Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cultivating Metta as a Path of Awakening

I have found a number of interesting audio podcasts On the Secular Buddhist Association's website.

One podcast has left a particularly strong impression on me. This is the one by John Peacock on the cultivation of friendliness, Metta. 

Peacock puts the cultivation of friendliness on an equal footing with the cultivation of wisdom. I have found in my own experience that the cultivation of Metta is as effective and as powerful as the cultivation of wisdom. My world has transformed with Metta practice. It's a much happier place.

Peacock recommends practicing Metta as an insight practice—not as a concentration practice as I had been taught at Spirit Rock. This small shift from concentration meditation to insight (listening) practice made quite a difference for me.

Peacock's talks presume some familiarity with Buddhism, but I hope that even relative newcomers might find these talks well worth listening to.

Here's the introduction to the talks on the Secular Buddhist Association's website:

In much contemporary Buddhist teachings, the paths of the heart are often relegated to second place behind the primacy of Wisdom on the path to awakening.  
In the earliest texts, however, the Buddha appears to consider the cultivation of kindness and compassion as a fully viable and equal path to awakening, to enlightenment, to Nibbana. This will be the premise of the morning’s discussion.


George said...

Thanks for this link, Dan. It sounds very interesting, and I suspect it's something I need to focus on personally. I confess that I am woefully inadequate when it comes to the cultivation of friendliness. It's so much easier to sit in the ivory tower and pursue "wisdom." Instinctively, however, I understand that the wisdom of the heart, which I suppose can be discovered and expressed in friendships, is the most important wisdom one can ever learn.

Sabio Lantz said...

I love the Secular Buddhist podcasts and am a regular listener on my long car drives.

Likewise, Buddhist Geeks offer great interview podcasts.

In a recent BG podcast, the neurophysiological effects of meditation were discussed. And she points out that doing meditation can actually get the opposite desired effects if done incorrectly. Just as this talk you liked (though not a study) implies that different methods have different results. The more objectively tested these things are, the better chance of the techniques surviving the next centuries -- even if not under the name "Buddhism". But who cares about the name, right?

Dan Gurney said...

Sabio, I agree. I like SB talks. Haven't tried BG, but will give a listen..

It's absolutely right about meditation potentially taking its practitioner in the opposite direction. I know this from experience.

One great thing about practicing Metta as a practice is that you get some really good feedback from people around you. When you're practicing friendliness (a translation of Metta I prefer to "loving kindness") the people around you will let you know if you're doing it skillfully or not. In this way, the whole world can serve as your teacher.

I don't care one whit what these practices are called centuries from now. I just want to point them out to others here, now.

As I understand it, the Buddha was never called "Buddha." That name came 500 years after he'd gone. The names are beside the point.

Sabio Lantz said...

I agree -- the names matters not and relationships are our surest measures.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, George,

I used to think that it was easier to pursue wisdom, but I don't think so now. The reason is that it is easier for me to cultivate friendliness is that the rewards are more immediate. My world feels noticeably happier and lighter almost right away when it's a friendlier place.

That said, I don't think that the cultivation of heart wisdom alone is a good idea. We need also to develop the discernment of the mind. Wise heart and wise mind cultivated together is best.