This is Post 30 in the ‘Meditation Guidance’ series. Summaries of the other articles in this series can be found by clicking here.
The ultimate source of the attitude that the Buddhist tradition calls mettā, or Loving Kindness, is unconditioned. Being unconditioned, it is inherent in Consciousness, and always available to us, but cannot be cultivated by an effort of the egoic will. This is a difficult but very important distinction to understand.
The Buddhist tradition, as it progressed into into its Mahayana (Great Vehicle) phase, began to use Sanskrit as its main language – so the Pali word mettā, or Loving Kindness, was replaced by the Sanskrit word maitri. It was also during the centuries of Buddhist meditation practice and scholarship during the Mahayana period, that an important understanding arose, which distinguished two levels of maitri: firstly, the universal, or archetypal source of maitri, which was called mahamaitri, or ‘great’ maitri; and secondly, the embodied reflection of that in our relationships and communication, and in the energetic fields of the body. Much of the time, I have not been making this formal distinction, because I believe that it is essential that we see mettā/maitri as always having these two inseparable levels, because maitri is ultimately best ‘cultivated’ by a paradoxical process in which we acknowledge its already existing presence in our experience as mahamaitri inherently present in Consciousness.
The Power of Consciousness to Heal the Emotional Body
Mettā, in essence then, can be thought of as the attitude, already inherent in Consciousness, of being unconditionally present with Feeling (samjñā skandha). It is therefore best understood as a process – a process by which our Emotional Body and our capacity for relationship is progressively healed by the power of Consciousness. Continue reading