Happiness feels like such an elusive constituent of life. We seek it all the time. In Buddhism, the all-compassionate Buddha has laid out specific tools from which we can cultivate, nourish and propagate happiness, and this dramatically increases the quality of life of a person.
In the book titled ‘A heart as wide as the world,’ author Sharon Salzberg says, “…from my earliest days of Buddhist practice, I felt perpetually drawn to the fact of finding a way of life that was characterised by peacefulness and authenticity. My own life at that time was largely characterised by fear and confusion. I felt separate from other people and from the world around me and even oddly disconnected from my own experience...” - These words certainly resonate how most people feel.
Loving-kindness is the translation of the Pali word ‘Metta.’ The literal translation is friendship. Loving awareness is bringing love to all our actions, no matter what we are engaged in. Mindfulness infused with love and compassion bring happiness and ease. It is good to keep in mind that practicing Metta - or loving kindness or loving friendliness - towards others, greatly helps in alleviating those feelings of detachment and isolation we feel time-to-time. Loving awareness - being mindful about ourselves and holding ourselves with utmost love and compassion before we extend the same feelings to others - is vital. In general, most of the people feel fragmented and on their own.
Metta is the recitation of a set of powerful words that evoke love towards others, beginning with oneself. It can go as follows:
May I be happy.
May I be peaceful.
May I be at ease.
And extending it towards others:
May all people be happy.
May all people be peaceful.
May all people be at ease.
And finally extending it to all beings:
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be peaceful.
May all beings be at ease.
As we cultivate Metta, the unwholesome mind may erupt with rage. At such times, we should momentarily focus on our breath and calm ourselves down, until it eventually passes away without any repercussion. We need more compassion towards ourselves and less judgments. Everyone goes through difficult times. It is natural. People go through delightful times as well. This is a sort of introspective reflection. With the cultivation of Metta, our lives become more fluid, meaning it flows smoothly. We are not detained by the same rut of disconnection or negative emotions like anger towards others. Instead, we are filled with love, tenderness and gentleness. Reacting negatively in problematic situations lead us to uneasiness and anxiety.
When we begin the recitation of Metta, we might wonder as to how it could affect our lives. From what I have gathered, it can affect and even transform our lives in a profound manner. When we commence this expedition of introspective contemplation, we must bear in mind that things will get better, and it invariably does. We should, at all times, be positive because what goes around comes around -- love and Metta beget love and Metta.
As we cultivate happiness, our lives become more peaceful, and that is a huge achievement, to live with ease. Sharon Salzberg describes happiness as an inner resource. Happiness coming from outside sources is rickety and temporary. When we cultivate Metta, we resonate with the whole of humanity. We begin to feel more sympathetic as well as empathetic.
In school, nobody is taught how to be happy. Instead, we are taught, for instance, how to be productive citizens. Not that it is a bad thing. However, it is also important to be a happy individual. Happiness is something that needs cultivation. Reality is full of change. We can access different fractions of ourselves. Meditation, in my opinion, should be a subject taught in all schools. One does not need to be a Buddhist in order to meditate. It can be done by anyone, especially Metta or meditation of loving-kindness.
We should not take things personally; that is another way of looking at life. When we are with other people, we must give them our undivided attention. We must learn to look at people, not simply through people. How we pay attention to one another and what we pay attention to matters a lot. After all, happiness is a skill.
When we change our focus, we feel a difference. Our spirits elevate. We feel connected to others. If we shift the way we pay attention, the quality of resourcefulness like inner strength comes through. Nothing in life is a straight shot. Metta meditation can be called a love affair with life.
Loving-kindness is a very important part of mindful-living and being happy in general. It is the art of friendship with us and also with others. All of life matters.
Nalagiri was the name of the royal tusker that belonged to King Suppabuddha, father of Devadatta. Devadatta, who was jealous of Buddha, plotted to kill him while he was in Rajgir. They intoxicated this huge tusker, hurt and wounded it with spears. They irritated it so much so that it was enraged beyond compare. Later, they let it out loose from a special gate at Rajgir into the narrow streets where the Buddha was descending from alms round. The inebriate elephant then rampaged in the street, tearing down everything in its sight. While everyone ran helter-skelter when they saw the enraged elephant charging down the street, the Buddha and his faithful attendant Venerable Ananda Thera remained. Bhikkhu Ananda stood in front of the Buddha so that the elephant would get him instead of the Buddha. However, the Buddha came forward and with his immense Metta, relieved it of its pain and tamed it with tears running down his face, for the Buddha did not think about himself but of ending the suffering of the giant creature (source - http://gauthamabuddha.blogspot.com/2012/01/taming-elephant-with-loving-kindnes.html)
Let me conclude in Sharon Salzberg’s words - “Loving-kindness and compassionate love exist as a potential capacity within me. Other people may awaken or threaten it, but it is actually within me. Love is always there within me. The ability and capacity are always mine and always will be.”
Today is Vesak. The birth, enlightenment (Buddha hood), and demise (Parinirvana) of Lord Gautama Buddha. According to the Theravada, the tradition took place in sequence, on such a day as today.
Lord Buddha taught the way of total and complete liberation, the transition from ignorance to wisdom, how to end suffering and realise the Supreme Bliss of Nirvana.
What better day than today to joyously celebrate the Buddha’s birth and especially his remarkable teachings. Homage to the Blessed One. Sadhu. Sadhu. Sadhu.
- With Metta, Namali.