- Loving-kindness (Sharon Salzberg): Metta in this view means "loving-kindness", and one is supposed to cultivate feelings of loving-kindness as a practice, in expanding circles. I'm certain you know what I'm talking about. I feel disinclined to this approach, but it may be personal preference talking. I'd like to hear your opinions.
Good will (Bhikkhu Thanissaro): In the past three years, Thanissaro has slightly changed his translationof metta as "good-will", involving less emotional content and more cognitive intent. There's his free talk about it if someone's interested.
Other traditions (Vajrayana, Tibetan): I'd prefer to rule these out because I prefer to stick with one raft of teachings, in this case Theravada. Though other traditions have their known proponents (Pema Chodron and her teachers), I want to stick with one set of teachings, if for nothing else then because I think I remember the Buddha also advising not changing views often.
Suttas only (Bhante V): I've only recently been introduced to this point of view, and know nothing about it yet. I've seen that here he hasn't been very appreciated because of his attitude towards traditional teachings, but I'd like to know what helped you out most.
These seem to differ primarily in the way of discussing the practice. Using the term "good-will" or "loving-kindness" is a matter of translation, and both Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu and the suttas recommend developing goodwill for oneself and others. The "expanding circles" approach is one of the easier ways to develop the skill incrementally by developing it first where it's easiest to do so. It's also helpful to keep in mind that metta is only one of the four sublime abidings, and the four help balance each other in practice. It can be helpful to develop all four and learn to apply them skillfully to various situations.
Finding any one of these approaches, understanding it, and implementing it can be beneficial. When any of these approaches is understood well, the other methods may appear to have more in common than was originally apparent.
I can't see how being a bodhisattva can be without tension, for two reasons: (1) I can't see anything I can do for any of the people around me that would help them gain permanent happiness, (2) isn't any tensions towards future results suffering in itself?
My (hopefully) skillful actions may arouse temporary happiness in them, or in rarer cases temporary unhappiness, the latter though still being possible. In any case, these induced states would be temporary, and would therefore pass rendering them meaningless. Only nibbana is permanent. I can at most cause helpful conditions for people to arise, but I can accomplish nothing of value with my own effort.
Besides, why should I do something in order to gain a result in the future? I feel content with what is, right now. And this feels strange. It's a result of many practices and readings in the last few years. I feel that it's the leaning into the future that generates suffering.
There are many ways to benefit others with both temporary happiness and helping them cultivate the causes of permanent happiness. Temporary happiness is still less stressful than misery, though permanent happiness is superior. Happiness doesn't need to be an all-or-nothing proposition. It is something that can be maximized over the long term both for oneself and for others. It is cultivated over long periods of time, and providing temporary relief from stress can create a situation conducive to working on permanent release from stress. One way to help others find permanent happiness is to enact the ideals of the Dhamma to the greatest extent possible and to serve as an example for others in that regard.
Tensions are a form of stress, and the practice for the cessation of stress. There is no need to obsess over the possible outcomes or future events. The activity that is happening in the present is where events can be influenced. Contentment with what is happening right now can include contentment with the mental state, motivations, and actions being taken right now. A compassionate act can be performed knowing that the act itself is skillful and properly motivated. Mere detachment has a greater chance of resulting in regret or remorse at a later time. Acting in a way that is motivated by a wish for all beings to be happy can be its own immediate reward. There is no need to be attached to the outcome of the action. If the act is truly compassionate and performed with detachment then there can be happiness from the action itself even if the outcome is never known. Through experimentation with good will and the other divine abidings it is possible to experience a higher happiness than what is available through indifference.
Focusing on the teachings of interdependence isn't the only path to developing the divine abidings. One simple path is that it simply feels better to have a mind of good will towards all beings. Acting on such a motivation tends to create harmony and reduce stressful encounters with other beings. This can lead to a situation where there is less stress generated through ill will and indifference, less stress generated through quarrels, less cause for regret and remorse, and greater temporary happiness for all involved. As mentioned above, this temporary happiness can provide the conditions necessary to learn and practice the path to find greater, and eventually permanent, happiness.
I confess that I've yet to study him well, but for now it seems he differs for his emphasis on the relaxation phases all-around, as well as stating that one can reach jhanas with metta... For now, I can't imagine a dynamic anchor leading to jhanas. But I may be wrong about both points.
Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu's footnote 3 to AN 4.125 agrees with this point and provides references:
[url=http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.125.than.html#fn-3]AN 4.125: Mettā Sutta (footnote 3)[/url] by Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:
This sutta, read in conjunction with AN 4.123
, has given rise to the belief that the development of good will as an immeasurable state can lead only to the first jhana, and that the next two immeasurable states — compassion and appreciation — can lead, respectively, only to the second and third jhanas. However, as AN 8.63
shows, all four immeasurable states can lead all the way to the fourth jhana. The difference between that discourse and this lies in how the person practicing these states relates to them. In that sutta, the person deliberately uses the state as a basis for developing all the jhanas. In this sutta, the person simply enjoys the state