“All the peace and happiness of the whole globe,
the peace and happiness of societies,
the peace and happiness of families,
the peace and happiness in the individual persons’ life,
and the peace and happiness of even the animals and so forth,
all depends on having loving kindness toward each other.”
Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Huddled together in the wee hours of the night are a group of neuroscientists. They’re pouring over the data from hundreds of volunteers. Hoping to unlock the science of happiness.
But something’s not quite right. An anomaly of sorts.
They’ve graded the participants results on a type of scale. From +0.3 (what you might call the Morrissey zone) to -0.3 (blissful).
One of the individuals scores is completely off the charts. If you were looking at the results on a computer screen you’d have to continually scroll to the right. That’s where you’d find this man’s results which ended up being -0.45.
All the scientists just stare at the number in disbelief.
Finally one of them says what they’re all thinking, “If this data is correct this means that this man is the happiest person on the planet.”
This man turned out to be a Buddhist monk named Matthieu Ricard and he has been practicing Metta (Loving-Kindness) Meditation for years.
In this article on Loving-Kindness (Metta) we’ll dive into:
What Does the Word Metta Mean?
What did the Buddha say about Loving-Kindness Meditation?
→ The Karaniya Metta Sutta
→ Subha asks the Buddha for a wondrous teaching
The Buddha on the 11 Benefits of Loving-Kindness (Metta) Meditation
18 Science-Based Reasons to Try Loving-Kindness Meditation
A Loving-Kindness Meditation (Script) that You Can Try Right Now
What Does Metta Mean?
The Buddhist monk Acharya Buddharakkhita beautifully talks on the meaning of the word Metta:
The Pali word metta is a multi-significant term meaning loving-kindness, friendliness, goodwill, benevolence, fellowship, amity, concord, inoffensiveness and non-violence.
The Pali commentators define metta as the strong wish for the welfare and happiness of others (parahita-parasukha-kamana).
Essentially metta is an altruistic attitude of love and friendliness as distinguished from mere amiability based on self-interest. Through metta one refuses to be offensive and renounces bitterness, resentment and animosity of every kind, developing instead a mind of friendliness, accommodativeness and benevolence which seeks the well-being and happiness of others.
True metta is devoid of self-interest. It evokes within a warm-hearted feeling of fellowship, sympathy and love, which grows boundless with practice and overcomes all social, religious, racial, political and economic barriers.
Metta is indeed a universal, unselfish and all-embracing love.
What is the Loving-Kindness (Metta) Meditation?
Karaniya Metta Sutta – The Buddha’s Words on Loving Kindness
If you are mindful and desire to breakthrough to a state of
perfect peace, then this is the teaching for you:
Be a skillful person, who is upright, gentle in words and deeds, flexible, and humble.
Be content and happy, with few worries and an uncomplicated life.
Live lightly, peacefully, masterfully and modestly.
Avoid doing anything unskillful, that wiser people would criticize.
(Then meditate like this:)
May all beings be happy and secure.
May all beings be happy deep within their hearts.
And think of every living thing without exception:
the weak and the strong,
from the smallest to the largest,
whether you can see them or not,
living nearby or far away,
beings living now or yet to arise
Think: May all beings be happy in their hearts.
May no one deceive or look down on anyone anywhere, for any reason. Whether through feeling angry or through reacting to someone in unskillful ways, may no one want another to suffer.
As strongly as a mother, perhaps risking her life,
cherishes her child, her only child,
Develop an unlimited heart for all beings.
Develop an unlimited heart of friendliness for the
entire universe, sending metta above, below, and all
around, beyond all narrowness, beyond all rivalry,
beyond all hatred.
Whether you are staying in one place or travelling,
sitting down or in bed, in all your waking hours rest in
this mindfulness, which is known as like living in
heaven right here and now.
Sublimely abide in the present moment with an open and flowing heart.
In this way, you will come to let go of views,
be spontaneously ethical,
and have perfect Insight.
And leaving behind senseless craving for pleasures, from the
rounds of rebirth and ignorance you will finally be completely free!
(Translation inspired by Ratnaprabha & Thanissaro Bhikkhu)
Subha Asks the Buddha for a Wondrous Teaching
One day the student Subha was moved to know what practice he could do in order to be one of the heavenly beings in the celestial realm.
He worked up the courage and asked the Buddha, “Master, I have heard it said that you teach the path to the retinue of the High Divinity. Would you look favorably upon me and bestow upon me these methods”
And the Buddha answered him saying, “Listen and attend carefully to what I shall say.”
“And what is the path to the retinue of the High Divinity?
Here a bhikkhu abides with his heart imbued with loving-kindness extending in all directions. and so above, below, around, and everywhere and to all as to himself; he abides with his heart abundant, exalted, measureless in loving-kindness, without hostility or ill-will, extending over the all-encompassing world.
This is a path to the retinue of the High Divinity.”
The Buddha on the 11 Benefits of Loving-Kindness (Metta) Meditation
1. You will sleep easily.
2. You will wake easily.
3. You will have pleasant dreams.
4. People will love you.
5. Devas [celestial beings] and animals will love you.
6. Devas will protect you.
7. External dangers [poisons, weapons, and fire] will not harm you.
8. Your face will be radiant.
9. Your mind will be serene.
10. You will die unconfused.
11. You will be reborn in happy realms.
18 Science-Based Reasons to Try Loving-Kindness Meditation
1. Increases Positive Emotions & Decreases Negative Emotions
2. Increases vagal tone, which increases positive emotions & feelings of social connection
3. Decreases migraines
4. Decreases chronic pain
5. Decreases PTSD
6. Decreases schizophrenia-spectrum disorders
7. Activates empathy & emotional processing in the brain
8. Increases gray matter volume
9. Increases respiratory Sinus Arrythmia (RSA)
10. Decreases telomere length — a biological marker of aging
11. Makes you a more helpful person
12. Increases compassion
13. Increases empathy
14. Decreases your bias towards others
15. Increases social connections
16. Curbs self-criticism
17. Is effective even in small doses
18. Has long-term impact
For a more detailed look into the scientific benefits of loving-kindness meditation click here.
Loving-Kindness Meditation Instructions (Script)
Begin loving-kindness meditation by resting your body in a comfortable position, sitting on a cushion or on a chair. If this is uncomfortable you can do this meditation lying down.
Bring your awareness to the sensations of your body, breathing into areas that feel tense or constricted.
If you are sitting, sit upright with dignity and graciousness.
Take three slow deep breaths, breathing though your nostrils, down into your belly, expanding the diaphragm and finally the chest. Exhale effortlessly, settling the body in its resting state.
Attend to the rhythm of your breath for few moments, letting it flow unconstrained by restless thoughts and emotions. Seek subtle joy of serenity and inner calm. Release the worries of the day, release anticipations of the future, and settle into the only reality there is: the present moment. Settle your awareness into a mode of simple witnessing, a space of relaxation, stillness and clarity
Now, from within this serenity, arouse your imagination with three questions.
The first one: What would I love to receive from the world in order to have a happy, meaningful, and fulfilling life? Some of the things could be of material nature, such as food, housing, medical care and clothing.
While other requisites might be intangible, such as wise counsel on your spiritual journey, peace, harmony in your environment and supportive company of others. Bring clearly to mind the things you desire to meet your basic needs. Then allow the yearning to arise: may these authentic desires be fulfilled!
Now pursue this vision for your own happiness even deeper. Clearly see your basic needs being fulfilled, and inquire further into what more you would love to receive from the people around you and from the environment at large.
What could they provide you that would help you find the happiness you are after? You may bring to mind both tangible and intangible things, whatever you feel would assist you in fulfilling your heart’s desire.
Imagine that the world rises up to meet you, here and now, and provides you with all the external support that is needed to fulfill your aspirations.
Each of us is constantly changing from moment to moment, day to day, as our bodies and minds are continually in a state of flux.
The next question is: What kind of a person do I want to become? What personal qualities do I want to possess? You are changing all the time whether you choose to or not, so envision the changes you would love to experience in your evolution as a human being.
Imagine both short-term and long-term changes. And as you envision the person you would love to evolve into, imagine that this transformation is taking place, here and now.
None of us lives in absolute isolation from others, no matter where or how we live. We can’t help but influence those around us through both our action and our inaction. We are making an impact on the world, whether we want to or not.
Then ask yourself the third question: What would I love to offer to the world, to those around me and to the environment at large? What kind of a mark would I love to make on the world? What kind of legacy?
Invite this vision into your field of consciousness, embellishing it with as many details as you think of, and then imagine that this dream is being realized here and now.
Savor this vision and these feelings, wishing silently in your mind, “May I be happy and may I experience the causes of happiness.”
Now imagine a small rainbow colored light start to glow and radiate at your heart. This light fills you with warmth, peace and love. With each breath it expands further until your whole body is bathed in this rainbow light.
Just as you want to be happy, each and every person on the planet wants to be happy too.
So we will begin to expand this wish to everyone across the planet.
Take a deep breath in and when you breathe out see and feel this rainbow light fill the room you are in. If there are other people meditating with you think to yourself, “May you be happy and may you experience the causes of happiness.”
See and feel this rainbow energy filling the room.
Now as you begin to breathe out again, see this rainbow light expand from your heart and encompass the building where you are touching everyone in it. Blessing them with the thought, “May you be happy and may you experience the causes of happiness.”
Now, expand this rainbow light field out further so it radiates and shines through your neighborhood. Blessing each person with the heartfelt wish, “May you be happy and may you experience the causes of happiness.”
Now, expand the rainbow light field out even further so it envelops your whole city. Bless each person with the thought, “May you be happy and may you experience the causes of happiness.”
Now see and expand this rainbow light out even further so that it’s rays bathe the whole country. Bless all the people of your country with the thought, “May you be happy and may you experience the causes of happiness.”
And now finally, as if you were seeing the world from space, see the entire planet and all of humanity bathed in this blessed rainbow light that has been pouring out from your heart, and now wish for all of them, “May you be happy and may you experience the causes of happiness.”
Rest now in this peaceful loving feeling.
A deep sense of calm, happiness and love radiates and resonates everywhere.
Now, all form disappears. There is only awareness, with no center or limit. Like space.
Rest again in this peaceful loving feeling.
Now, a rainbow beam of light appears before you and you follow upon it with your consciousness.
It brings you back to this room and you meditating within it.
Take one final breath in thinking, “May I be happy and may I experience the causes of happiness. And may beings be happy and may they all experience the causes of happiness.”
Now open your eyes slowly.
This Loving-Kindness Meditation Script was created and based on instructions for loving-kindness meditation by B. Alan Wallace, PhD in “Genuine Happiness”, Chapter 8.