What Is Metta or Loving Kindness Meditation?

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Mindfulness in Plain English" by Bhante Gunaratana. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here .

What is metta meditation? How can practicing it help you develop a calmer, more joyful disposition, and a more positive attitude towards life?

In language of Pali, which is closely related to Sanskrit, the word metta signifies goodwill and benevolent energy. So, what exactly is metta meditation and how do you practice it?

Keep reading for the answer to the question: what is metta meditation?

What Is Metta Meditation?

Metta is loving friendliness. When you project it out to other people, you feel more at peace yourself. You become calm and peaceful, with your anger and resentment fading away. Your words and your deeds become warmer, and you live with others in harmony.

What is metta’s opposite? Wishing ill on others or acting immorally is poisoning yourself.

The Buddha defines four sublime states: loving friendliness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity. A good analogy for understanding this is the evolution of how a parent views her child:

  • Loving friendliness – in the beginning, there is pure love and caring for the child. It is limitless and unconditional.
  • Compassion – as the infant makes mistakes and feels pain, the parent feels pain as well. This is not pity, which distances people – compassion is the hope that the pain should stop and the child not suffer.
  • Appreciative Joy – as the child begins achieving things – making friends, earning awards –  the parent is full of happiness, not of resentment or jealousy.
    • Note that we can celebrate all people’s achievement, even when their success exceeds our own.
  • Equanimity – as the child becomes an adult, the parent must sit back, knowing they have done all they could for their child. They can no longer steer the child’s life. 

Even for the most ornery and unpleasant people you know, wish them peace and discover their potential for loving friendliness.You don’t know their background or experiences, and you may be misinterpreting their behavior.

The following metta recitations are excerpts from the book Mindfulness in the Plain English.

Start With Yourself

Start by showing loving friendliness to yourself. Make peace with your shortcomings. Embrace your weaknesses. 

“May my mind be filled with the thoughts of loving friendliness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity. May I be generous. May I be gentle. May I be relaxed. May I be happy and peaceful. May I be healthy. May my heart become soft. May my words be pleasing to others. May my actions be kind.

May all that I see, hear, smell, taste, touch, and think help me to cultivate loving friendliness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity. May all these experiences help me to cultivate thoughts of generosity and gentleness. May they all help me to relax. May they inspire friendly behavior. May these experiences be a source of peace and happiness. May they help me be free from fear, tension, anxiety, worry, and restlessness.

No matter where I go in the world, in any direction, may I greet people with happiness, peace, and friendliness. May I be protected in all directions from greed, anger, aversion, hatred, jealousy, and fear.”

Extend Outwards

All beings want happiness and less suffering. This connects you with the rest of the living universe. Wish well-being for them. 

“May all beings in all directions, all around the universe, have good hearts. Let them be happy, let them have good fortune, let them be kind, let them have good and caring friends. May all beings everywhere be filled with the feeling of loving friendliness – abundant, exalted, and measureless. May they be free from enmity, free from affliction and anxiety. May they live happily.”

Wish your adversaries spiritual success, not material or immoral success. You should not wish someone who’s trying to kill you to succeed with their goal. Rather, if they were to improve their spiritual happiness, they would not be acting in a way that causes you harm.

“May my adversaries be well, happy, and peaceful. May no harm come to them, may no difficulty come to them, may no pain come to them. May they always meet with success.”

Dealing with Anger

It’s easy to fixate on hating another person. You pick one aspect of them you dislike, discarding everything else that might be virtuous.

When you get angry about someone, ask yourself what it is you hate about her. Her hair? The way they she does work? Her children? Her house? Her teeth? Her smile? As you go through the possibilities, you will find yourself balancing the target of your ire with other redeeming qualities.

How should you react if someone directs her anger at you? Insults you, sabotages you? Do not fight anger with anger – it doesn’t make the other person feel any better. Responding with anger is a conditioned response. It is unskilled. 

Instead, respond with loving friendliness. Look at the situation with an open mind and wisdom. Maybe you misinterpreted the situation. Maybe the person wasn’t aware of what she was saying. Maybe the intent was not to harm you. Maybe you had a sensitive frame of mind at the moment. Maybe even if it was meant to harm, you don’t have the full story of why the person said those words. Maybe the person is pointing out something true that you need to hear.

The other person’s anger will not increase, and it will likely fade away.

What Is Metta or Loving Kindness Meditation?

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Bhante Gunaratana's "Mindfulness in Plain English" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full Mindfulness in Plain English summary :

  • How to practice mindfulness daily
  • How to recognize emotions as they arise
  • Why you have to let go of emotions for peace

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.