This is a part of a series going line by line from the Metta Sutta. It starts here.
They should wish: In gladness and in safety May all beings be at ease
This line is the heart of metta meditation practice. It is the phrase that most people think of when they think of metta at all. Classically, the previously lines are considered the teaching of metta in day to day life, while the next set of lines is all about the practice of metta that leads to samadhi. Most often people are told to practice metta by chanting or reciting this line over and over, usually silently.
But notice, the actual instructions say nothing about chanting or repeating. The instruction is simply “to wish”. Rather than silently chanting (like a mantra) “May he be happy,” etc., instead try using the feeling of loving kindness itself for an object of meditation. Like the breath, it must first be recognized, then stabilized, then absorbed into. Wishing is not the end of the practice. Doing metta meditation is also powerful. Doing acts of loving kindness is powerful. But don’t forget the power of the very wish itself. There are probably too many references to neuroscience in Buddhism for our own good, but for the record, metta does seem to profoundly change brain function. For my money, if this wasn’t true it wouldn’t make metta less valuable. But the fact that it is true is another piece of evidence for the power of this practice.
The next post in the series is here.