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May all beings be at ease
November 1, 2007 8:15 AM   Subscribe

Most of us are sadly aware of the protests over the last few months by Buddhist Burmese monks. (previously 1, 2). To sustain themselves in the face of likely attack these monks have been chanting the Metta Sutta, the Buddha's teachings on compassion and loving kindness. The Metta Sutta is here in translation, some expositions (dharma talks) on the same subject: One by Sharon Salzberg who has done much to popularize metta in the west in the last 20 years, and a whole bunch from Dharma Seed, which makes buddhist teachings available on the web. You want to get in on the action? In the US you can try the Insight Meditation Society, which is based in Barre, Mass., but has lots of local branches.

Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings...
posted by shothotbot (12 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
I wish people would start commenting on this. I was unaware of the Metta Sutta. It's beautiful.
posted by lostburner at 9:17 AM on November 1, 2007


Thanks for this post, shothotbot. Coincidentally, I just finished writing a cover article for the next issue of the Shambhala Sun -- out in a few weeks -- about another Insight Meditation Society-trained teacher, Sylvia Boorstein. She's the author of wonderful books like That's Funny, You Don't Look Buddhist (about being both a Buddhist and an observant Jew) and the upcoming Happiness is an Inside Job. She's also a cofounder of the Spirit Rock Meditation Center here in Northern California.

I can't say what Boorstein was like before she did decades of metta practice with Sulzberg and others, but I found her to be one of the most authentically sweet, attentive, and compassionate people I've ever met. She's also hilarious and witty and not at all overly pious or stiff. It was a blessing to meet her, and at the end of our interview, she gave me a copy of a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye that expressed the spirit of metta in American terms. I understand this poem a lot better since my dad died a few years ago.

Kindness
by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

posted by digaman at 9:31 AM on November 1, 2007 [7 favorites]


Sorry, *Salzberg.
posted by digaman at 9:37 AM on November 1, 2007


This is lovely! I had heard this chant during my visit to Burma, but had no understanding of the depth of it. Thanks for sharing. That they would pray for loving kindness towards those who attack them holds a valuable lesson for all of us.

I'm also fond of Dalai Lama's favorite passage:
"For as long as space endures/and living beings remain/may I too abide/to dispel the suffering of the world"--from Shantideva's Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life
posted by cal71 at 9:39 AM on November 1, 2007


MettaFilter.
posted by homunculus at 9:55 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Recently I've been listening to some talks by Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun and teacher in the Tibetan tradition. Here's a transcript of a talk from her about metta - although she uses the Sanskrit term for it, "maitri."

I particularly like the definition of the term she gives, from her teacher Chogyam Trungpa: "unconditional friendliness and in particular unconditional friendliness to oneself."

I also like the story she tells about how Sharon Salzburg had to explain to the Dalai Lama about how Westerners generally are so hard on ourselves that we take traditional teachings and use them as yet another thing to turn against ourselves.
posted by dnash at 10:04 AM on November 1, 2007


That Chodron talk is great, thanks.

MettaFilter: This difficulty will be with you for the rest of your life.
posted by everichon at 10:33 AM on November 1, 2007


Sorry to cram this topic with poetry, but this is a deliciously irreverent take on the bodhisattva vow to relieve the suffering of all sentient beings by Albert Saijo, an early American Zen student who was a friend of Jack Kerouac and Lew Welch, and wrote a book of haiku with them called Trip Trap. It's a kind of inside-Buddhist joke, but profound in its own way. If William Burroughs had been a Buddhist, he might have written this.

Bodhisattva Vows
by Albert Saijo

BODHISATTVA VOWS TO BE THE LAST ONE OFF THE SINKING SHIP -- YOU SIGN UP & FIND OUT IT'S FOREVER -- PASSENGER LIST ENDLESS -- SHIP NEVER EMPTIES -- SHIP KEEPS SINKING BUT DOESN'T QUITE GO UNDER -- ON BOARD ANGST PANIC & DESPERATION HOLD SWAY -- TURNS OUT BODHISATTVAHOOD IS A FUCKING JOB LIKE ANY OTHER BUT DIFFERENT IN THAT THERE'S NO WEEKENDS HOLIDAYS VACATIONS NO GOLDEN YEARS OF RETIREMENT -- YOU'RE SPENDING ALL YOUR TIME & ENERGY GETTING OTHER PEOPLE OFF THE SINKING SHIP INTO LIFEBOATS BOUND GAILY FOR NIRVANA WHILE THERE YOU ARE SINKING -- & OF COURSE YOU HAD TO GO & GIVE YOUR LIFEJACKET AWAY -- SO NOW LET US BE CHEERFUL AS WE SINK -- OUR SPIRIT EVER BUOYANT AS WE SINK.
posted by digaman at 10:46 AM on November 1, 2007 [4 favorites]


I can't say what Boorstein was like before she did decades of metta practice with Sulzberg and others, but I found her to be one of the most authentically sweet, attentive, and compassionate people I've ever met. She's also hilarious and witty and not at all overly pious or stiff. It was a blessing to meet her, and at the end of our interview, she gave me a copy of a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye that expressed the spirit of metta in American terms. I understand this poem a lot better since my dad died a few years ago.

It has also been my experience with Insight teachers that they are friendly, open minded and compassionate and that the meditation instruction I have received there has been practical and dogma free. If you have a hard time with religion but still feel a hole inside Insight is a great starting point.

I will confess that I find Sharon Salzberg the least compelling teacher of the bunch, but she seems so identified with Metta that I am guessing that it is something about me, not about her. I love Pema Chodron, Sylvia Boorsteen and Larry Rosenberg.
posted by shothotbot at 10:47 AM on November 1, 2007


Monk Who Led Marchers to Suu Kyi's House Escapes to Thailand
"Before us, the police security personnel stood rigid with metal shields held in front of their bodies," Ashin Kawvida said, his breath rising. "We began chanting the 'Metta Sutta.' I think Daw Aung San Suu Kyi heard our chanting because she appeared at the gate in front of her home to meet us. As that moment, many people began crying and shouting erupted."

"We hope you are free soon." "Live in good health."
posted by homunculus at 4:25 PM on November 1, 2007


Science and the meditation boom
posted by homunculus at 3:19 PM on November 14, 2007


The issue of Shambhala Sun with digaman's article is out, but they only have a brief excerpt on the website.
posted by homunculus at 12:12 AM on November 28, 2007


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