Friday, September 28, 2007

Burma and Metta

I was elated to see these words in this Burma photo today, and in English, no less. Monks, nuns and followers of Buddhist teachings repeat these words, or some version of them, throughout their day, throughout their lives. It is called metta. The closest definition of this word is "loving kindness." (See the link for a more thorough explanation.)

An important point is that no one is excluded from this idea, this giving. It is unconditional. All living beings and creatures are included. What I also appreciate about metta is that at anytime of the day or night there is some Buddhist somewhere in the world repeating some form of this simple phrase, sending out metta to everyone. I find this comforting and hopeful.

The practice of repeating the metta phrase also brings calm to the one saying it. Its repetition is intended to open one's heart to the suffering inherent in being human and bring the heart to peace. It is a hard practice, metta, simply because no one is excluded. Even your enemy, or maybe, especially your enemy, is offered metta. Offering loved ones and friends metta is easier. Picturing someone who is difficult for you and offering them this powerful "wish" takes practice. This simple way of being loving can actually be pretty arduous. Think about it the next time someone cuts you off on the highway and offer them these thoughts: "May you be well and happy. May you be free from harm and anger. May you be peaceful."

So the Monks, revered and loved, walked and repeated this phrase as they walked. They offered these words for everyone, including their hate-filled junta. As they were beaten, they were also repeating these words for those who were striking them. They offered these words because there is little else of importance. This kind of humility is hard for us to imagine, let alone accept.

No comments: