve one’s gati, so that one’s citta will not contaminate beyond the “mānasan” stage (reached the Arahant stage). One should strive to approach that mindset right now, at least while meditating.
  • As one gets closer to that stage, one will have true mettā AUTOMATICALLY for increasingly more and more living beings. At Arahanthood, one will have boundless mettā to all: “mānasaṃbhāva ye aparimāṇaṃ.”

4. The first three verses in the sutta state how one gets to the Sōtapanna stage by getting to the Ariyakānta sila (unbreakable moral conduct). That is when one will have aveccappasāda (unbreakable faith in the Buddha, Dhamma, Saṅgha). That is discussed in detail in the post, “Sotapatti Anga – The Four Qualities of a Sotāpanna.”

  • Then by cultivating mettā, one can gradually get rid of kāma rāga and get to the Sakadāgāmi and Anāgāmi stages.
  • However, this is an excellent sutta to listen to and to recite even before getting to the Sōtapanna stage. It is better to recite Pāli verses with an understanding of the meaning of those verses.  The sound itself is beneficial, especially when pronounced correctly, as done by the Thero in the recording below.
  • It is also good to play the recording in the background while doing other things or during meditation. In Asian countries, it is common practice to play this sutta in the mornings, while everyone is getting ready to go to school or work.

5. A recital of the sutta by Waharaka Thero is below:


Download: Karaniya Metta Sutta

Note: In the recital, the sutta ends around 4:45. The Thero starts reciting the following verse:

Pāpaggahā nivāranā
Hantu mayhaṃ upaddave

It is a verse from “Mahā Jayamaṅgala Gātha” where merits are offered to other beings. See, p. 42 of the following booklet, which is a useful guide:

Vandanā: The Album of Pāḷi Devotional Chanting & Hymns

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