Jesus and the Dharma of Metta

This post is part of a series on Jesus’ Teaching in Buddhist Terminology.

Practicing love even to those who hate you and would wish you harm… that’s what the Buddhists call Metta, or loving-kindness! Typical Buddhist Metta practice allows us to wish ourselves well as we wish others well: may I / you / friends / enemies / all things be well.  The practice encompasses both self and other. But it’s not just Buddhists who care about Metta. At the heart of Jesus’ teachings is the heartfelt wish for the well-being of everyone, true friendliness of an open heart. Cultivating Metta can help Buddhists grow on their path; likewise, it’s one of the most important practices for growing “in Him.”

Jesus often spoke about that unconditional love:  Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?  And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:43-48).   Later, this Metta became the basis of Jesus’ Great Commandment, to love God with our all, and to love one another as ourselves. As Jesus put it, in Matthew, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Matt. 22:36-39).

The Buddhist Metta prayer often follows the format that desires wellness, freedom, safety and happiness, freedom from suffering and  its root cause, and awakening to one’s true nature.  We’re pleased to offer the following variant on the Metta prayer: Metta with a Christian perspective:

Buddhist Metta Prayer

May I be well, free, and safe. May I be free from suffering and the root cause of suffering. And may I awaken to the beauty of my true nature.

May you be well, free, and safe. May you be free from suffering and the root cause of suffering. And may you awaken to the beauty of your true nature.

May my friends be well, free, and safe. May my friends be free from suffering and the root cause of suffering. And may my friends awaken to the beauty of their true nature.

May my enemies be well, free and safe. May my enemies be free from suffering and the root cause of suffering. And may my enemies awaken to the beauty of their true nature.
May all sentient beings be well, free, and safe. May all sentient beings be free from suffering and the root cause of suffering. And may all sentient beings awaken to the beauty of their true nature.

A Christian Metta Prayer Variant

Merciful Jesus, hear my prayer.

May I be well and free, safe and happy.  May I ever experience God’s grace, love and light. And  may I awaken to the beauty of my true nature, a beloved child of God.

May you be well and free, safe and happy.  May you ever experience God’s grace, love and light. And  may you awaken to the beauty of my true nature, a beloved child of God.

May my friends be well and free, safe and happy. May my friends ever experience God’s grace, love and light. And may my friends awaken to their true nature, God’s beloved children.

May my enemies1 be well and free, safe and happy. May my enemies ever experience God’s grace, love and light. And may my enemies awaken to their true nature, God’s beloved children.

May all things be well and free, and safe, peaceful and at ease. May all things ever experience God’s grace, love and light. And may all things awaken to the beauty of their true nature, God’s beloved creation.

These things I ask in Jesus’ holy name. Amen.

Practice makes perfect.  Metta practice waters the seeds of our good intentions in the gardens of our souls, and we can’t expect something to grow unless we tend it. As a side benefit, Metta practice helps us experience life in a more positive way, because it “encourages an attitude of friendliness towards our experience regardless of how difficult it may be.”2   To cultivate a habit of the Metta practice, it is sometimes helpful to associate it with some other daily activity, such as a morning shower.

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1Consider also anything that hinders us or feels like an enemy, even a disability. These can also be the target of this practice.
2Fronsdal, Gil. The Issue at Hand: Essays on Buddhist Mindfulness Practice. 2001. 83.

Categories Edify | Tags: | Posted on August 25, 2013

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