Friday, January 15, 2010

Metta And Making A Difference

Last night my meditation was better than usual. My mind settled down quickly and for most of my sitting I was filled with a deep sense of peacefulness and ease. So, as is my habit, after about three quarters of an hour I decided to switch to metta bhavana, which I did for the next half an hour. During most of that time I extended and radiated metta to the people of Haiti. I aroused pictures in my mind of the dazed, grieving and pain-filled faces I have seen on the news and imbued them with metta. This morning on the BBC World Service there was a report of severely injured people lying amongst corpses on the floor of a hospital in Haiti and saying that aid is very slow in coming, both from the government and the international community. This set me thinking. Does my metta, does the metta radiated by all the people who might be doing it, make any difference to the victims of, in this case, this terrible tragedy? Whenever I extend and radiate metta to another, does it make any difference to that person? Having thought about it for a while this is what I concluded. It is possible that positive mental energy directed towards someone may affect them; at least I’d like to think it does. But if it does, how close to them do you have to be? Do they have to be ‘receptive’ to the metta radiated to them or does it influence them anyway? I cannot say. I know of no research suggesting that we can be influenced by other people’s thoughts or emotions – except through their body language, etc, if we can see it. Then, reviewing everything the Buddha says about metta I could not think of anywhere where he says that metta directed to another has some effect on them. Perhaps that is significant.
My experience tells me that radiating metta towards others, those I love, those I usually don’t think too much about, those I don’t like (Yes, there are one or two of those!) effects me. It gradually s makes me more appreciative of those I love, it make me notice a bit more those I usually don’t bother too much about, and it gradually sooths any resentments I have towards others. When I radiate metta to the sick, the distressed, the dying, etc. it may or may not benefit them directly. But it certainly makes me more sensitive to the distress of others, it prevents me from suffering from ‘compassion fatigue’ and therefore I am more likely to do what I can to alleviate the suffering of others.
The Chinese Character reads 'Metta'.


yuri said...

Dear S.Dhammika! Again the first to comment :)Thank you for this post. It is about metta and karuna, though sometimes I do not experience these feelings as something separate. Same with mudita and upekha. They are all bundled together. Difficult to explain, but I call it for myself mahametta and meditate on it. Interesting but before reading your post I have never wondered if it physically works. And it is also interesting that you tried to find the answer in Tipitaka and other texts. I think it is unnecessary as the answer is immediately seen - at the time of the Buddha his boundless metta didn't change much the lives of those who peopled the Earth then. Only of those who were in immediate contact with Him, and not even all of them. Remember Devadatta... But it truly works with most people one knows. I had several nasty problems with people before I started using metta bhavana. All of them were solved soon after. I do not see any mystery in that — the meditation really affects and changes the meditator. And those people, maybe subconsciously, noticed the change in my attitude to them and responded. Still universal metta radiated to the whole Universe is not useless — it elevates and strengthens metta in one's own heart. I appreciate your frankness about couple of people you don't like. Something to work on! :)
Have to stop visiting your blog as I go on a two-week self retreat before I resume teaching. So, no more criticisms from me... For a while! :)

yuri said...

A small clarification: of course, what I meant in my comment was not just physically but spiritually as well! Sorry

Adrián Montoya Leyton said...

Bhante et al,

This is the closest thing I've read that seems to give some scientific explanation

Ken and Visakha said...

I recall how the Bodhisatta was able to cause such splendid, penetrating light that it even reached those cold hellish places in darkest space, between worlds and galaxies, so that the beings there could see each other and realize they were not alone.

When radiating metta for those trapped in the rubble in Hati I supposed that the victims would feel some comfort if they sensed someone was directing kindly thoughts to them.

Samsara said...

Hi Venerable,

Are you interested in Physics? I have just finished reading this book that is totally amazing for me:

The field is Zero Point Field, a term in quantum physics, namely so because even at Absolute zero temperation (-273 Degree Centigrade) and total vacuum, there is still a energy field detect. This is the truly all-present field and a group of frontier scientist is studying at different areas.

One of the studies shows that, our intention do have effect. We can change a random count to have more head (or tail) simply by wishing it so. Since the field is prevading everywhere, and interact with every quarks and electron, we are in a sense all interconnected. We here mean human, animal, plant, soil, rock, suns.... everything.

It also reports a study on Transandental Meditation. Once the regular meditator of TM reach 1% of the population of the local town, the crime rate start to drop by up to 20%+. Those TM master regularly gather together every year, and the crime rate immediately drop once the gathering is there, and then rise again once the these yogis goes...

Another example is, somehow, Princeton commencement is always dry. Even it was raining every other town, the rain seems to hold until the ceremony finished. When scientist check the weather records... it seems to be so... It seems, due to the wish of Princeton people of a good weather can withold rain...

Whether the recipiant of intention need to do anything? Hm... there is a extensive, air-tight study on remote healing. The AIDS patients and doctors simply do not aware that remote healing is taking place. Those healing masters are NOT going to get any paid, and won't have any contact after the experiment. These healer includes all kinds of religion, from different countries, using their own different ways. So, each patient is in turn treated by 10 different healers (in case some healer is more effective than others). The results shocked the scientist studying it. A few of the patient in control group (receive othodox treament only) die before the experiment complete, while all patients received remote healing remain alive and more healthy in any sense!

So, I guess even the people receiving metta are not aware of it, they could feel better!

BTW, I do around 5 minutes metta after every meditation. I used to since my teacher insists, and think, well, at least it encourage me to think of something good. But now, maybe metta has bigger impact than our expectation. If we are all interconnected (in quantum way), our good intention is going to have good impact. And if a large group of people share the same good intention, the intention resonances and amplifies and will give even bigger impact!

I am trying to send some metta to Hati as well. No matter how good or bad my meditation is, or may failed to send out any metta, the intention count. I saw a sweet little baby girl and a cute little boy were rescued from the news!

May all beings be happy, peaceful and liberated!

Samsara said...

... hm... I want to know Savasti's crime rate when Buddha and his disciples (many are arahants) were there... ^^