Saturday, June 5, 2010

Basic Metta Meditation Instructions by Visu

Metta is a Pali word that means goodwill, lovingkindness, friendliness, benevolence, non-hatred, non-anger, and non-resentment. Metta meditation is very helpful in checking the unwholesome tendency to hatred and anger in us and promoting and strengthening the wholesome states of non-hatred, non-anger, non-resentment, patience, tolerance, calmness, coolness, goodwill, lovingkindness, benevolence and friendliness.

In addition to Vipassana (Insight) meditation the Buddha often exhorted us to practise metta as one of the four divine ways of abiding. The other three divine abidings are karuna (compassion), mudita (appreciative joy) and upekkha (equanimity).

We offer simple instructions below on how to practise metta meditation. Please try to do it on a daily basis in the sitting posture as a formal meditation and also casually every now and then as you go about your everyday activities. As you do so you will find a great improvement in your life by way of an increasingly warm, loving, kind, friendly, understanding, patient, helpful, and happy disposition.



You may sit cross-legged in a comfortable manner on meditation cushions on the floor or you may sit on a chair. It doesn’t matter whether you sit on the floor or on a chair as long as you are comfortable and can stay in a position for some time without having to move or fidget.

Initially you can sit for 15 minutes progressing to 30 minutes, 40 minutes, an hour, or even longer as you become more skilled in the practice.

Begin radiating metta by mentally reciting the following lines, which express goodwill and warm wishes for the person you radiate to.

When radiating to yourself, recite:

May I be happy.
May I be safe.
May I be peaceful.
May I be healthy.
May I take care of myself happily.

When radiating to another person, say, John:

May John be happy.
May he be safe.
May he be peaceful.
May he be healthy.
May he take care of himself happily.

You can also address the person directly saying, “John, may you be happy. May you be safe….”

Wish for this person for as long as you like and then change to another person, wishing, say: “May Mary be happy. May she be safe,” and so on.

When you like to switch to somebody else, you may go on to yet another person, say: “May Richard be happy. May he be safe,” and so on.

You can radiate to one single person (and also to yourself, of course) for a long time – even for a whole session. Or you can keep changing persons, now this person, now that person.

You can also think of a few persons, grouping them together, and wish, “May they be happy,” and so on. Or you can radiate to all beings in general, saying “May all beings be happy. May they be safe…”

If we radiate to one person or all beings for a long time or a whole session, our concentration (samadhi) can become very deep because we don’t need to think of which person to wish for next. However, with practice we’ll find that even when we change persons frequently we can also gain a deep state of concentration.

Sometimes instead of reciting the five lines, you can just think, “May this person be happy. May that person be happy.”

So there is no fixed one way. If you feel like reciting all the lines recite them; if not, just say, “May he/she be happy.”

You can also make specific wishes for the person, what you think or observe he/she may need. In the case of a person suffering from a serious illness you can wish, “May he be healed. May he be able to bear up with the suffering. May he recover fully and quickly. However, should he not be able to recover, may he be able to bear up with the suffering, may he have mental strength, patience and endurance,” etc.

You can think of their loved ones and wish, “May they also be able to bear up with the suffering of seeing their loved one suffer. May they be calm and strong.” When we say “May he be healed”, we understand healing not just as a physical cure, but also as mental healing, that the mind may be healed in the sense of being able to accept and reconcile with the illness if it cannot be cured. And, of course, the mind can be healed of a lot of other mental wounds and anguish.

Naturally you can radiate to your spouse or partner, wishing, “May he/she be happy,” etc., and also say “May I love him/her well and true, May I take good care of him/her,” because we want to love our spouse/partner/lover well, ever improve on our love, grow and learn how to be an even better and more loving partner. Of course “well and true” can be defined further in many ways: being faithful to one’s spouse, showing gratitude and appreciation, understanding, forgiveness, being nurturing and caring towards each other, helping and supporting each other along the spiritual path.

Equally we include our children, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, and all other family members and close friends.

Say, if you want to have a good working relationship with somebody, you can think of that person and address him or her directly, “May you be happy. May we relate well with each other. May we have a good collaboration. May we have lots of goodwill and harmony. May we work together for the greater good of all beings.”

When you wish for yourself, “May I be happy,” you can also wish for specific things, making positive resolutions, such as, “May I have faith and trust in myself and the Dhamma,” “May I be patient,” “May I have strength, confidence and courage to face all the challenges in the life,” “May I be focused and concentrated in all that I do,” “May I be hardworking, diligent, disciplined,” etc., whatever is relevant or meaningful at the time.

So sometimes you can just keep on repeating the five lines, or one or two of those lines, and sometimes you can add in more specific wishes or affirmations, and then go back to the standard lines.

Meaning of the phrases

As regards the standard lines, the meanings are as follows:

To be happy means not being sad, miserable, unhappy, or depressed; it means being happy, joyful, cheerful, lighthearted, content. We can feel happy by counting our many blessings and considering how fortunate we are to have the Dhamma or Good Teachings as our guide; that we have loved ones who love and care for us; that we have friends who are good and kind to us; that we have enough for our basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter in life; that we have reasonably good health; etc.

We can put a little smile on our face as we wish for ourselves, “May I be happy.” A smile is a way to make us feel immediately lighter and better.

To be safe means to be free from harm and danger, both internally and externally. Internal danger refers to our own mind when it is out of control and causing us suffering. External dangers are accidents, mishaps, calamities, disasters, misfortunes and people that may be hostile or have ill intentions towards us.

To be peaceful means to be free from mental suffering such as worry, anxiety, fear, hatred, anger, irritation, annoyance, sorrow, unhappiness, depression, misery, despair, envy, jealousy, miserliness, mental agitation, confusion and delusion.

To be healthy means to be free from physical suffering such as bodily pain and sickness. However, we do know that we can’t be free from physical suffering all the time and we have to face sickness at times and even death eventually. At such times when we have to face sickness and death we wish that we can be able to face them calmly, peacefully and cheerfully even as we try to find a cure for our ailments. Generally though we wish that we can be as healthy as possible.

To take care of oneself happily means to be able to take care of one’s mind and body; take care of one’s work, responsibilities, tasks and duties, that is, being able to carry them out well; take care of one’s relationships, that is, cultivating and maintaining as far as possible skilful, healthy, happy, harmonious, loving, kind, understanding, meaningful, beneficial and constructive relationships; take care of all aspects of one’s life.

For your information, Visu's new book 'Metta Meditation and Positive Attitudes' is available for free. You can either order through the website (Postal charges apply) or collect a free copy from House of Inward Journey at the following address

52 Level D (3rd Floor)
Rangoon Road, Off Burma Road
10400 Georgetown
Penang, Malaysia

You may also find other titles on Loving Kindness

Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness   The Kindness Handbook: A Practical Companion   Perfect Just as You Are: Buddhist Practices on the Four Limitless Ones--Loving-Kindness, Compassion, Joy, and Equanimity   The Gift of Loving-Kindness: 100 Mindful Practices for Compassion, Generosity & Forgiveness