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Loving Kindness as a Path to Peace by Ariya Nani (long post)

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  • antony272b2
    Peace is more than the absence of war. This statement runs through my mind as I think about peace and the ways to bring peace about. Wars and conflicts arise
    Message 1 of 7 , Feb 27, 2011
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      "Peace is more than the absence of war. This statement runs through my mind as I think about peace and the ways to bring peace about. Wars and conflicts arise out of anger, aversion, and ill-will. If we want the violence to stop, we must abandon these thoughts of anger, aversion, and ill-will. But we are not yet able to completely abandon these unwholesome states of mind. To create peace and mutual understanding, we have to replace these unwholesome states of mind by actively generating harmonious, peaceful states of mind.

      In the Buddhist scriptures, the state of mind opposite of anger and aversion is called loving kindness or metta. Other translations for metta are friendliness, goodwill, benevolence, amity, and universal love. Metta or loving kindness is wishing others well. It is not only an absence of aversion or ill will towards others; it is a state of mind that actively wishes for other beings' welfare.

      Metta is completely different from ordinary love, which is sensual, emotional, or sentimental, since these types of love are always accompanied by attachment. Metta is love without the desire to possess. It is detached love. If our minds are completely infused with metta, then unwholesome thoughts like anger and ill-will no longer have a chance to arise. If we maintain thoughts of loving kindness, there will be harmony and understanding in our communities. In this way, metta can serve as a strong and powerful means of achieving peace in the world.

      Achieving peace involves peace within and peace without. "Peace within" means coming to peace with oneself, creating peace within oneself, breathing peacefully, and living peacefully. "Peace without" means to be at peace with whatever situation we encounter and with whatever type of people we encounter.

      How can we train in loving kindness and develop these wholesome states of mind? The Buddhist scriptures call it metta bhavana, training in loving kindness meditation. This is one of the four brahmaviharas, or sublime states of living. Metta is called "sublime," because to have a mind completely free from all anger and aversion is not so easy, as we know from our own experience.

      The scriptures teach us to develop thoughts of good will first toward ourselves, because the genuine wish for other beings' welfare can only arise when we are able to wish it for ourselves. A mind that is poisoned and aching cannot radiate wholesome thoughts of loving kindness to others. This means we first have to come to peace with ourselves. We have to give up all unwholesome attitudes towards ourselves and develop wholesome thoughts of loving kindness toward ourselves instead.

      This can be done by internally saying, "May I be happy, healthy, and well. May I be at ease and in peace." We practice this as long as it takes to establish the thought firmly in our minds. We continue until our whole body and mind are infused with a feeling of goodwill. After that, we develop this feeling of metta towards other people, other groups, and all living beings.

      In the systematic practice of metta bhavana, there is a clearly defined way to direct loving kindness toward other people. When we switch from generating metta toward ourselves and begin to generate it toward other persons, we may say, "Just as I want to be happy, healthy, and well, may other people also be happy, healthy and well." This acknowledges the very basic wish of every thoughtful being to be happy and well. Nobody wants to live in misery and unhappiness. With this understanding, we build bridges to other beings.

      From our own experience, we know that we are constantly trying to create favorable conditions to live peacefully and happily. Other beings are just the same. They, too, want to live in conditions that are favorable for peace and happiness. With this in mind, we generate the wish that others also be happy and well. Later we may say, "May these people be happy, healthy, and well. May they live at ease and in peace."

      Loving kindness and goodwill have to be firmly established in our minds. Through intensive and repeated practice, it is possible to strengthen this wholesome state of mind and, at the same time, to weaken the unwholesome states of anger, aversion and ill-will. Of course, the best thing is to completely eradicate all states of anger and ill-will, and to have a mind that is suffused with thoughts of loving kindness and benevolence towards ourselves and all sentient beings at all times.

      Metta is a state that encompasses all living beings without discrimination. It breaks through all the barriers that separate beings from one another. There need to make room in our hearts for every single living being, without exception. When loving kindness is developed to its fullest potential, there are no longer categories such as loved ones and enemies. These divisions fall away and we develop the same benevolent attitude towards all beings. To the extent that we are able to maintain a mind filled with metta, to that extent there be peace within and around us.

      When we look around us, however, we see and hear about quarrels, dissension, jealousy, violence, fighting, and war. Most people's hearts are not at peace. The different wars that are going on throughout the world are just the outward manifestations of the wars that are going on within our hearts. For this reason, we first have to stop the war within ourselves and come to peace.

      After establishing a firm sense of loving kindness in our hearts, this metta will also manifest in our actions. When we speak with other people, our words will be a manifestations of loving kindness – soft, gentle, and sweet to the ear. We will speak words that contribute to other people's well-being and will not insult or harm others in any way. In the same way, metta will be the basis for all our physical actions. We refrain from any actions that may injure others or contribute to their harm. Instead, our actions will be manifestations of our intention to help others and contribute to their welfare.

      Each person has the responsibility to develop her own mind. We cannot do this for others and others cannot do it for us. When a person's mind is strongly developed in loving kindness, then the mind is vibrant with thoughts of metta and this will have an influence on others around them. Being in the presence of a person with a loving, calm and peaceful mind helps us to become calm and peaceful ourselves.

      To create peace in the world, we must first create peace within and then express it in our actions of body, speech and mind. It is difficult to change the world, but we can begin to change ourselves. This is within our reach. Just like when a stone is thrown into a still pond and the ripples spread out in concentric circles, so, too, the radiance of our minds filled with loving kindness will shine brilliantly, encompassing more and more beings.

      There is a story that illustrates the power of the mind to develop loving kindness and how individuals with metta are loved and respected by both human and non-human beings. Once upon a time, a rich Indian man named Visaka arrived at the great monastry of Anuradapura in ancient Ceylon and asked to be ordained as a monk. For the first five years, he stayed in that monastery and studied hard. After that, he started to practice meditation.

      Visaka used to stay for four months in one monastery and then proceed to another one. Once when he was on his way to a monastery on Cittala Mountain in the southern part of the island, he came to a crossroads. Not knowing which way to take, he stood there wondering which way to turn. A deva (deity) of the mountain came to him and said, "You should take this route." Eventually he arrived at a monastery, where he stayed for four months.

      After four months had passed, he got up one morning and began to think about where to go next. As he was reflecting, he heard someone crying and saw a deva sitting on the stairs of the veranda. The monk asked, "Who are you and why are you weeping?" The deva replied, "I am the deva of that tree and I am weeping because you will leave this place." The monk asked what benefits the deva would get if he stayed. The deva replied, "Your presence, Venerable Sir, has brought a feeling of loving kindness among us devas. If you leave, then quarrels and dissension will break out again. That is why I request you to stay." So Venerable Visaka said, "If my presence helps you live in peace, then I will stay on." So he stayed for another four months, and another four months, and another four months, because each time he wanted to leave, the deva again requested him to stay on. He stayed in that monastery until the end of his life, when he entered parinibbana and passed away.

      We should follow in Venerable Visaka's footsteps and always strive to have a heart full of loving kindness wherever we go and toward everyone we meet. In this way, we can create peace both within and around us."
      http://web.archive.org/web/20080223142707/http://www.sakyadhita.org/NewsLetters/12-1.htm
      From: Sakyadhita (The International Association of Buddhist Women)
      Newsletter, Summer 2002 Vol. 12, No. 1

      With metta / Antony.
    • antony272b2
      Peace is more than the absence of war. This statement runs through my mind as I think about peace and the ways to bring peace about. Wars and conflicts arise
      Message 2 of 7 , Feb 6, 2013
      • 0 Attachment
        "Peace is more than the absence of war. This statement runs through my mind as I think about peace and the ways to bring peace about. Wars and conflicts arise out of anger, aversion, and ill-will. If we want the violence to stop, we must abandon these thoughts of anger, aversion, and ill-will. But we are not yet able to completely abandon these unwholesome states of mind. To create peace and mutual understanding, we have to replace these unwholesome states of mind by actively generating harmonious, peaceful states of mind.

        In the Buddhist scriptures, the state of mind opposite of anger and aversion is called loving kindness or metta. Other translations for metta are friendliness, goodwill, benevolence, amity, and universal love. Metta or loving kindness is wishing others well. It is not only an absence of aversion or ill will towards others; it is a state of mind that actively wishes for other beings' welfare.

        Metta is completely different from ordinary love, which is sensual, emotional, or sentimental, since these types of love are always accompanied by attachment. Metta is love without the desire to possess. It is detached love. If our minds are completely infused with metta, then unwholesome thoughts like anger and ill-will no longer have a chance to arise. If we maintain thoughts of loving kindness, there will be harmony and understanding in our communities. In this way, metta can serve as a strong and powerful means of achieving peace in the world.

        Achieving peace involves peace within and peace without. "Peace within" means coming to peace with oneself, creating peace within oneself, breathing peacefully, and living peacefully. "Peace without" means to be at peace with whatever situation we encounter and with whatever type of people we encounter.

        How can we train in loving kindness and develop these wholesome states of mind? The Buddhist scriptures call it metta bhavana, training in loving kindness meditation. This is one of the four brahmaviharas, or sublime states of living. Metta is called "sublime," because to have a mind completely free from all anger and aversion is not so easy, as we know from our own experience.

        The scriptures teach us to develop thoughts of good will first toward ourselves, because the genuine wish for other beings' welfare can only arise when we are able to wish it for ourselves. A mind that is poisoned and aching cannot radiate wholesome thoughts of loving kindness to others. This means we first have to come to peace with ourselves. We have to give up all unwholesome attitudes towards ourselves and develop wholesome thoughts of loving kindness toward ourselves instead.

        This can be done by internally saying, "May I be happy, healthy, and well. May I be at ease and in peace." We practice this as long as it takes to establish the thought firmly in our minds. We continue until our whole body and mind are infused with a feeling of goodwill. After that, we develop this feeling of metta towards other people, other groups, and all living beings.

        In the systematic practice of metta bhavana, there is a clearly defined way to direct loving kindness toward other people. When we switch from generating metta toward ourselves and begin to generate it toward other persons, we may say, "Just as I want to be happy, healthy, and well, may other people also be happy, healthy and well." This acknowledges the very basic wish of every thoughtful being to be happy and well. Nobody wants to live in misery and unhappiness. With this understanding, we build bridges to other beings.

        From our own experience, we know that we are constantly trying to create favorable conditions to live peacefully and happily. Other beings are just the same. They, too, want to live in conditions that are favorable for peace and happiness. With this in mind, we generate the wish that others also be happy and well. Later we may say, "May these people be happy, healthy, and well. May they live at ease and in peace."

        Loving kindness and goodwill have to be firmly established in our minds. Through intensive and repeated practice, it is possible to strengthen this wholesome state of mind and, at the same time, to weaken the unwholesome states of anger, aversion and ill-will. Of course, the best thing is to completely eradicate all states of anger and ill-will, and to have a mind that is suffused with thoughts of loving kindness and benevolence towards ourselves and all sentient beings at all times.

        Metta is a state that encompasses all living beings without discrimination. It breaks through all the barriers that separate beings from one another. There need to make room in our hearts for every single living being, without exception. When loving kindness is developed to its fullest potential, there are no longer categories such as loved ones and enemies. These divisions fall away and we develop the same benevolent attitude towards all beings. To the extent that we are able to maintain a mind filled with metta, to that extent there be peace within and around us.

        When we look around us, however, we see and hear about quarrels, dissension, jealousy, violence, fighting, and war. Most people's hearts are not at peace. The different wars that are going on throughout the world are just the outward manifestations of the wars that are going on within our hearts. For this reason, we first have to stop the war within ourselves and come to peace.

        After establishing a firm sense of loving kindness in our hearts, this metta will also manifest in our actions. When we speak with other people, our words will be a manifestations of loving kindness – soft, gentle, and sweet to the ear. We will speak words that contribute to other people's well-being and will not insult or harm others in any way. In the same way, metta will be the basis for all our physical actions. We refrain from any actions that may injure others or contribute to their harm. Instead, our actions will be manifestations of our intention to help others and contribute to their welfare.

        Each person has the responsibility to develop her own mind. We cannot do this for others and others cannot do it for us. When a person's mind is strongly developed in loving kindness, then the mind is vibrant with thoughts of metta and this will have an influence on others around them. Being in the presence of a person with a loving, calm and peaceful mind helps us to become calm and peaceful ourselves.
        To create peace in the world, we must first create peace within and then express it in our actions of body, speech and mind. It is difficult to change the world, but we can begin to change ourselves. This is within our reach. Just like when a stone is thrown into a still pond and the ripples spread out ing concentric circles, so, too, the radiance of our minds filled with loving kindness will shine brilliantly, encompassing more and more beings.

        There is a story that illustrates the power of the mind to develop loving kindness and how individuals with metta are loved and respected by both human and non-human beings. Once upon a time, a rich Indian man named Visaka arrived at the great monastry of Anuradapura in ancient Ceylon and asked to be ordained as a monk. For the first five years, he stayed in that monastery and studied hard. After that, he started to practice meditation.

        Visaka used to stay for four months in one monastery and then proceed to another one. Once when he was on his way to a monastery on Cittala Mountain in the southern part of the island, he came to a crossroads. Not knowing which way to take, he stood there wondering which way to turn. A deva (deity) of the mountain came to him and said, "You should take this route." Eventually he arrived at a monastery, where he stayed for four months.

        After four months had passed, he got up one morning and began to think about where to go next. As he was reflecting, he heard someone crying and saw a deva sitting on the stairs of the veranda. The monk asked, "Who are you and why are you weeping?" The deva replied, "I am the deva of that tree and I am weeping because you will leave this place." The monk asked what benefits the deva would get if he stayed. The deva replied, "Your presence, Venerable Sir, has brought a feeling of loving kindness among us devas. If you leave, then quarrels and dissension will break out again. That is why I request you to stay." So Venerable Visaka said, "If my presence helps you live in peace, then I will stay on." So he stayed for another four months, and another four months, and another four months, because each time he wanted to leave, the deva again requested him to stay on. He stayed in that monastery until the end of his life, when he entered parinibbana and passed away.

        We should follow in Venerable Visaka's footsteps and always strive to have a heart full of loving kindness wherever we go and toward everyone we meet. In this way, we can create peace both within and around us."
        http://web.archive.org/web/20080223142707/http://www.sakyadhita.org/NewsLetters/12-1.htm
        From: Sakyadhita (The International Association of Buddhist Women)
        Newsletter, Summer 2002 Vol. 12, No. 1

        With metta / Antony.
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