Dhamma Articles

Forget the past... Live in the present...

One who truly seeks one’s spiritual well-being and welfare should put “metta” into action in all spheres of life. First of all, he should develop the skill of properly managing, with full awareness, every aspect and every moment of his life, from the time he gets up in the morning till he retires at night.

He must be skillful in everything that he does, thinks and says. These three modes of action should be so oriented, so influenced and so imbued, by metta or universal love, by the wish for all beings to be happy.

So, one quality or virtue that one has to imbibe and cultivate in order to walk the spiritual path and live according to metta which is to say one has become skillful in whatever one does. Life is a very complex thing.

We have our individual life, than we have our family life, than our professional life and then we have our social life. So, there are so many different levels of life and metta must guide us at all these levels.

Metta in action must be expressed in the form of skillful management of every aspect, moment and level of our lives. We should know how to manage ourselves with metta in our personal life and how to do the same in our dealings with our family members, with the group or community that we live with and in our professional life.

In order to make our interactions with others meaningful, we must develop the necessary skills so that we are competent and are not dependent on others to do things for us that we can do ourselves. For this, one has to be absolutely straightforward and upright.

A person who is not straightforward, who is crooked in his outlook, crooked his actions, crooked in his behavior, cunning and hypocritical, can never practice universal love in any form. One has to be honest and upright and only then can one develop skillfulness in managing one’s life.

Uprightness requires that you do what you say and practice what you preach. In this way, there must be no conflict in your life in any manner, whether in your personal life or your family life, your professional life or your social life.

Straightforwardness or uprightness is the beginning of the practice of metta. To be straightforward, one must have some kind of idea of rightness or properness, that which is right and proper so that one lives by it and becomes upright.

You become upright when you have an idea about what is right. If you don’t have a clear notion of what exactly is right and wrong, how can be upright? And, if you are not upright, how you can really practice metta? How can you skillfully manage your life?

One has to think very deeply about these matters and be honest to oneself. People love to find fault with others. Everywhere, you keep seeing faults in others. But, the honest person sees the faults first within himself. He realizes that he has plenty of faults of his own.

Metta or loving kindness is very opposite of finding fault with other people. Being negative, always finding with others these are terrible qualities that make your life miserable. So, we should consciously try to stop ourselves before we fall prey to the temptation of seeking faults in others.

The Metta consists of unbounded and unconditioned thoughts of love towards all living beings for their well-being and happiness, without any discrimination. It embraces the entire world of sentient beings alike. It is mixed with kindness.

There must not be any kind of attachment mixed with it. It is pure love, free from attachment. Therefore, it is not easy to practice. As unconditional love, it is completely different from the love involved in sensual matters. In fact, sensual love is the indirect enemy of true loving kindness is a very effective antidote for anger.

The kindness is compassionate loving thoughts towards those who are in distress or sorrow. It should embrace beings faced with troublesome situations. Those who cultivate such noble thoughts will try their best by world and deed to alleviate those in need to free them from those miserable situations.

Those who possess real kindness are not concerned with the ethnic or religious background of victims or their social statues, education, economic situation, color or any such barrier when helping others. They will just focus their attention on the problems faced by the victims.

Brutality is the direct enemy of compassion. Its indirect enemy is misery involving emotional feelings, when seeing hapless being in pain. Being emotional just does not help anyone.

The Sympathetic Joy is the feeling of genuine happiness at other’s joy and happiness. It is not at all easy to be happy about other’s success or achievement if one’s mind is full of jealous thoughts about others success. One should be able to appreciate the gains, fame and reputation, honor and success in various matters in connection with the lives of others.

Most people are happy with the success of their dear and near ones, not with those of others. However, there should not be any limitations or boundaries in the practice of this virtue. It is important to train oneself to feel happy with the success of others whether they are one’s relatives, friends or otherwise. Jealousy is known as the direct enemy of sympathetic joy. Elation is known as its indirect enemy.

The Equanimity is mental composure. It is not easy to acquire equanimity if one’s mind is easily occupied with the extremes of attachment for again, good reputation, blame and pain. A mind with equanimity will embrace all good or bad and positive or negative phenomena, without any distinction.

The ability to maintain serenity of mind, without being effected by those two extremes is genuine equanimity. This works in different levels at different stages. When other virtuous qualities are pervaded with equanimity, they will get matured soon. The direct enemy of this is attachment to the good and resentment of the bad. Its indirect enemy is lack of concern due to delusion.

The learnt a method of leading a meaningful life, they no longer cared about the past. They certainly did learn important lessons from the past, but they didn’t wallow in thinking about the past. If you are not captive to the past or to the future, but live constantly in the present.

The past has gone, never come back again. The future is yet to come. So, why obsess about both that don’t exist at the present moment? Worrying or repenting about past won’t change the past one bit. It will only make you more depressed and angry.

Likewise, obsessing about the future won’t help you at all. After all, no one knows for sure what’s going to happen in the future, not even in the next second. Nothing at all about the future is really predictable and so all the fears and fantasies you wallow in about the future may well turn out to be completely unfounded.

Right vision or right understanding is the knowledge of the four Nobble Truths: unsatisfactoriness, the cause of unsatisfactoriness, the cession of unsatisfactoriness and the path leading to the cession of unsatisfactoriness. Right thought consists of dispassionate thoughts, loving thoughts and compassionate thoughts.

You’re agonizing about it can only lead you to fear and sorrow. Life itself is unpredictable, uncertain. You don’t know what is going to happen after half an hour you may die, you may continue to live, all kinds of things can happen. So, it is as absolutely useless to brood over the future as it is to wallow in guilt and remorse for the past. Live in the present.

Metta is universal loving kindness that we have been discussing. It is said that numerous benefits accrue from the practice of metta. What are these? It is said that one who practices metta sleeps well & happily, wakes up happily does not suffer bad dreams, is dear to human beings, is dear to non-human beings as well, the gods protect him, no fire or weapons or poison injures him, his mind gets quickly concentrated his features are bright, he dies unperturbed.

So, the regular practice of metta brings several practical benefits to one in her or his daily life. They are very important benefits. Metta can neutralize all these negative tendencies completely. So, in this manner, metta both is freedom of the mind and it can also bring about freedom of the mind. When you cultivate unselfish love and universally apply it towards all creatures, you develop a mind which is benevolent, loving, kind, forbearing and forgiving. You don’t remember the past. Metta saves you, so practice it ardently and sincerely.

Practice metta by way of sila-metta in your deeds, action, speech and though, metta as a meditation and metta as practical application of wisdom. Practice metta in all these forms and you will find that it becomes an astounding saving force.

You start to enjoy good health and freedom from stress, tension, worry and negative thinking. These are the things that deprive you mental health. So as you would hopefully have well understood by now, metta is a powerful weapon which can do away with many bodily and mental sufferings such as those caused by lack of sleep.

Some great men who suffered from sleeplessness witnessed a wonderful transformation by taking to the path of metta, the path of forgiveness, forbearance and patience.

Metta meditation cleanses the mind, develops the mind and makes it into a powerful entity, leading to freedom from samsara. May you all be happy and well! Surround your lives with wisdom, with metta !

Most Venerable Bhikkhuni Dr. Ming Yu
President - Chinese Young Buddhist Association in Taiwan &
The Adviser of the World Fellowship of Buddhist Youth (WFBY)

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