Earlier today, we revisited one of the most commonly heard-of Buddhist concept - Metta - and questioned ourselves...
Does Metta = Loving-Kindness?
NO! :O :O :O What is it then?! So what we've been hearing all the while is wrong?! D: D: D:
Not entirely! Metta is not just loving-kindness, it also involves friendliness, goodwill, benevolence, fellowship, amity, concord, inoffensiveness & non-violence. At this point, the first thought that sprang up in my mind was: whaaaaaaat...so if Metta is such a wholesome and all-encompassing virtue, it must be REALLY hard to cultivate and attain. Will I still be able to practice it then? Another misconception regarding Metta was also addressed - which is the common perception that by thinking that when we sincerely wish others to be well and happy, it is considered to be radiating Metta, regardless of our other thoughts/actions towards that person. However, with this new expanded definition of the virtue, it proves the superficiality of such a thought as we aren't really being entirely genuine in our practice as there is a lack of friendliness and amity in our perceived "Metta".
Brother Eric then shared an interesting example he heard:
Given a Rich Man and a Poor Man, who do you feel more Metta towards?
(layperson's answer: the poor man, duh...)
Then given that the Rich Man has cancer, who would you feel more Metta towards?
(layperson's answer: the rich man i guess...)
Then given that both the Rich and Poor Man both have cancer, who would you feel more Metta towards?
(layperson's answer: the poor man i guess cause at least the rich dude would have money to treat himself...)
But well, the point behind this story is that we should in fact feel the SAME amount of Metta towards both men because we need to recognise that both men are suffering - and this is where we will bring in the 4 Noble Truths, or most notably the First Noble Truth that "There is Dukkha". Thus, our Metta should not be tainted by our biasness or preconcieved notions but equally distributed to all with this recognition of Dukkha in all.
Wufeng then shared about the three aspects of Metta which involves 1) a thorough and systematic application of Metta in our daily conduct; 2) cultivation through Meditation; 3) and a total commitment to it - which means that Metta is radiated through all of our bodily, verbal and mental activities. In this order, the constant practice of Metta in my daily life must come first as it will inculcate in myself a sense of familiarity with the virtue and a consistency of practicing it. After this aspect has been attained, with a better understanding of the virtue will I then be able commit to it wholeheartedly.
Following which, a short sharing was done by Tessa on the psychology of Metta where when one practices Metta to another/others, it avoids harassment, offensiveness, torturing, destructiveness, vexing, and projects the thoughts of "May all beings be friendly and not hostile/ happy and not unhappy/ enjoy well-being and not be distressed'. This means that such a practice by one should not cause another to feel burdened at the same time.
To sum up the session, Zeming then did an activity to explain the 4 Brahma Viharas in more detail, where Yeow Chong was asked to demonstrate by balancing a pole with one hand. This was challenged by filling a bag of water on each side of the pole, which represent the two polar opposite emotions of happiness and sadness. When one bag was heavier than the other, the balancing undoubtedly became tougher. Next, YC was asked to repeat the activity with a longer pole, which made the task even harder. However, with this longer pole, the plastic bags were changed to ones with holes as well. Hence, no matter how much water was poured into either bags, it did not prove to be much of a challenge. Through this, the activity tried to show that when we try to contain and hold on to all of our feelings and emotions, it may become increasingly difficult and tiring. On the flip side, should we be able to let go and just appreciate the moment as it is but not cling on to them (like the bags with holes which enable the water to flow out), we would be able to be less burdened.
So basically, from this session, I had learnt quite a bit about Metta and I hope you did too! :)