Metta

Metta, like many Pali words, has a range of meanings: loving-kindness, friendliness, goodwill, benevolence, fellowship, amity, concord, inoffensiveness and nonviolence – and lots more. It is commonly translated as loving-kindness and is concerned with the well being of all living beings. It is a universal, unselfish and all-embracing love.
All living things respond positively to love and kindness. Is this true? Consider plants – as being fairly simple living things. On a physical level they can easily be seen as healthier when they get lots of sunshine and are well watered and fed. One even reads of them responding on an emotional level. This is not so easy to prove. If you have ever had a pet; how does it respond to being kicked and yelled at?
Good health results from care and kindness and bad health results from indifference and abuse. I hopefully imagine that you agree with this. So, if pets and plants like love and kindness and care and attention then why should we be different? Truth is we aren’t, but it often seems as if we are a bit short changed in the loving-kindness department. What to do?
To start with:
be clear in your mind of the bad results of anger, hatred, resentment, indignation, and so forth.
be clear in your mind of the good results of kindness, affection, tolerance, friendliness, good will, etc.
This is not to expect that you will have none of the qualities of the first list and all of those in the second list – just that you see the positive value in loving-kindness.

Aims:
There are two areas the developing of metta aims at: external and internal.
External: the aim is to live in the world as harmlessly as possible, both in relation to living and non-living entities. This is to be both ecologically conscious and socially sensitive. It includes things like; being frugal (not using more than one needs, or wasting what one has), being moderate in one’s lifestyle (not living excessively in any way), being modest, guarding one’s speech, respecting the property and general situation of others, offering help where one can, being generous, performing one’s duties well, etc. All of this is very high-minded and saintly and may seem to be beyond your abilities but, we all have some goodness as part of our character and the aims suggested here are a reference point. We always begin from where we are and having a clear aim tends to result in a clear journey.
Internal: the aim is very simple; to have an unselfish mind / heart. The combination of a concentrated mind and a heart free from hatred, etc. constitutes a state of liberation – enlightenment – freedom from suffering.

A Guided Meditation on
Loving Kindness

“Consider this quietly, on your own; or get a friend to read it out slowly to you.”

 

STOP FOR A FEW MOMENTS. Sit quietly, with a straight back and gently close your eyes. Feeling the rhythm of the breath as it enters and leaves the body, allow yourself to let go of past and future, and come into the present moment; being with exactly what is – now.

Bring your attention to the feeling of the body, accepting it just the way it is – with kindness. Allow yourself to accept all the sensations and feelings of the body completely.

Breathe in deeply, with a sense of trust and well-being: breathe out, letting go of tension, allowing any tightness to dissolve.

Then, focus on the normal breathing; just the feeling of breathing in, breathing out.

Imagine yourself surrounded by light – perhaps a golden-coloured light if you like gold. Being with the sensation of the body breathing in, breathing out, draw the light into the body as you breathe – maybe through the nostrils, the heart or the head. Imagine light saturating the body, through every pore.

Think to yourself: ‘May this being be well,’ and turn the calming effect of the meditation towards this being: ‘May this being be calm.’ Suffuse your whole body with this calm and kindly attention.

Then, let your awareness explore the body: moving around the head and face, gradually down the neck, the back and the chest, spreading right down the finger-tips; then down the legs, to each toe; drawing on the good energy of the breath, expanding and embracing the heart.

Focusing more on the out-breath, let go of the memories, the grudges, the grievances; let it all go. Begin again with each breath.

Picture yourself in your mind’s eye as you are now. Make peace with this view of yourself, through forgiveness, compassion, gentleness. ‘May this being be well.’ Suffuse this picture with gentle, warm light from the heart, then let it go.

Next, picture your parents, let them into your mind. Make peace with their image: ‘May you be well,’ bathing them with soft light, with gratitude.

Observe thoughts arising. Memories of yourself as a child, perhaps something painful or something you have never made peace with. Let it be in the mind, in the light.

Then bring up an image of your daily situation, at home or wherever, with the people it involves. People you like or dislike, feel conflict with, love, fear or worry for. ‘May these beings be well.’ Put aside aversion, fear, worry, guilt; at this moment, allow yourself to be kind.

Think of someone you know who is having a difficult time; send these feelings of kindness towards them. Breathe in light, breathe out wishing them well.

Gradually open up more and more, from the people you see every day to nobody special; and even those for whom you have hardly a memory. Recognise them as human beings with ambitions, hopes, problems, anxieties, joy – just like you! Give them some life in your perceptions.

And, even more remote, acknowledge all the people you can conceive of in this world. This may be a faint feeling, but open up the heart to allow them into consciousness, to be felt. See what the mind does, how it reacts indignantly about some people – such as political figures. Let go of that indignation for this moment. Allow a sense of peace to envelop all beings: the liked, the disliked, familiar and unfamiliar.

And then imagine the planet Earth as seen from space. Extend this sense of peace to the planet we live on, embracing it with your heart, surrounding it with light.

Turning your attention to that sense of peace and light allow it to expand outwards, without limit, letting the sense of ‘me’ and ‘the world’ dissolve in the stillness of the present. Then turn your attention back in towards itself; upon the feeling of knowing ‘the screen of the mind’, the place where images arise. Let it be quite empty or full, choiceless, being illuminated by the soft light from the heart, light from the breath; warm, gentle; beginning, letting go, patient kindness.

Gently come back to the rhythm of the breath, and when you are ready, slowly open your eyes.

 

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Ch’an Meditation

SEATED CH’AN MEDITATION

To practice seated Ch’an meditation, one must be able to sit in a balanced position that allows the free and natural flow of breath. If the body is balanced the mind will be balanced as well, since the two are really not separate. One may do seated Ch’an meditation on a round meditation cushion, on a meditation bench, or on a regular chair.A round cushion may be used in one of two ways: sitting on the flat part of the cushion or straddling the cushion, which is in an upright position like a wheel. The straddle method is very similar to sitting on a meditation bench. For most people who want to attempt a cross-legged sitting position on a flat cushion, the “Burmese” posture is very reasonable. The dominant leg is crossed to the inside, while the other leg is crossed to the outside. Both legs are on the floor or the square mat, with the knees touching down. The ankles are never crossed, nor does one leg rest on the other. A small support cushion may be used if one has difficulty getting the knee to touch down.In the “Quarter Lotus” position, the top of the outside foot is placed on the calf of the inside leg. Be very careful, as this position may cause the inside leg to fall asleep due to pressure on the calf. In the “Half Lotus” position, the top of the outside foot may be placed atop the inner thigh with the sole of the foot pointing upward. In the “Full Lotus” position, the tops of both feet are placed, soles up, on the opposite thighs. This position is considered to be the most stable position for seated meditation.

[IMPORTANT NOTE: Never, under any circumstances, attempt to sit in a Half Lotus or Full Lotus position unless you have first done a series of stretching exercises taught to you by a qualified instructor such as a Yoga teacher or Personal Trainer! You risk doing serious damage to muscles, ligaments and tendons if you attempt a Full Lotus posture without being stretched out properly. Remember, a gradual, consistent program of stretching exercises may enable you to attain a Half Lotus or Full Lotus position in time. NEVER, EVER try to force your way into a cross-legged sitting position!]


Stretching is extremely important when attempting to attain a comfortable, stable sitting position of any kind. You should always do some kind of gentle stretching both before and after you meditate in any seated posture. Exercises such as T’ai Chi or Yoga are very helpful in this regard.

SITTING ON A MEDITATION BENCH OR STRADDLING A CUSHION

Using a bench or straddling a round cushion requires one to straighten the upper body in the same way one does when sitting on the flat part of a cushion. The rules of posture, hand position and breathing are the same as indicated below. 

SITTING ON A CHAIR

The use of a regular chair requires that one sit forward on front half of the seat with the feet flat on the floor about shoulder-width apart. If one has severe back problems it is reasonable to use a round cushion to support the small of the back, but this is only recommended for those who have physical difficulties. All others should attempt to sit on the front half of the seat. The rules of posture, hand position and breathing are the same as indicated below. 
 

POSTURE

A balanced posture insures that one’s breathing is slow and even and that one’s natural bodily energy flows easily. The head should be held erect, but not stiffly, atop the body. Don’t try to sit up as straight and tall as you can, as this can lead to back pain. To straighten the back, simply move the navel forward a few inches, supporting the vertebrae from beneath. Place the tip of the tongue behind the top of your front teeth at the gum line. Tuck the chin in slightly. The gaze gently rests on a point no more than three feet in front of you on the floor. The eyelids hang about halfway down the eyeballs. Don’t squint, but don’t close the eyes entirely either. Relax the shoulders! This allows you to breathe naturally.THE

HANDS

One way for beginners to balance the hands is to place them, palms up, on each thigh. Place the flat part of the thumbs over the tips of the index fingernails. Allow the other three fingers to come together in a gentle curve with no space between them.

 

 A more traditional hand position involves what is known as “quieting the dominant hand.” Place the inside edge of the little finger of your dominant hand against the abdomen; the palm faces upward. Place the other hand, palm up, on top of the dominant hand. Now place the tips of the thumbs together lightly, as if you are holding a large egg in your hand. The point at which the thumb tips touch should be at the level of your navel. The thumb tips do not touch the body. Adjust the hands as needed to maintain this position. 

BREATHING

The breaths are slow, deep, gentle, and absolutely silent. Breathe gently through the nose into the abdomen instead of the chest cavity, allowing the abdomen to gently inflate in the in-breath and deflate on the out-breath. Breathe into the abdomen, but don’t try to see how much breath you can cram into it. Then gently release the breath back through the nose.

WATCHING THE TAN-T’IEN

Place your attention on the spot that’s two finger-widths below the navel, known as the Tan-t’ien. Keep your attention gently but firmly focused on this spot as you breathe in and out. Whenever thoughts, sounds, sensations or combinations of the three take your attention away from this spot, simply bring your attention back to the spot every time this occurs. Remember that there are only two things to do: stay on the spot and return to the spot.Thoughts may be especially distracting since they come and go so quickly and may return again and again and again. But even if you must re-center your attention constantly, that’s all right. You are learning how to calm and harmonize the mind as well as how to recognize distractions and return to a state of mindful concentration. In Ch’an practice you really cannot make a “mistake,” since it’s simply a process of staying and returning, so there’s no such thing as “great” Ch’an practice or “bad” Ch’an practice. Just Ch’an practice.

WALKING MEDITATION 

The practice of walking meditation has two purposes: it balances the quiet act of sitting with a slightly more active form, and it gives practitioners a chance to stretch their legs out. The walking pace itself is slower than normal, yet not extremely slow. The body from the waist to the top of the head is in the same position as it is when sitting, with the chin tucked in slightly and the eyes slightly downcast, head resting comfortably atop the spinal column.The focus of your concentration during walking should be the entire body. Simply observe the entire act of walking, from the point where your feet touch the floor to the top of your head, as your body moves around the Zendo. Remember to bring your attention back to the walking body whenever anything takes it away.The hand position for walking practice is as follows: with the dominant hand, gently grasp the thumb of the non-dominant hand as if you were grabbing a hammer. Allow the fingers of the non-dominant hand to fall across the clasped fingers of the dominant hand. Relax your shoulders, let the arms drop straight down, and place the thumb of the dominant hand against the navel, then rest the knuckles of the dominant hand against the abdomen. 

Meditation

“The point of Buddhist meditation is not to stop thinking,
for cultivation of insight clearly requires intelligent use of thought and discrimination.
What needs to be stopped is conceptualisation that is
compulsive, mechanical and unintelligent,
that is, activity that is always fatiguing, usually pointless, and at times seriously harmful”

Allan Wallace
 

Introduction

Before starting a meditation practice, it is very advisable to have visited a group or center where meditation instructions are given, and follow some guided meditations. In this way, it is easy to discover the basics of the actual practice. The various traditions teach slightly different methods, usually related to the emphasis of their main practices. It is strongly advised to start any meditation session with setting one’s motivation and concluding by dedicating the positive energy, for this, verses as given below can be a good guideline.

REFUGE

 I go for refuge to the Buddha,
I go for refuge to the Dharma,
I go for refuge to the Sangha. (3x)

GENERATING BODHICITTA

By virtue of giving and so forth,
may I become a Buddha for the benefit of all sentient beings. (3x)

THE FOUR IMMEASURABLES

May all sentient beings have equanimity, free from attachment, aggression and prejudice.
May they be happy, and have the causes for happiness.
May they be free from suffering and causes for suffering.
May they never be separated from the happiness that is free from suffering. (3x)

THE SEVEN-LIMBED PRAYER

 Respectfully I prostrate with body, speech and mind;
I present clouds of every type of offerings, actual and imagined;
I declare all the negative actions I have done since beginningless time,
and rejoice in the merit of all Aryas and ordinary beings.
Please teacher, remain until cyclic existence ends
and turn the wheel of Dharma for all sentient beings.
I dedicate the virtues of myself and others to the great Enlightenment.

SHORT MANDALA OFFERING

 This ground I offer, as Buddha-fields,
Resplendent with flowers, incense and perfume
In the center Mount Meru, four lands, sun and moon,
May all sentient beings enjoy this Pure Land.

IDAM GURU RATNA-MANDALAKAM NIRYATAYAMI

DEDICATION PRAYERS

 May all sentient beings have equanimity, free from attachment, aggression and prejudice.
May they be happy, and have the causes for happiness.
May they be free from suffering and causes for suffering.
May they never be separated from the happiness that is free from suffering. (3x)
By this virtue may I soon
reach a Guru-Buddha-state,
and lead each and every being
to that state of Buddhahood.
May the precious Bodhicitta
not yet born, arise and grow
may that born have no decline
but increase forever more.
In all my rebirths may I never be separated from perfect spiritual masters
and enjoy the magnificent Dharma.
Completing all qualities of the stages and paths,
May I quickly achieve the state of Vajradhara.
May anyone who merely sees or hears,
remembers, touches or talks to me,
be instantly freed from all sufferings
and abide in happiness forever.
It is only from the kindness of my Guru
that I have met the peerless teachings of the Buddha.
Thus, I dedicate all merit so that all sentient beings in the future
may be guided by kind and holy Gurus.
Until cyclic existence ends,
may the beneficial teachings not be blown away by the wind of superstitions.
May the entire world be filled
with people who have undersdtood and found firm faith in the true teachings.
Day and night, may I pass the time
thinking and examining by what means
these teachings can spread
in the minds of myself and others.
May all sentient beings – who have all been my mother and father – be completely happy,
and may the lower realms be forever empty.
May all the prayers of the bodhisattvas, wherever they live,
be immediately fulfilled.
May the glorious gurus live long,
and may all beings throughout limitless space have happiness.
By purifying our defilements and accumulating positive potential,
may I and all others be inspired to attain Buddhahood quickly.
May I never develop, even a moment,
wrong views towards the deeds of my glorious Gurus.
With respect and devotion, by seeing whatever actions they do as pure,
may the guru’s inspiration flow into my mind.
In whatever way you appear, O glorious Guru,whatever your retinue, ifespan and pure-land,
whatever your name, most noble and holy,
may I and all others attain only these.
In order to follow the excellent examples
set by the wisdom of the bodhisattva Manjushri
and the always sublime Samantabhadra,
I dedicate all virtues to their peerless ideals.
All conquerors of the three times
have praised this peerless dedication as sublime.
Therefore, I also surrender all roots of my activities
to the sublime goals of a bodhisattva.

BASICS

WATCHING THE BREATH – THE REAL BASICS

After the preliminaries, concentrate on the tip of your nose, and feel the breath going in and out.
To help your concentration, you can count every out-breath as one, and count from 1 to 10. When you arrived at 10, simply start at 1 again. All the attention is with the feeling of the nose and the counting, nothing more, nothing less.
Regularly check yourself if you are still concentrated, do not get angry when distracted, simply return to counting from 1.
Just before the end of the session, release the concentration on the counting and the tip of your nose, and simply be aware of how you feel for a minute or so.
Then dedicate the positive energy of the session to whichever goal you like, use for example above prayers.
 

BUTTER ON THE HEAD

Imagine on the crown of your head a lump of gold-coloured butter.– It slowly melts, and wherever it runs down over your body, all stress and tension in the body disappears.
– Very slowly the butter flows over your forehead, all muscles relax…
– It runs down over your eyes and cheeks…, your whole face relaxes.
– Along the back of your head… your neck… shoulders; feel how much tension is there and let it go….
– Arms and hands…. the chest.. belly….
– Along the spine, the entire back relaxes…your legs and feet…
– The entire body is covered in golden butter and you radiate health.
– Go over the whole body again and breathe out all the remaining stress.

RELAXING BY STRESSING

A very effective method to relax the body by stressing all the muscles, holding that 5 to 10 seconds, and then releasing the tension.– Sit or lie in a relaxed way.
– Put an extremely tense expression on the face, straining as many face muscles as possible. Take a deep breath and forcefully hold it. ……
– Now slowly release the breath and the tension of all the face muscles, feel as if you breathe out all stress.
– Inhale deeply again and stress all neck and shoulder muscles…. then let go
– Inhale, make fists and stress the arms… let go
– Inhale, stress chest, belly and back…. let go
– Inhale, stress buttocks, legs and feet… let go
– If you still feel tension at some places, just stay relaxed, don’t hold the breath now, but release all the tension while breathing out.
– Enjoy your relaxed body

ELIMINATING PAST AND FUTURE

Rest the hands, palms down on the legs and watch the breath
– When the mind wanders off to thoughts of the past, gently tap your left leg
– When the mind wanders off to thoughts of the future, gently tap your right leg
– Whenever a thought arises, mentally note “memory” or “fantasy”, then return to the breath. 
 

WATCHING THE SENSES

Focus the attention to your breath and sensory experiences
– Whenever you notice something, mentally note: “feeling”, “hearing”, “tasting”, “smelling”, “touching”.
– Note the senses, but do not start talking with yourself, only note the experience and go back to the breath.

WATCHING EMOTIONS

Focus the attention mainly to the breath and sensory experiences; in addition, note your emotional experiences. – Whenever a particular feeling comes up, mentally note it; as “liking”, “dis-liking”, “anger”, “sad”, “fear”, “resentment”, “anxiety”, “guilt” etc. and let it go
– Do not get involved with the emotions, only note them and return to awareness of the breath.

SMOKE OUT, LIGHT IN

– While breathing out, imagine that all your negative energies, mistakes, misunderstanding and emotions leave your body with the breath. Visualise this energy as black smoke, which goes out into space and completely disappears.
– While breathing in, imagine that all the positive energy of the universe enters your body with the breath. Visualise this positive energy as pure white light which enters all the parts of your body, it pervades every cell and atom. Enjoy this clear white light.
– If you feel comfortable, use every breath to inhale light and to exhale black smoke and problems.
– When distracted by other thoughts, simply observe them without getting involved; transform them into black smoke and breathe them out.

BODY OF LIGHT

– Visualise above the crown of your head a white ball of light, somewhat smaller than your head. It has no real form and is pure white energy. Do not concentrate on details, just try to feel it is there.
– Imagine that the light embodies all the pure love of the universe, the accomplishment of the highest potential of living beings.
– Visualise the ball becomes smaller, about the size of your thumb, and it enters the crown of your head, and descends to the level of your heart.
– Now the light expands and fills your entire body. All the material of the body dissolves into light. What remains is a body of light without shape.
– Concentrate on the feeling this light-body gives, all problems and negativities are gone, only peace and happiness is left.
– When distracting thoughts arise, simply dissolve them in the light.

9-ROUND BREATHING

This is a pre-tantric purification practice in which you visualise the main 3 energy channels in the body. It is used in the beginning of a meditation session (after the prayers of refuge etc.) to calm and clear the mind in only a minute or so.
Make your breath somewhat longer and deeper, but don’t exaggerate, if possible one should not hear the breathing. If you have a cold and one or both nostrils are clogged, just imagine breathing through the different nostrils.
Visualise the body as being completely empty and transparent, then inside it appears the Central Channel.
The Central Channel starts between the eyebrows, continues back just under the skull, and from the crown of the head it goes straight down to the level of four finger-widths under the navel, it stays a little in front of the spine. It is like a transparent blue tube, about the thickness of a thick drinking straw.
To the left and to the right are two side-channels, both transparent and the thickness of only a drinking-straw. The right channel is red, the left is white.
The three channels are flexible and just below the navel they connect with each other.
During the first round of breathing, INHALE through the LEFT nostril, keeping the right nostril closed with a finger. We imagine the air going from the left nostril into the left channel, up near the crown and way down to under the navel. There, the left channel is connected to the right channel, and we BREATHE OUT through the RIGHT CHANNEL by closing the left nostril with the same finger. Imagine breathing in pure white light, and when exhaling, imagine that all DESIRE AND ATTACHMENT which pollutes the left channel collects at the navel and leaves via the right channel as black smoke. The black smoke disappears beyond the universe. Repeat this 3 times.
Then the next round we INHALE white light via the RIGHT nostril, and all ANGER AND HATRED which pollutes the right channel collects below the navel and is EXHALED via the LEFT channel as black smoke. Again, do this 3 times.
The third round we INHALE white light via the LEFT AND RIGHT channel together and imagine them both being connected to the central channel below the navel. This CENTRAL CHANNEL is polluted by IGNORANCE AND CONFUSION which is breathed out as black smoke. Imagine that you BREATHE OUT via the POINT BETWEEN the EYEBROWS.
Normally do this not more than 2 or 3 rounds.