Practices of Lovingkindness

UNDERSTANDING THE PRACTICES OF THE FOUR DIVINE ABODES

BY MARK NUNBERG


The Buddha offered the Divine Abodes as a skillful wholesome place for the mind to reside. These practices aim at uncovering the heart’s natural capacity to love, care for and appreciate all beings unconditionally, including ourselves. This is love for love’s sake, there is no expectation or agenda involved, and no preference. It is a love that goes out to all equally. These practices are designed to help us get in touch with that wellspring in our hearts from which unconditional love flows.


Metta is the Pali word for love, kindness, or benevolence  is an integral aspect of the Buddha's teachings and practices. Perhaps best translated from the ancient Pali language as ‘friendliness,’ met is often translated as ‘lovingkindness’ in the West. Metta has three distinct roles in Buddhist practice: it is a meditation practice that is used to develop the beautiful qualities of the heart; it may form the basis of Samadhi (concentration or absorption) meditation; and it offers a means of recognizing and strengthening our sense of connectedness to all beings through a commitment to universal love and non-harming.


Often we make the mistake of wanting the heart to be loving, compassionate and joyful; so we fall into the trap of imitating some image or idea we have of what that might mean. You might want to investigate the experience of love as being more about what is not there than about what is there. When you experience moments of the mind settling down, make a point of noticing the absence of ill will. Once recognized, practice keeping this experience, the absence of aversion, in mind as the meditation object. See this absence of ill will as love. Do your best to sense its goodness and beauty, and cultivate a deepening appreciation for it. Notice its capacity to expand to fill the space of the body and mind. Notice as other people come to mind that this kind & compassionate presence is also willing to include them and on and on.


The Buddha considers metta or this goodness of the heart as a boundless quality of the mind. It doesn’t run out. The more it is recognized and held in view, the more it expands and happily meets whatever presents itself in one’s experience. Love is capable of filling the space of the present moment until there is nothing left that is not included in its radiance. The Buddha taught that we taste the experience of liberation, a mind free of greed, anger and delusion, in any moments when the mind is established and resting in metta.


Audio for 2017 (Unfortunately, Week 2 was not recorded)


STUDY RESOURCES


Metta and the Path of Awakening, recorded Dharma Talk by Mark Nunberg





Recommended Text: Sharon Salzberg’s book, Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, published by Shambhala


Facets of Metta by Sharon Salzberg


7-minute guided meditation by Sharon Salzberg: http://www.beliefnet.com/Health/2000/07/Opening-The-Heart.aspx


45-minute guided meditation by Sharon: http://www.dharma.org/sites/default/files/04-Sharon_Salzberg-Guided_Metta_Meditation.mp3








Saying Yes to an Open Heart by Diana Winston in Buddhadharma, Summer 2010





Issue at Hand, Chapter 22: Loving-Kindness Meditation, by Gil Fronsdal


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