UNDERSTANDING THE PRACTICES OF THE FOUR DIVINE ABODES
BY MARK NUNBERG
The Buddha offered the Divine Abodes as a skillful wholesome place for the mind to reside. These practices aim at uncovering the heart’s natural capacity to love, care for and appreciate all beings unconditionally, including ourselves. This is love for love’s sake, there is no expectation or agenda involved, and no preference. It is a love that goes out to all equally. These practices are designed to help us get in touch with that wellspring in our hearts from which unconditional love flows.
Metta is the Pali word for love, kindness, or benevolence is an integral aspect of the Buddha’s teachings and practices. Perhaps best translated from the ancient Pali language as ‘friendliness,’ met is often translated as ‘lovingkindness’ in the West. Metta has three distinct roles in Buddhist practice: it is a meditation practice that is used to develop the beautiful qualities of the heart; it may form the basis of Samadhi (concentration or absorption) meditation; and it offers a means of recognizing and strengthening our sense of connectedness to all beings through a commitment to universal love and non-harming.
Often we make the mistake of wanting the heart to be loving, compassionate and joyful; so we fall into the trap of imitating some image or idea we have of what that might mean. You might want to investigate the experience of love as being more about what is not there than about what is there. When you experience moments of the mind settling down, make a point of noticing the absence of ill will. Once recognized, practice keeping this experience, the absence of aversion, in mind as the meditation object. See this absence of ill will as love. Do your best to sense its goodness and beauty, and cultivate a deepening appreciation for it. Notice its capacity to expand to fill the space of the body and mind. Notice as other people come to mind that this kind & compassionate presence is also willing to include them and on and on.
The Buddha considers metta or this goodness of the heart as a boundless quality of the mind. It doesn’t run out. The more it is recognized and held in view, the more it expands and happily meets whatever presents itself in one’s experience. Love is capable of filling the space of the present moment until there is nothing left that is not included in its radiance. The Buddha taught that we taste the experience of liberation, a mind free of greed, anger and delusion, in any moments when the mind is established and resting in metta.
(Recorded during March – April 2017 Class)
- Metta and the Path of Awakening, recorded Dharma Talk by Mark Nunberg
- Introduction to and guided metta (kindness) practice by Mark Nunberg
- Chapter I: Cultivating Compassion from Bhikkhu Analayo’s book Compassion and Emptiness in Early Buddhist Meditation
- Chapter VII, Practical Instructions, in Venerable Analayo’s book, Compassion and Emptiness in Early Buddhist Meditation
- Basic Practice Instruction of the Divine Abodes: Friendliness & Kindness, Compassion, Appreciative Joy and Equanimity By Mark Nunberg
- Recommended Text: Sharon Salzberg’s book, Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, published by Shambhala
- Facets of Metta by Sharon Salzberg
- 7-minute guided meditation by Sharon Salzberg
- 45-minute guided meditation by Sharon
- This article “The Intention of Good Will” is taken from Bhikkhu Bodhi’s book, The Noble Eightfold Path: The Way to the End of Suffering
- Nothing is Left Out by Ajahn Sumedho
- No Blame By Sylvia Boorstein
- The Power of Forgiveness by Gina Sharpe
- “Practicing Kindness” by Ruth King
- Loving-Kindness Meditation by Ajahn Brahm
- Ayya Khema, “What Love Is”
- Cultivating Compassion: How to love yourself and others By Thich Nhat Hanh, Tricycle, Spring 2015
- Reflections on Metta by Ajahn Sumedho
- Liberating Emotions by Ajahn Sumedho
- Metta Means Goodwill by Ajahn Thanissaro
- Issue at Hand, Chapter 21 on Metta, by Gil Fronsdal
- Issue at Hand, Chapter 22: Loving-Kindness Meditation, by Gil Fronsdal
- Hector Black’s story of Forgiveness
- Metta: The Philosophy and Practice of Universal Love by Acharya Buddharakkhita