Aug 28, 2021
In this episode, we look at one aspect of Right Intention—loving-kindness. Buddhist Teacher, JoAn Fox, teaches how to practice loving-kindness in daily life, as well as a way to cultivate it through meditation. She teaches and guides the metta meditation, a powerful method to increase our loving-kindness, redirect our love from our usual self-focus, and gradually extend it to all living beings.
What is Right Intention from the Noble Eightfold Path
Right Intention is one of the Noble Eightfold Path, the Buddha’s guide to the gradual path to enlightenment. Right intention has three intentions to cultivate: renunciation, loving kindness, and harmlessness. These oppose attachment, ill will, and harmfulness.
When Buddha was meditating in the forest before attaining enlightenment, he noticed his thoughts fell into one of two categories. One category consisted of negative karmic thoughts and were motivated by either attachment, ill will, or harmfulness. The other category of thoughts were characterized by the intentions of renunciation, loving-kindness, or harmlessness. When a negative karmic way of thinking arose, Buddha would redirect his intention with its opponent. For example, when he was feeling ill will or anger, he would try to develop the intention of metta. The Pali word metta has been translated as love, good will, or loving-kindness.
What is loving-kindness in Buddhism?
Loving-kindness is characterized by the wish that another be happy. This wish is accompanied by a feeling of warmth and affection. Think of the love a mother has for her child, it is a warm feeling that wishes her child to always be happy, healthy, and safe. She wishes this whether her child is with her or is all grown up and living far away. It is less self-focused than the love we usually feel for others. Metta is selfless in a similar way, but more profound, pure, and universal in nature.
It is said that metta needs to be cultivated through meditation; otherwise our experiences of metta are more spontaneous and less stable. The metta prayer used in metta meditations varies between traditions, but it is really just the true utterance of loving kindness. A common metta prayer is this: “May you be happy.” “May you be healthy.” “May you be safe.” “May you be peaceful.” Metta is intended to be cultivated and purified until it is not conditional upon others’ relationship to us. Generally, we reserve our “love” for a very few in this world, perhaps only our family. Metta, by contrast, is unconditional and meant to be extended to all living beings. All beings are to be loved and we become a being of love. This is our only and highest duty.
The best of paths is the Eightfold [Path];
The best of truths, the Four [Noble Truths].
—Buddha, The Dhammapada
References and Links
Bodhi, Bhikku. The Noble Eightfold Path. Buddhist Publication Society, 1999, pp. 33-36. BuddhaNet. http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/noble8path6.pdf
Buddha.The Dhammapada. Translated by Gil Fronsdale. (Kindle). Shambala, Boston and London, 2011, pp. 72 (Link)