An attitude of loving kindness (Metta)

Last night I was reflecting about how easy it is to be in default “fault finding” mode: finding faults with other people, with our life situation, with things we interact with.

The media loves tearing down people, and we get some perverse satisfaction from seeing people humiliated, exposed, shamed, ridiculed… it’s so “default” that it’s so easy to forget it doesn’t have to be like that.

Clearly, the problem with an attitude of fault finding is that I’m always dissatisfied.

If I try to put my attention on praising (others, things)/gratitude I tend to be much much more satisfied, but if I’m tired, forget my clarity, then before I know I just joined in with what seems to be 95% of the rest of the world default attitude, which sounds like “there’s a problem with people/things/life/me“.

As I was drinking the excellent Chen Yuan Hao 05 Shanzhong Chuanqi this morning, long awaited as I run out of my previous sample, I started reading “Breakthrough” by Ajahn Amaro, gifted to me from a friend

Just in the first few pages I found these very clear words (emphasis and […] mine):

Loving kindness does not mean trying to like the unlikeable. That’s the same as trying to taste something bitter and pretend that it’s actually sweet. We need to be realistic and say “That’s a painful memory, this is a painful sensation in the body” […]

Metta is not making ourselves like the unlikeable, but rather radically and totally accepting what is here. […] There are sweet flavours, there are sour flavours, there are bitter flavours. Nothing has gone wrong. It’s not “bad”, It’s just a flavour that we can experience. Here it is. It’s like this. […]

So this is the quality of metta – a radical acceptance, a wholehearted acknowledgement and recognition. […] It’s not pleasant, but here it is. […] There is nothing whatsoever wrong with it. It just is what it is. It’s just a flavour, it’s just a mood, it’s just an emotion. […] You are not trying to pretend it’s not there, but you’re simply recognising it. […] We can be at peace with it. […] We can recognise that it’s just a part of the natural order [of existence]. […]

So even though there may be some painful emotion or painful sensation, we are not creating dukkah (unsatisfactoriness) around it, and thus there’s pain but no suffering. No “wrongness” is ascribed to it. Dukkha is an attitude of “it shouldn’t be this way. This is not fair. This is not right. The universe is out of order at this moment”. When we let go of that attitude, we established the attitude of metta.

So rather than metta being a sort of optional extra, added on as secondary practice, it’s more accurate to see it as […] the attitude needed in order to truly develop concentration and insight. […]

There is an aphorism often used in the world that says “The end justifies the means”, but in Buddhism we recognise that the end and the means are unified. The Buddha recognised that it’s impossible to develop peace of mind by using an aggressive and contentious method. If you want peace, peace should be your method. […] If you try to arrive at calm by attacking your thoughts, if you turn your thoughts and emotions into the enemy, the mind becomes a battleground

As I read, Metta (the dog) started whining for attention from downstairs and it was so interesting to see how my mind still went in fault finding mode and how to “solve the problem” (sounded something like: “I’m having tea in quiet, someone’s disturbing –> oh no, I’m going to lose my quiet!”).

It was only for a few seconds before I realised that well, there’s no problem, she can be restless near me drinking tea and really there’s no problem whatever.

But even a few seconds when I’ve just been reflecting on the topic and I am near my best of clear thinking (after 1 hour or drinking a great tea) is… quite a lot!

Shows me how default the fault-finding attitude is (certainly within me, though I suspect for others too), and how important it’s to bring over and over to mind the attitude of loving-kindness (for example by writing or reading or talking about a short essay about it)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top