Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mettha Sutta (Karaniya Mettha Suttha)

Once some disciple monks of Gauthama Buddha wanting some seclusion in order to meditate and practice went in search of a suitable forest. Coming across a beautiful forest studded with ponds and pools with crystal clear water as well as huge trees and caves, they felt that it is just the place for their purpose.  They decided to dwell in it and practice diligently. Thus resolved to gain insight,  they set upon their task ahead sitting under chosen trees and caves  as it should be for such austerities.  
Now, it so happened that there in that forest, there lived the “Wana Devathawas”, who were the real and all time dwellers of this forest. Wana means the forest; Devathawas means the spirits (or the “Devas” ) of the forest. Some of them occupied the caves and lived therein, while some occupied the huge trees.  The tree dwelling spirits are known as “Vruksha Devathas” ; Vruksha means the trees, Devathas[1] means the spirits.
When the monks started their practice, as first the devathas, thought that this is just a temporary abiding on the monks’ part.  They thought that the monks may have stopped  on their way to somewhere else, as is customary when people had to travel long distances on foot etc.  Virtuous monks are held in high esteem and the devathas felt it is improper for them to reside in the same premises be it a tree or a cave and share the same with such a righteous brahmachari[2] being.  So in the hope of seeing the monks’ departure soon, they used to move about hither and thither, together with their kith and kin and little ones, until the monks would vacate the forest as they envisaged. When they realised that the monks have no plans to vacate soon they became concerned. 
They got together and planned to scare the monks away.  When darkness started to fall in within the forest, in the twilight, they started to make fearful noises like the wild beasts, or appear in glimpses like tigers, lions or leopards.  Sometimes the leaves on the ground would crack like creepy creatures, and make hissing sounds like the snakes.  Big trees would rustle as if a wild jumbo is around.  However, the monks were determined in their meditation techniques and focussed on their breath that they were not easily distracted. So the devas made severe efforts with loud noises and other tactics that the poor monks, could no longer stay in that forest.  Finally they decided to leave this forest.  However, one monk suggested that they go and inform the Buddha about this happenings in the jungle before they could go in search of another place.  Everybody agreed and so they set forth to see the Buddha.
When the Buddha was told about this incident, He realised what has happened.  So, instead of going to another place, the Buddha advised the monks to go back to that same forest.  He told them that this particular forest is indeed the best place for them to meditate.  However, this time, He advised the monks to meditate on “Mettha” .  He taught them the “ Karaniya Mettha” sutta (sutta =discourse).  The discourse on loving kindness, and asked the monks to chant it aloud, and practice loving kindness throughout the day.  He told the monks that loving kindness practices like that would soon end all the scary noises etc., that they experienced  in the forest.
The monks were surprised that the Buddha should ask them to go back, but they did just as they were told, out of sheer respect for the Buddha.  So immediately as they set forth from the village itself they started practising on loving kindness in their hearts.  As they entered the forest , all of them got together and started chanting the Sutta aloud, while focusing on the meaning of each and every word of the sutta.
When the spirits heard the sutta and knew that the monks were spreading loving kindness towards all of them, they quickly realised that the monks will not be a threat to them.  They realised that they too could share the forest together with the monks and dwell in the same place without having to move out themselves.  They soon discovered their mistake of trying to chase the monks out, because, with all that kindness spread around them they found contentment and well being among themselves.  So instead of trying to make the monks leave the forest by frightening them out of their skins, they themselves, started being fond of them loved having them around and caring for them.  Soon after spreading Mettha like this the monks were able to meditate well and gain insights, and thus become enlightened.
It is said that after the Mettha sutta was chanted in this forest it became such a delightful place to abide.  The doe started feeding the leopard cubs together with her kids and vice versa.  So you see even the animals get affected through loving kindness.  I can remember, when I was at school some sceptics used to laugh and scoff at such ideas as a doe feeding a tiger cub.  They said that it could never be. Today, we come across a hoard of internet links that portray how even the animal world is full of Mettha.

[1] Devatha, devathawa – singular noun    :      devathas, devathawas  – plural noun
[2] Brahmachari - celibate

If animals can be so full of Mettha,  why can’t we?
Can you believe this? The dove won't let the cat sleep.  See how the cat is very tolerant.

Mettha in Pali (ancient Indian Language) literally means friendliness or kindliness.  Click the video below to see unusual animal friends.

Even so Sometimes it is necessary to make a little noise.
Here is a story.

Once the Bodhisatthawa was a Sage living in the jungle.  In the cave where he dwelt there was a cobra.  Because of the Sage’s kindness and compassion the snake did not harm him.  Soon the cobra and the Sage became friends.  The Sage used to teach the cobra Mettha.  He told him not to harm any other living being.  The cobra loved the Sage so much that he listened to whatever the Sage said.   He too began practising loving kindness!  Thus, there was this snake full of Mettha!!  He wouldn’t bite any body, let alone spit his venom!!

One  day the cobra was lying in the jungle minding his own business and meditating.  There were some aboriginal boys who came to the jungle to gather firewood.  They came very near the cobra but did not see him.  They were very rough and hardy boys.  Soon they finished gathering firewood and were looking round them to find a piece of vine or creeper (to act like a string) to tie up the pieces of wood.  They seized the cobra (with his hood too) thinking that it was a creeper and wound up the stack of wood with the snakes body using it like a string.  The cobra because he was practising mettha, did not do anything at all, and bore all that pain and humiliation too.  He being a cobra after all does not deserve to be treated like a piece of string coming handy to tie up a stack of wood.  The boys tied up a knot with the snake’s body and carried the wood to their camp site, and undid the knot and threw the cobra away.  All the while the poor cobra didn’t even hiss.
It was a battered cobra indeed that returned to the cave that evening.  The Sage was so surprised when he saw the state of his snake friend. He looked so haggard and beaten. 
“Dear cobra whatever’s  happened to you ?  You look so battered” He inquired. 
The cobra put down his head sadly and said that he practised mettha, and look what happened.  He related the story of how those naughty boys used him as a creeper to tie up a stack of wood.  It dawned upon the Sage then, that He must further advise the cobra.  He is a cobra after all.
“My dear cobra, why didn’t you show those bad boys, that YOU ARE A COBRA, by opening up your hood and hissing.  After all, people must treat you like a cobra.  They should not be made to see you like a string and exploit the situation.  They must not take advantage of your kindness and make you suffer for it.  Hereafter, if anybody tries to be smart with you, PLEASE DO OPEN UP YOUR HOOD and SHOW THEM WHAT YOU TRULY ARE WORTH.  Then they would never take advantage of your kindness. Just opening up your hood and hissing won't harm anybody.”
So this is what the Bodhisatwa said.  It is all so nice to have compassion, kindness and be gentle.  But there are times when you have to make a little noise, to show the world what you really are and be firm.  This would save you as well as the others, not to take advantage of your kindness and compassion and make you suffer for it.

Tolerant  Tabby Cat teaches the little pup a lesson, not to harass her while she is eating.