Bob Schwartz

Tag: Metta Sutta

Vesak: Buddha Day

Sakyamuni Buddha

Today is Vesak, the holiday also known as Buddha Day.

Around the world, especially in Buddhist Asia, Vesak combines a celebration of the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing. This year the holiday was noted by the UN, by President Obama, by Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau, and by many others. This is part of the growing recognition that the world might benefit from even a little bit of Buddhism added to our complex, crazy and chaotic affairs.

Here is the Mangala Sutta (The Sutra on Happiness), a wise and uplifting discourse of the Buddha that is one of the best-loved and most frequently recited texts in the Southeast Asian Buddhist world.  Only twelve verses long, it is a recital of auspicious things, and along with texts such as the Metta Sutta, is believed to bring happiness and good fortune when chanted or heard.

The Sutra on Happiness

I heard these words of the Buddha one time when the Lord was living in the vicinity of Savatthi at the Anathapindika Monastery in the Jeta Grove. Late at night, a deva appeared whose light and beauty made the whole Jeta Grove shine radiantly. After paying respects to the Buddha, the deva asked him a question in the form of a verse:

“Many gods and men are eager to know
what are the greatest blessings
which bring about a peaceful and happy life.
Please, Tathagata, will you teach us?”

(This is the Buddha’s answer):

“Not to be associated with the foolish ones,
To live in the company of wise people,
Honoring those who are worth honoring—
This is the greatest happiness.

“To live in a good environment,
To have planted good seeds
And to realize that you are on the right path—
This is the greatest happiness.

“To have a chance to learn and grow,
To be skillful in your profession or craft,
Practicing the precepts and loving speech—
This is the greatest happiness.

“To be able to serve and support your parents,
To cherish your own family,
To have a vocation that brings you joy—
This is the greatest happiness.

“To live honestly, generous in giving,
To offer support to relatives and friends,
Living a life of blameless conduct—
This is the greatest happiness.

“To avoid unwholesome actions,
Not caught by alcoholism or drugs,
And to be diligent in doing good things—
This is the greatest happiness.

“To be humble and polite in manner,
To be grateful and content with a simple life,
Not missing the occasion to learn the Dharma—
This is the greatest happiness.

“To persevere and be open to change,
To have regular contact with monks and nuns,
And to fully participate in Dharma discussions—
This is the greatest happiness.

“To live diligently and attentively,
To perceive the Noble Truths,
And to realize nirvana—
This is the greatest happiness.

“To live in the world
With your heart undisturbed by the world,
With all sorrows ended, dwelling in peace—
This is the greatest happiness.

“For the one who accomplishes this
Is unvanquished wherever she goes;
Always he is safe and happy—
Happiness lives within oneself.”

Translated by Thich Nhat Hahn

Metta Mama

Metta Mama

As a mother watches over her child, willing to risk her own life to protect her only child, so with a boundless heart should one cherish all living beings, suffusing the whole world with unobstructed loving-kindness.

May all beings be happy.
May they live in safety and joy.

Metta Sutta

The miracles never end.
The conception, the birth, the growth.
Yet none of it happens
All of it flows
From you the source, the spring.
How is it possible
Being merely human
Perfect and flawed
To give so much
For the other
To the other
Happiness, safety and joy?
It is no other
Than yourself.
This child
No other than yourself.

Thanks to the wondrous mother I had and the wondrous mother of our child who graces our lives.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Metta New Year

Enso 1

The Metta Sutta—the Buddha’s Discourse on Loving Kindness

This is what should be accomplished by the one who is wise,
Who seeks the good, and has obtained peace.

Let one be strenuous, upright, and sincere,
Without pride, easily contented, and joyous.
Let one not be submerged by the things of the world.
Let one not take upon oneself the burden of riches.
Let one’s senses be controlled.
Let one be wise but not puffed up and
Let one not desire great possessions even for one’s family.
Let one do nothing that is mean or that the wise would reprove.

May all beings be happy.
May they be joyous and live in safety,
All living beings, whether weak or strong,
In high or middle or low realms of existence.
Small or great, visible or invisible,
Near or far, born or to be born,
May all beings be happy.

Let no one deceive another nor despise any being in any state.
Let none by anger or hatred wish harm to another.
Even as a mother at the risk of her life
Watches over and protects her only child,
So with a boundless mind should one cherish all living things.
Suffusing love over the entire world,
Above, below, and all around, without limit,
So let one cultivate an infinite good will toward the whole world.

Standing or walking, sitting or lying down,
During all one’s waking hours,
Let one practice the way with gratitude.

Not holding to fixed views,
Endowed with insight,
Freed from sense appetites,
One who achieves the way
Will be freed from the duality of birth and death.

The NBA And The Buddha: Discourse On The Loving Kindness Of The Player Formerly Known As Ron Artest

Just yesterday on an NBA broadcast, former Los Angeles Laker superstar Earvin “Magic” Johnson stumbled over the name of current Laker star Ron “Metta World Peace” Artest. Those quote marks for Artest are imprecise. Magic is not Johnson’s real name; it is simply the nickname accorded to him for his achievements on the court. Metta World Peace is Artest’s legal name, since he changed it in September 2011.

Over the course of his career, the adjective most often used to describe Mr. World Peace is “eccentric.” Whether or not people keep track of these things, he may have had more different numbers than anyone in NBA history; his current number 37 is the number of weeks that Michael Jackson’s Thriller album was at the top of the charts.

Beyond eccentric, he has been involved in a number of infamous altercations. In April, his elbow to the head of Oklahoma City Thunder’s James Harden caused a concussion, and resulted in World Peace’s seven-game suspension. (The speculation that Harden’s beard, which is one of the most splendid in all of sports, may have set World Peace off is unsupported.)

Earvin was dubbed “Magic” for his abilities, following a high school game that featured his triple-double of 36 points, 18 rebounds and 16 assists. NBA player Lloyd Free got the nickname “World” growing up in Brooklyn, because of his skills going to the basket, including his 360-degree turns. In 1981 he made it official by changing his name to World B. Free.

Metta World Peace did not get his name by acclamation. It was presumably chosen to reflect something about the man and the player. World Peace seems pretty obvious. But what about Metta?

Metta is a Pali word used in Buddhism. It means kindness, friendliness or compassion. The text known as the Metta Sutta (The Buddha’s Discourse on Loving-Kindness) is one of the oldest in the Buddhist canon, and is recited daily by many Buddhist monks and lay people. Here is one of many translations of this beautiful and essential work, by Sharon Salzberg:

This is what should be done
By those who are skilled in goodness,
And who know the path of peace:

Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech,
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways,
Peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful,
Not proud and demanding in nature.

Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: in gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.

Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born—
May all beings be at ease!

Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.

Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.

Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world,
Spreading upward to the skies,
And downward to the depths;
Outward and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.

Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down,
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.

By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.

To move from one branch of Buddhism to another (the Metta Sutta belonging mainly to the Theravada, Zen being part of the Mahayana), it seems we are faced with a Zen koan, a paradox aimed at confounding our thinking into beyond thinking:

How and why would a man known for fits of violent confrontation take the names Metta and World Peace? Is it aspirational, a reminder to him of an ideal to reach or not reach, even as he was inflicting pain? Is it instructional, forcing people to look up and find the Metta Sutta, for the benefit of themselves and all beings? Or is it, as with all koans, never meant or able to be solved, by Ron Artest, Metta World Peace, or anyone?

May all beings be at ease!