Metta

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

Metta

Postby one » Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:51 am

While practicing metta, I see myself in a mirror smiling back at me. As I deepen my concentration I begin to smile at the mirror. It feels good and kind, warm and loving. I see my heart glowing a white gold light and it makes me smile more. I am inclined to think that this is somewhat normal when we begin to really feel good but I can see how it is a distraction from gaining a deeper focus of attention. Does anyone have thoughts to share on this?

Thank you for your time and kind words. With metta.
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Re: Metta

Postby Dexing » Wed Mar 09, 2011 3:43 am

Mettā meditation is something more of a Theravadan practice, a bit foreign to most of the Mahāyāna schools. No equivalent to the Mettā Sutta exists in the Mahāyāna.

This is because such practices are provisional. In my experience, the aim of Mahāyāna is not to develop some happy feeling of kindness with this practice or that practice, which is kind of artificial, but to open one's innate wisdom. Wisdom as the essence naturally has true kindness and compassion as its function. Therefore, such personal meditation techniques to develop something are not necessary.

One can develop mundane kindness and live happily and help others lessen suffering, but cannot lead others to Buddhahood without transcendental wisdom. So if you really want to develop true kindness and compassion, for the Mahāyāna that means studying the Buddha's teachings on transcendental wisdom and practicing the Bodhisattva path- not just smiling at yourself.

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Re: Metta

Postby ground » Wed Mar 09, 2011 6:38 pm

Dexing wrote:Mettā meditation is something more of a Theravadan practice, a bit foreign to most of the Mahāyāna schools.

That is not correct. It is just that it is not called metta, but "love" or sometimes "loving kindness".

Dexing wrote:This is because such practices are provisional.

There are no practices that are not provisional, therefore your statement does not make any sense.

Dexing wrote:In my experience, the aim of Mahāyāna is not to develop some happy feeling of kindness with this practice or that practice, which is kind of artificial, but to open one's innate wisdom. Wisdom as the essence naturally has true kindness and compassion as its function. Therefore, such personal meditation techniques to develop something are not necessary.

It is not even the aim of Theravada to "develop something" but it is the aim to practice what is wholesome and conducive. This holds true for both Theravada and Mahayana.



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Re: Metta

Postby Aemilius » Thu Mar 10, 2011 1:56 pm

Dexing wrote:Mettā meditation is something more of a Theravadan practice, a bit foreign to most of the Mahāyāna schools. No equivalent to the Mettā Sutta exists in the Mahāyāna.

This is because such practices are provisional. In my experience, the aim of Mahāyāna is not to develop some happy feeling of kindness with this practice or that practice, which is kind of artificial, but to open one's innate wisdom. Wisdom as the essence naturally has true kindness and compassion as its function. Therefore, such personal meditation techniques to develop something are not necessary.

One can develop mundane kindness and live happily and help others lessen suffering, but cannot lead others to Buddhahood without transcendental wisdom. So if you really want to develop true kindness and compassion, for the Mahāyāna that means studying the Buddha's teachings on transcendental wisdom and practicing the Bodhisattva path- not just smiling at yourself.

:namaste:


There are for example Je TsongKhapa's instructions for the practice of the Four Brahma Viharas, or the Four Boundless Minds, ( Maitri, Karuna, Mudita & Upeksha), that are certainly are available in english. The instructions for the practice of Maitri exist in Mahayana, I don't know their canonical history or their teaching lineage, but we can take it for granted that there is one.
As I remember it, Upeksha is transcendental or very close to it, and the other three are steps leading to it.

best wishes!
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Re: Metta

Postby Aemilius » Thu Mar 10, 2011 4:20 pm

Here is a concise article by Alexander Berzin on The Four Immeasurable Attitudes in Hinayana, Mahayana, and Bon
http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/archives/study/comparison_buddhist_traditions/theravada_hinayana_mahayana/4_immeasurable_attitudes.html
Alexander Berzin says that the Four Brahma Viharas are found in many popular Mahayana Sutras, like Lotus of the True Law, Great Parinirvana Sutra and Akshayamati Sutra.
He further says that there is an explanation of Four Brahma Viharas by Vasubandhu, which predates the teaching in Visuddhimagga of Buddhaghosha.
There are teachings on Brahma Viharas by Maitreya, Asanga, Je Tsongkhapa, Atisa, Longchenpa and others, that he briefly discusses, etc...
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Re: Metta

Postby Aemilius » Thu Mar 10, 2011 4:55 pm

Here is an excellent teaching of Longchenpa on the Four Brahma Viharas. He quotes several mahayana sutras in it, that are not mentioned by Alexander Berzin,
http://www.shambhalaonline.org/files/pdf/Longchenpa_GreatChariotAutocommentary_Chapter7_Four_Immeasurables.pdf
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Re: Metta

Postby Dexing » Fri Mar 11, 2011 12:51 am

Of course I didn't say the Brahmavihāras are not present in Mahāyāna, and definitely Maitrī is not non-existent within it. Whatever language you use doesn't matter.

I said specifically meditations to develop these states like visualizing smiling at oneself, etc. are not present. That is a very Hīnayāna style practice; artificially creating such a mental state.

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Re: Metta

Postby Aemilius » Fri Mar 11, 2011 1:25 pm

They are an essential Mahayana practice, because they are included in almost every single Sadhana, and sadhanas are meditation practices !? Thus they form a common daily meditation practice of vajrayana-mahayanists. There are also independent practices and visualisations of the Four Brahma-viharas, that are described by Je Tsong Khapa, and by Longchenpa. They may have been rarely taught, but they certainly exist. You can ask some Gelugpa Rimpoche about it ?
According to a Kagyu Rimpoche maitri is something that always exists deep down in one's mind, it certainly isn't artificial.
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Re: Metta

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri Mar 11, 2011 1:32 pm

Are the Buddha's instructions on metta found in the Chinese agamas, or only in the Pali canon? That might help settle the question.
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Re: Metta

Postby Dexing » Sat Mar 12, 2011 7:08 am

Aemilius-

I've said nothing about Vajrayāna practice. And I never said Maitrī is artificial, but the way it is "developed". If something is innate, you need not cultivate it. That which is cultivated is not that which is innate. True Maitrī is a function of Prajñā. It doesn't come from smiling at yourself.

Lazy_eye-

As I said, no equivalent to the Mettā Sutta exists in the Mahāyāna. Its words are rudimentary; taken for granted for those who follow the Bodhisattva path. This practice is not the focus in Mahāyāna because it merely leads to self-liberation; "...is not born again into this world." That is not Mahāyāna purpose.

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Re: Metta

Postby Aemilius » Sat Mar 12, 2011 10:43 am

Lazy_eye wrote:Are the Buddha's instructions on metta found in the Chinese agamas, or only in the Pali canon? That might help settle the question.


Often the case is that in a sutra a meditation technique is described in a rudimentary way or merely mentioned, the actual instructions have always been oral. These instructions are often very lenghty and detailed, they depend on the stage the student is involved in. It was like this at time of Buddha, and it still is like that.
At times the actual instructions have been written down as accurately as possible, thus we get for example the instructions for Metta Bhavana that are in the Vishuddhimagga of Buddhaghosha, and the instructions for Maitri Bhavana that are in Vasubandhu's Abhidharma work. Even these are still rudimentary. Both of them are quite early and thus important.
There is no question about the principle that attached to every major or minor sutra there is an oral tradition that explains the sutras in a much more detailed way.
The point is that the Four Brahma Viharas are mentioned in several Mahayana Sutras, it is evident that there is also a corresponding lineage of practice instructions concerning them.
In the Link given before Alexander Berzin tells of the work he has done in this field, it is recommended for better understanding.
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Re: Metta

Postby Aemilius » Sat Mar 12, 2011 10:57 am

Dexing wrote:Aemilius-

I've said nothing about Vajrayāna practice. And I never said Maitrī is artificial, but the way it is "developed". If something is innate, you need not cultivate it. That which is cultivated is not that which is innate. True Maitrī is a function of Prajñā. It doesn't come from smiling at yourself.

:namaste:


I think you must have realized it yourself, namely; what you say applies to the vajrayana visualisations too. While we have our innate buddha-nature to begin with, why should we then practice "artificial" visualisations ?? This really beats me !
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Re: Metta

Postby Dexing » Mon Mar 14, 2011 1:46 am

Aemilius wrote:I think you must have realized it yourself, namely; what you say applies to the vajrayana visualisations too. While we have our innate buddha-nature to begin with, why should we then practice "artificial" visualisations ?? This really beats me !


Buddha-nature does not fit in Theravāda doctrines, and so Mettā is not innate either. Their practice is to produce such wholesome states through their meditative methods, which is what I am arguing as "artificial". It may lead to personal liberation, but this again is considered "artificial" in Mahāyāna terms.

If your Vajrayāna visualizations are comparable to this (and I know they should not be), then your visualizations are producing your Buddha-nature. In such a case, Buddha-nature would not be innate. Whatever you are developing is therefore not true Buddha-nature.

The original poster said;

    "While practicing metta, I see myself in a mirror smiling back at me. As I deepen my concentration I begin to smile at the mirror. It feels good and kind, warm and loving."

This is not practicing true Mettā, nor is it developing it. Perhaps it is in Theravāda, but to the Bodhisattva this is just making yourself feel nice.

In Mahāyāna, Maitrī is a function of Prajñā, which is innate to one's Buddha-nature. Smiling at oneself does not conjure up or foster Prajñā, and therefore not true Maitrī. A better suggestion to that end is to study the Buddha's teachings on the two-fold Śūnyatā.

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Re: Metta

Postby Aemilius » Fri Mar 18, 2011 12:23 pm

In the practice advice concerning Maitri bhavana that Vasubandhu gives we find a similar procedure that is found in the Metta bhavana practice that is described by Buddhaghosha in Vishuddhi magga. A quite similar sequence is found in Longchenpa's practical instrucions when he describes the development of Equanimity (Upeksha), he further says with regard to the other three Brahma Viharas that the procedure is similar. Therefore it is evident that the basic meditation procedure has existed in a similar form in the buddhism of Nyingma and Gelug to that of the Theravada. In this meditation you start with developing Maitri toward your self, then you gradually widen it to include friends and enemies and neutral persons, and then you widen it even more. There are traces of this method in other tibetan meditation sequences where you start with yourself and then go further. It is important to develop happiness toward yourself, this should be clear, and indisputable. I think Maitri bhavana ( & bhavana of other Brahma viharas) belongs to original teachings of Shakyamuni, it is found both in theravada and tibetan mahayana traditions. Alex Berzin says that a practice of Four Brahma Viharas exists also in the Nichiren School of Japan, of other Mahayana schools we don't know.
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