Karaniya Metta Sutta – Metta Bhavana

October 7, 2018

Karaniya Metta Sutta is one of the popular suttas in Buddhist countries.  However, like many suttas, it has not been translated properly 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 stated in the first 3 verses.
  • Actual “metta bhāvanā” part is in verses 4 through 8.
  • Verse 9 says that this bhāvanā should be done in all four postures, and is called 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, and 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 rassakāṇukathūlā
Whoever there may be with a breath of life, 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).

Note: I noticed that the formatting of the sutta could be distorted when the post is printed. The pdf file of the sutta itself can be downloaded here: “Karaniya Metta Sutta“.

2. The deeper explanations can be found in some words like “abhisamecca” (“abhi” + “san” + “avecca“), and “dukkhamicceyya” (“dukkham” + “avecceyya“).

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

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

  • As we discussed in the post, “Amazingly Fast Time Evolution of a Thought (Citta)“, one’s thoughts (citta) are contaminated within a fraction of a second due to one’s gati.
  • Therefore, the goal is to improve one’s gati, so that one’s citta will not be contaminated beyond the “mānasan” stage (reached at 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 3 verses in the sutta state how one gets to the Sōtapanna stage by getting to the Ariyakanta sila (unbreakable moral conduct) via aveccappasāda (unbreakable faith in the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha), as discussed in detail in the post, “Sotapatti Anga – The Four Qualities of a Sotapanna“.

  • Then by cultivating mettā, one can gradually get rid of kāma rāga and get to the Sakadāgāmi and Anāgāmi stages.
  • However, even before getting to the Sōtapanna stage, this is a good sutta to listen to and to recite by oneself. One should understand the meaning of the verses and try to recite the Pāli 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, this is one of the suttas being played in the mornings, while everyone is getting ready to go to school or work.

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


You can use the “DOWNLOAD” button to open the file. You can play it there or right-click on the screen and choose “save as..” to save to your computer.

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