7 | Blessings and Benefits of Mettā


7. The Blessings of Mettā

Monks, when universal love leading to liberation of mind is ardently practised, developed, unrelentingly resorted to, used as one’s vehicle, made the foundation of one’s life, fully established, well consolidated and perfected,

then these 11 blessings may be expected. What 11?

One sleeps happily; one wakes happily; one does not suffer bad dreams; one is dear to human beings; one is dear to non-human beings; the gods protect one;

no fire or poison or weapon harms one; one’s mind gets quickly concentrated; the expression of one’s face is serene; one dies unperturbed; and even if one fails to attain higher states, one will at least reach the state of the Brahma world.

Monks, when universal love leading to liberation of mind is ardently practised, developed, unrelentingly resorted to, used as one’s vehicle, made the foundation of one’s life, fully established, well consolidated and perfected,

then these 11 blessings may be expected.

Aṅguttara Nikāya, 11:16

Mettā cetovimutti - universal love leading to liberation of mind - signifies the attainment of samādhi, absorption based upon meditation on mettā.

Since mettā liberates the mind from the bondage of hatred and anger, selfishness, greed and delusion, it constitutes a state of liberation.

Every time one practises mettā, for however short a period, one enjoys a measure of freedom of mind. Measureless freedom of mind, however, is to be expected only when mettā is fully developed into samādhi.

The various applications of mettā, as indicated by the terms “practised, developed,” etc., signify a well-structured force brought about not only by specific hours of meditation, but also by converting all one’s deeds, words and thoughts into acts of mettā.

By “practised” (āsevita) is meant the ardent practice of mettā, not as a mere intellectual exercise, but by committing oneself wholeheartedly to it and making it life’s guiding philosophy, something which conditions one’s attitudes, outlook and conduct.

By “developed” (bhāvita) is implied the various processes of inner culture and mental integration effected by the practice of meditation on universal love.

Since meditation brings about unification of mind by integrating the various faculties, it is called development of mind.

The Buddha taught that the entire mental world is developed by the practice of meditation on universal love, leading to mind’s liberation and the transformation of the personality.

Unrelentingly resorted to” (bahulīkata) emphasises repeated practice of mettā all through one’s waking hours, in deed, word and thought, and maintaining the tempo of mettā-awareness throughout. Repeated action means generation of power.

All the 5 spiritual powers, namely, faith, vigour, mindfulness, concentration and wisdom, are exercised and cultivated by the repeated practice of mettā.

Used as one’s vehicle” (yānikata) signifies a “total commitment” to the ideal of mettā as the only valid method for the solution of interpersonal problems and as an instrument for spiritual growth.

When mettā is the only “mode of communication,” the only vehicle, life automatically is a “divine abiding” as mentioned in the Mettā Sutta.

Made the foundation of one’s life” (vatthu Kaṭa) is making mettā the basis of one’s existence in all respects. It becomes the chief resort, the haven, the refuge of one’s life, making one’s refuge in the Dhamma a reality.

Fully established” (anuṭṭhita) refers to a life that is firmly rooted in mettā, has anchorage in mettā under all circumstances. When mettā is effortlessly practised, not even by error does one violate the laws of universal love.

Well consolidated” (paricita) means one is so habituated to mettā that one remains effortlessly immersed in it, both in meditation as well as in one’s day-to-day conduct.

Perfected” (susamāraddha) indicates a mode of completeness through total adherence and development, leading to that fully integrated state in which one enjoys perfect well-being and spiritual felicity, indicated by the passage detailing the eleven blessings of mettā.

The benefits of mettā are indeed great and comprehensive. For a follower of the Buddha this is one supreme instrument that can be wielded with advantage everywhere.

8. The Power of Mettā

The subjective benefit of universal love is evident enough:

The enjoyment of well-being, good health, peace of mind, radiant features, and the affection and goodwill of all are indeed great blessings of life accruing from the practice of mettā-meditation.

But what is even more wonderful is the impact which mettā has on the environment and on other beings, including animals and devas, as the Pali scriptures and commentaries illustrate with a number of memorable stories.

Once, the Buddha was returning from his alms-round together with his retinue of monks.

As they were nearing the prison, in consideration of a handsome bribe from Devadatta, the Buddha’s evil and ambitious cousin, the executioner let loose the fierce elephant Nālāgiri, which was used for the execution of criminals.

As the intoxicated elephant rushed towards the Buddha trumpeting fearfully, the Buddha projected powerful thoughts of mettā towards it.

Venerable Ananda, the Buddha’s attendant, was so deeply concerned about the Buddha’s safety that he ran in front of the Buddha to shield him, but the Buddha asked him to stand aside since the projection of love itself was quite sufficient.

The impact of the Buddha’s mettā-radiation was so immediate and overwhelming that by the time the animal neared the Buddha it was completely tamed as though a drunken wretch had suddenly become sober by the magical power of a spell. The tusker, it is said, bowed down in reverence in the way trained elephants do in a circus.

The Viśuddhimagga records the case of one landlord of Pāṭaliputra (modern Patna), Visākhā by name:

It seems he had heard that the island of Śrī Lanka was a veritable garden of Dhamma with its innumerable shrines and stupas adorning the isle.

And blessed with a favourable climate, the people were highly righteous, following the Teaching of the Buddha with great fervour and sincerity.

Visākhā decided to visit Śrī Lanka and spend the rest of his life there as a monk.

Accordingly, he made over his great fortune to his wife and children and left home with a single gold coin.

He stopped for some time at the port town of Tāmra Lipi (modern Tamluk) waiting for a ship, and during that time engaged himself in business and made a thousand gold coins.

Eventually he reached Sri Lanka and went to the capital city of Anuradhapura. There he went to the famous Mahā Vihāra and asked the abbot’s permission to enter the Sangha.

As he was led to the chapter house for the ordination ceremony, the purse containing the thousand gold coins dropped out from under his belt.

When asked, “What is it?” he said, “I have a thousand gold coins, sir.

When he was told that a monk cannot possess any money, he said, “I don’t want to possess it but I wanted to distribute it among all who come for this ceremony.

Accordingly he opened his purse and strewed the entire yard of the chapter house, saying, “Let no one who has come to witness Visākhā’s ordination depart empty-handed.

After spending 5 years with his teacher, he now decided to go to the famous Cittalapabbata forest, where a good number of monks with supernatural powers lived.

Accordingly, he went to the jungle-monastery of Cittalapabbata. On his way he came to a fork in the road and stood wondering which way to turn.

Since he had been practising mettā-meditation assiduously, he found a certain deva living in the rock there, holding out a hand pointing the road to him. After reaching the Cittalapabbata jungle-monastery, he occupied one of the huts.

Having stayed there for four months, as he was thinking of leaving the next morning, he heard somebody weeping, and when he asked, “Who is that?

the deva living in the manila tree at the end of the walkway said, “Venerable sir, I am Maniliya (i.e., belonging to the manila tree).”

“Why are you weeping?”

“Because you are thinking of going away from here.”

“What good does my living here do you?”

“Venerable sir, so long as you live here, the devas and other non-human beings treat each other with kindness. When you are gone, they will again start their wrangling and quarrels.”

Well, if my living here makes all of you live at peace, it is good.
And so he stayed on for another 4 months.

It is said that when he again thought of going, again the deity wept.
So this Elder stayed on permanently and attained Nibbāna there.

Such is the impact of mettā-bhāvanā on others, even among invisible beings.

There is also the famous story of the cow:
It seems that a cow was giving milk to her calf in a forest.

A hunter wanting to kill her flung a spear which, when it struck her body, bounced off like a palm leaf. So mightily powerful is mettā - loving kindness.

This is not the case of one who has developed mettā-samādhi. It is a simple case of the consciousness of love for the offspring.

Indeed, the power of mettā can never be told enough:

The commentaries to the Pali Canon are replete with stories, not only of monks, but also of ordinary people who overcame various dangers, including weapons and poison, through the sheer strength of mettā - selfless love.

But let not mettā be mistaken as a mere sentiment: It is the power of the strong.

If the leaders from different walks of life were to give mettā a fair trial, no principle or guideline to action would be found to possess greater efficiency or fruitfulness in all spheres.

In everything man is the ultimate unit. If man decides to substitute mettā as a policy of action for aggression and ill will, the world will turn into a veritable abode of peace.

For it is only when man shall have peace within himself, and boundless goodwill for others, that peace in the world will become real and enduring.