Very often we hear our elders say “Society today is not what it used to be. People are always busy. Life is a ‘rat-race’.” Not only adults, even schoolchildren are running a race in this competitive world to achieve their educational goals. People crave for material wealth and forget about their mental and spiritual well-being. [...]


The importance of meditation in these difficult times


Very often we hear our elders say “Society today is not what it used to be. People are always busy. Life is a ‘rat-race’.” Not only adults, even schoolchildren are running a race in this competitive world to achieve their educational goals.

People crave for material wealth and forget about their mental and spiritual well-being. There is no end to their craving and tanha (greed).  They need more and more. It is a stressful and disturbed life.

Ven. Ajahn Brahmavamso Thera, the well known meditation teacher and Abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery in Serpentine, Western Australia, during a visit to Sri Lanka once said, “Meditation brings peace to the mind and is good for busy people.”  He was giving a discourse on meditation. Mindfulness Meditation teaches you to slow down the thoughts that race through your mind. This calms your mind and body.

With the COVID-19 pandemic taking a deady toll, people are experiencing depression, anxiety and stress. We see people air their disgust and frustration when cities and villages are closed and they cannot move about freely, to attend to their day-to-day work. This stress and anxiety will affect their health.

Vesak Full Moon poya falls on May 26 this year. This Thrice-Blessed Day is of great significance to Buddhists, as it marks the birth of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, attainment  of Enlightenment and parinibbhana (passing away) of the Buddha. There are many  rituals  and ceremonies conducted by Buddhists who visit the temple on Vesak day. This year though, with the increasing number of COVID -19 cases in the country, devotees will be restricted from  going to the temple for their religious activities. Although they cannot express their religious devotion by way of rituals and ceremonies by visiting temples, they can practise certain religious activities at home – observe atasil, (taking and observing the eight precepts), listen to Dhamma talks and meditate. These progammes are conducted on TV and radio.

The practice of meditation has become very popular in the world today. There are many forms of meditation and one does not have to be a Buddhist to meditate. Anyone who wishes to calm the mind can do so.

The ultimate goal of a Buddhist is Nibbana, which ends the samsaric re-birth of all beings. To achieve this state of Nibbana, one has to pass through four stages of enlightenment–sotapanna, sakadagami, anagami and arahant. To arrive at these stages, one has to practise meditation to bring the mind to a higher level, void of any  defilements.  Without the restraint of kaya and vachanaya (body and word), one cannot restrain the manasa (mind). Our mind is often in a state of unrest, with thoughts flashing through at lightning speed.

Ven. Ajahn Brahmavamso speaks of the “beautiful silence and clarity of mind.” In meditation, one has to ‘let go’. The mind should not dwell in the past or think about         the future and should forget the outside world. Silence the mind. It is important to bring the mind to the present moment. There should not be any upadanaya (clinging). Once the mind is unburdened, there is clarity of mind.

In most of Ajahn Brahmavamso’s discourses he says, “put down the two suitcases you carry. The one in the left hand has thoughts of the past and the suitcase in the right hand carries the future.” The mind should not dwell on the past or think about the future. When one meditates one should think of the present moment only, to achieve the desired effect.

Of the many meditation practices, Metta meditation can be considered the easiest for a beginner. To calm the mind, one should try the Metta meditation, the practice of loving-kindness before one tries the Anapanasati (inhaling and exhaling of breath) meditation or the satipatthana (focus of mindfulness) meditation. Metta is goodwill and friendliness. It is a form of meditation practice to curb one’s anger, jealousy, hatred and ill-will. It should start with one’s own self. Extend kindness to yourself and then to others.

The Karaniya Metta Sutta is the instructions the Buddha gave a group of monks who went to meditate in the forest during the vassana (rains) season. The tree deities did not like their presence and harassed them during the night, not allowing them to meditate in peace. The monks went back and informed the Buddha of their difficulties.  The Buddha instructed them by a discourse, the Karaniya Metta Sutta – loving kindness and advised them to return to the forest to complete the vassana season in meditation. The monks returned and repeated the Metta Sutta of loving kindness. The tree deities became calm by these words and thereafter did not disturb the monks.

The Metta meditation can be performed anywhere, anytime. It is not necessary to be confined to a seated position, although one could do so too. The loving kindness can be performed while walking, standing or attending to normal day-to-day chores. When you are interacting with others at the work place or at any other time, you can radiate thoughts of loving kindness to everyone.  These radiant thoughts of loving kindness in you will make another’s life pleasant. Next, you show metta to your family and close associates, neighbours,  even to people whom you dislike and finally to the whole world -  unknown, unseen living beings.

  • May I be happy
  • May I be safe
  • May I be peaceful
  • May I be healthy
  • May I be healed
  • May I find true peace and happiness

You may even use two lines of the above in your meditation. When turning to others you may say – may you be happy, may you be healed etc. adding or reducing the lines. The idea is to wish someone to be free from suffering – radiating kind thoughts. Healing means both physical and mental healing. Most importantly, healing of the mind from mental wounds, anguish, unhappiness, traumas,  neuroses, unwholesome psychological conditioning of the mind.

The Kararaniya Metta Sutta has ten stanzas which instruct a person on the standard of conduct (karaniya- what should be done) – the moral conduct to be achieved, and how metta should be practised for one’s purity of mind, to achieve peace. This sutta is a set  of ten  instructions/stanzas how one  could reach enlightenment through loving kindness.

1st stanza – karaniya mattha kusalena

yantam santham padan abhisamecca

 sakko ujuca suju ca suvaco cassa mudu anatimani.

He who is skilled, (in working out his own) well-being and who  wishes to attain that state of peace-calm (Nibbana) should act thus:he should be able, upright, exceedingly upright, obedient, gentle andhumble.

7th stanza – mata yata niyam puttam ayusa ekaputtamanurakkhe evampi sabbha bhutesu manasam bhaveye aparimanam.

Just as a mother would protect her only child with her own life, even so  let him cultivate boundless thoughts of loving kindness towards all beings

Thoughts of Metta, loving kindness bring many benefits to the meditator. One sleeps in  comfort, awakes in comfort,  does not see bad or evil dreams,  is dear to human beings, protected by deities, not harmed by fire, poison and weapon,  the mind can  concentrate quickly, one has a serene countenance and one dies without the mind being confused.

If we cultivate metta, loving kindness towards all living beings and discipline ourselves, it will end conflict and disputes and make the world a better place for all to live in peace and harmony.

On this Vesak Poya, let us cultivate metta, loving kindness towards all living beings, irrespective of their ethnicity, religion, caste or creed.

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