Teaching the Insight Meditation class had some real benefits in terms of study and practice. Brushing up on the fundamental concepts of Buddhism, leading guided meditations for groups, and delivering dharma talks were all very beneficial to me, “as teacher” and “as student”.
This process of researching and reading lead me to some written material on the practice of Metta. The following proved very interesting. Metta: The Philosophy and Practice of Universal Love by Acharya Buddharakkhita.
I know Metta practice can be considered a concentration practice. In fact, the guided Metta meditation during the 2014 concentration retreat proved to be a huge heart-opening experience for me and gave me a glimpse into the power of Metta. This article (book?) expounded upon that theme and gave me more background for and insight into the practice and it’s effects.
Metta practice opens the heart and mind through meditating on Universal Love: an all pervasive wish for well-being and happiness that does not differentiate between any beings whatsoever. The Universality of the practice strengthens our ability to hold different beings in mind without discrimination. The practice of Metta allows the meditator to go beyond the barriers that typically restrain us.. allows us to get a taste of the limitless expansion of mind.. allows us to radiate goodwill outwardly, thus (at least temporarily) obliterating any sense of ill will or aversion. A mind that has been trained in Metta is a mind that settles down easily and is not agitated easily. A heart that practices Metta is easily concentrated and can more easily access the jhanas. Metta becomes a means to purify the mind and the heart. A mind free from hinderances is in a wonderful position to access insights and be fully liberated.
Intentionally creating mental fabrications – radiating goodwill methodically in all directions and to all beings – is a very skillful way of working on the problem of suffering from within. Vipassana is a way of working with phenomena — the sensations of the body, arising thoughts and feelings — slowly allowing us to see all phenomena’s true nature: impermanent, insubstantial, not self. This leaves us with ever increasing degrees of freedom as our clinging falls away, as our self definition loosens and softens, as our reactions weaken. Metta is a whole ‘nother vehicle whereby we expand ourselves as love to the very extremes of being.. and find ourselves equally empty of clinging and bondage, equally free, equally happy. Dipa Ma says the two methods are the same. I think she may be onto something.