On Metta

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When I began searching and studying the meaning of Love, I have always resorted to mostly theoretical sources. Psychology, philosophy and religion were among the references I searched. I also stumbled upon the books of Leo Buscaglia and Erich Fromm, both provided me a fresh paradigm of Love. Their take on Love helped me veer away from many of Love’s associated mushiness and sentimentality. I realized then that Love is more than just the romantic depictions in media and popular culture. As I read books on the subject, Love became so clear in terms of concept, yet remained ironically vague. I knew there was something missing.

In 2007, on the last day of a 10-day meditation retreat I attended, the experience of Love dawned on me. It was an unforgettable insight. An energy flowed and bathed me with rapturous Love. After a long, grueling awareness of my inner struggles and suffering, I opened up to the awareness of my true nature: Love is my being. And I clearly understood that we all are Love. I learned this through a final meditation technique that cultivates one’s awareness of universal and unconditional Love. In Buddha’s language, this knowledge of Love is known as Metta. Also known as Maitri in Sanskrit, Metta is presumably a related ancestor of the words like “matter”, “matrix” and “mother”. The Buddha had once affirmed this fact, when he likened Metta to motherly Love. In this case, these word origins need no explanations. We all know, by virtue of our mother’s presence in our lives, how noble and pure a mother’s Love is.

Friendliness, kindness, gentleness and Love. These are common translations of Metta in English. But because of so many distorted views on the word Love, early scholars ascribed the word “Lovingkindness” instead. Sharon Salzberg, one of the foremost teachers of Metta in the West and author of Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, explains Metta and its distinction from passionate, sentimental, romantic or erotic Love, a concept which has marred our natural understanding of Love. The choice for Lovingkindness strenghtens the nuance of Love as more unconditional, encompassing and empathic, all that which refers to the maternal Love we have all experienced – and forgotten.

In Metta, Love becomes an ever-expanding essence.

Like most people, I grew up in this society and learned my way to forget this innate experience of motherly Love. I have sought this experienced and mistook it for the ecstatic myths of Romantic Love. But I stayed thirsty for Love’s true meaning. The blows I had in my past romantic situations conditioned in me so much aversion against any emotional intensities that are romantic in nature. For every situation, I questioned this society’s meaning of Love. I have since committed myself in finding its unadulterated meaning, which led me in discovering Metta. I became so drawn to Metta that it eventually helped me to remember – that Love is more than emotions and romantic notions. I practiced cultivating Metta as an everyday intention, and used it as a lens to view the diverse world around me. Love, spelled in Buddha’s language, has become my sacred prayer and my broad-minded attitude. Metta has changed the way I Love.

Metta is my new response as it replaces the corrosive judgments I have against myself and others. I have seen, through Metta, how people around me are gradually transformed. Instead of irritation, I intended  Love/Lovingkindness to a baby and witnessed her how she immediately calmed down after an episode of uncontrollable crying. Instead of annoyance, I saw how a customer suddenly became so gentle to a salesman, after shouting at him while complaining due to dissatisfaction. Instead of meddling too much, a friend who had once a conflict with his female friend for almost a year, finally reconciled with her after more than a week of intending Love for both of them.

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Metta has become my key to realize Love as an experience of giving its abundance, of allowing it to flow from my heart and out to the world. Here, a traditional phrase taught by teachers like Salzberg, starts with an intention of Love for oneself: May I be free from harm and danger. May I be free from physical suffering. May I be free form mental suffering. May I always be happy. At this point, Love becomes a natural self-awareness. From oneself, these phrases are also intended for loved ones, friends, teachers, strangers, even enemies and all living creatures. In Metta, Love becomes not an emotion, but a fervent wish for others’ happiness and well-being. In Metta, Love becomes an ever-expanding essence.

When I started sharing the wisdom of Metta, it has been spoken like a mantra among my friends, acquaintances and students, a word that always radiates a new meaning of Love. By living the concept, it taught me to see Love in Buddha’s eyes: Metta is never about our religious and cultural differences. It is neither about the Buddha nor Buddhism. The Buddha only paved a path to an awakened boundless, nameless experience of Love, which he called Metta in the language of his time. It can come in any name, because the experience is more than the words that label it. It is resonant with all sacred traditions and highest humanistic principles propounded by many ancient spiritual masters and modern enlightened leaders. Their understanding converge to one single point: that Love, Lovingkindness or Metta, whatever names we use – is in the core of our hearts. Love – Metta – arises and flows, and remains eternally true.

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