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Importance of cultivating Metta and friendship in Buddhism

24 Jun 2021 - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}      



One could say that the Metta Sutta teaches one to cultivate unbounded friendliness
And how, young householder, does a noble disciple cover the six quarters?” The Buddha asked



In Buddhism, one comes across this term, “Metta”. What is Metta? It is serenity, friendliness and warmth in our human interactions. When one cultivates Metta, one is cultivating “profound friendliness”. One could say that the Metta Sutta teaches one to cultivate unbounded friendliness. In short, what it takes to be a good friend to the whole world. Following is the English Version of the Karaniyametta Sutta taken from the Internet. It has the gist of the Metta Sutta and what it means to cultivate Metta and be a good friend and the mindset necessary for it.

“May all be happy and secure.
May all beings become happy in their heart of hearts!

And think of every living thing without exception:
The weak and the strong, from the smallest to the
largest, whether you can see them or not, living
nearby or far away, beings living now or yet to arise –
May all beings become happy in their heart of hearts!

May no one deceive or look down on anyone
anywhere, for any reason. Whether through feeling
angry or through reacting to someone else, may no
one want another to suffer.
As strongly as a mother, perhaps risking her life,
cherishes her child, her only child, develop an
unlimited heart for all beings.

Develop an unlimited heart of friendliness for the
entire universe, sending metta above, below, and all
around, beyond all narrowness, beyond all rivalry,
beyond all hatred.
Whether you are staying in one place or travelling,
sitting down or in bed, in all your waking hours rest in
this mindfulness, which is known as like living in
heaven right here and now!

In this way, you will come to let go of views, be
spontaneously ethical, and have perfect Insight. And
leaving behind craving for sense pleasures, from the
rounds of rebirth you will finally be completely free!”
(Translated by Ratnaprabha)

If one can cultivate these qualities, one can be considered an extraordinary human being capable of much Metta.
In the Sigalovada Sutta Buddha has espoused some profound wisdom-  among them, the value of having good friends. Part of cultivating Metta is also in being a good friend to others.

What is the Sigalovada Sutta?
The Buddha Gautama was going along his morning walk and came across a young man called Sigala who was sweating profusely and was prostrated, worshipping the four directions around him ( North, South, East and West ), plus- down and up (towards the earth and the sky ).

The Buddha asked Sigala, what he was doing and Sigala replied that while his own father was dying, he had asked Sigala to daily worship the six quarters. Then the Buddha said- “This is not how to worship the six quarters”. Then, Sigala asked the Buddha to espouse what He means.

“And how, young householder, does a noble disciple cover the six quarters?” The Buddha asked.

“The following should be looked upon as the six quarters. Parents should be looked upon as the East, teachers as the South, wife and children as the West, friends and associates as the North, servants and employees as the Nadir, ascetics and brahmins as the Zenith.”. So what Sigala’s father meant was to have an understanding of who should really be acknowledged and respected. Not the six directions, but the people in one’s life.

The friends and associates thus ministered to as the North by a clansman show compassion to him in five ways:
(i) They protect him when he is heedless.
(ii) They protect his property when he is heedless.
(iii) They become a refuge when he is in danger.
(iv) They do not forsake him in his troubles.
(v) They show consideration for his family.

There are various types of friends and friendships. Life is not easy. As children, we are all very innocent. We don’t understand the mechanics of how our world functions. However, as we grow up, life becomes so much more challenging. Having siblings alone isn’t enough. We need good friends as well. In our world, you get the good as well as the not so good. One should be very careful when using social networking sites like Facebook, because there can be not so very good people there who use you for their own detrimental purposes. One should be very careful when posting photos as well. We usually think that everyone is like us. That is so not true. People, over time, usually show their true nature. And some people turn out to have negative traits that befuddle us- we think “how could these people be like this? They seemed so good and genuine”. However, later on we realise that people we trusted to be like us, betray us and prove to have only their interests at heart. And sooner rather than later we realise that not everyone is good and virtuous like we once thought they were.  Basically, one can show Metta to all, without expecting Metta in return from everyone. One need not be a Buddhist to be a friend to another. People of other religious faiths too could cultivate friendships with Buddhists.

Above all, one should cultivate self love or friendliness towards oneself. You can have compassion for the whole world - but if you can’t forgive yourself and love yourself, then the practice of cultivating loving kindness and compassion is incomplete. For example this brings to mind a recent incident that happened to me. My son was feeling hungry and wanted cutlets for dinner one day. My mother painstakingly made some for him. There is a short distance from my mother’s house to our house and I was carrying two plates- one for my husband and one for my son. To my horror I saw from behind our grill four puppies rushing towards me. ( we are bringing them up ) I was horror-struck to say the least. I tried balancing two plates on one hand and opening the grill with my other hand and trying to prevent the puppies dashing at my mother who was following behind me. And horror of horrors - everything fell on the ground. - To say that I was feeling bad doesn’t say it all in the least. I started crying and feeling so very bad. Bad that my mother’s efforts were in vain. The fact that my son was longing for the cutlets. The fact that I could have prevented it all by using another entrance.

Then my mother began comforting me and what she said resonated with me. People make mistakes. Some of them are not preventable. One has to forgive oneself most of all at such times. We all do our best. Sometimes, it might not seem like enough, but it is our best. And we have to make peace with that. The story of the cutlets and the puppies might sound somewhat funny. But at the time, I felt like my world had turned upside down! - let alone the plates!- All in all- one should be a good friend to oneself and have Metta- If not, all else is in vain.
Wishing you a happy Poson. With Metta!