For those not familiar with the term ...
Mettā (a word in the ancient Buddhist Pāli language) has been translated as "loving-kindness," "benevolence," "good will," "love" and "sympathy." It is one of the ten Pāramitās (Virtues) of Buddhism. The mettā bhāvanā ("cultivation of mettā") is a popular form of meditation in Buddhism. The object of mettā meditation is loving kindness (but, of course, without demands or attachment). Traditionally, the practice begins with the meditator cultivating loving kindness towards themselves, then their loved ones, friends, strangers, enemies (perhaps the most difficult part of the practice) and finally towards all sentient beings.
I might suggest a few minutes of Metta practice as a nice way to end the day before bed (or, for example, at the closing of your evening Zazen). Perhaps just before turning into bed for the night, or right after finishing your evening Zazen (and before rising from the Zafu), you might recite or chant the following ... (and, as stated, it is also good during your day when encountering folks who "just plain get your goat"! )
(Note that, for reasons of our Soto Practice, I have modified some phrasing common to other traditions to be more embracing of conditions 'as they are'. For example, we should aspire for people to be healthy as well as "at ease in all their ills", not merely the former.)
It can be said to oneself, out loud or inwardly. It can be spoken, and need not be sung or chanted. It need not be considered a "prayer" to some force outside us (we will leave that to silence), and can be thought of as simply our aspiration for a better world for all living beings. Truly, 'inside' and 'outside' are not two, and one can effect and greatly change the other.To begin, take a moment to quiet your mind, and focus your attention on recalling the experience and sensation of loving kindness. Try to summon such feelings within, and hold them throughout your sincere reciting of the following.
You will then begin by offering Metta to yourself. If distracting thoughts arise, acknowledge them, let them pass, and return to your Metta practice from there, again and again, just as in Shikantaza. While reciting, try to maintain the experience and sensation of loving kindness to the beings mentioned. Note that the word "suffering" in the following refers to the Buddhist idea of Dukkha http://treeleafzen.blogspot.com/2008/09/sit-long-with-jundo-heart-sutra-xx-four.html )
1. May I be free of enmity; may I feel safe and still.
2. May I be free of suffering, may I be loving, grateful and kind.
3. May I be healthy and at ease in all my ills.
4. May I be at peace, embracing all conditions of life.
Next, repeat the chant with a specific close loved one in mind ...
1. May he(she) be free of enmity; may he(she) feel safe and still.
2. May he(she) be free of suffering; may he(she) be loving, grateful and kind.
3. May he(she) be healthy and at ease in all his(her) ills.
4. May he(she) be at peace, embracing all conditions of life
Then, repeat the above in succession for a specific close friend, a specific neutral person (someone you neither like nor dislike), and then a difficult person (no need to start with the most difficult person, but someone whom you have a distaste for ... However, it is a good practice to focus on true enemies or hateful individuals. That is perhaps the most valuable and difficult practice of all).
Close with all beings:
1. May we be free of enmity; may we feel safe and still.
2. May we be free of suffering; may we be loving, grateful and kind.
3. May we be healthy and at ease in all our ills.
4. May we be at peace, embracing all conditions of life
We will also make it a regular part of our monthly Zazenkai.
May there be much Metta for all of you in our Sangha.
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