Viṡuddhimagga Instructions on Metṭā

The cultivation of calm or tranquility and the development of concentration
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Viṡuddhimagga Instructions on Metṭā

Post by rohana » Tue Dec 18, 2012 2:27 am

Out of curiosity: in the Viṡuddhimagga, under the instructions for metṭā,
4. For loving-kindness should not be developed at first towards the following four kinds of persons: an antipathetic person, a very dearly loved friend, a neutral person, and a hostile person. Also it should not be developed specifically (see §49) towards the opposite sex, or towards a dead person.


7. But if he develops it towards a dead person, he reaches neither absorption nor access. A young bhikkhu, it seems, had started developing loving-kindness inspired by his teacher. His loving-kindness made no headway at all. He went to a senior elder and told him, “Venerable sir, I am quite familiar with attaining jhána through loving-kindness, and yet I cannot attain it. What is the matter?” The elder said, “Seek the sign, friend, [the object of your meditation].” He did so. Finding that his teacher had died, he proceeded with developing loving-kindness inspired by another and attained absorption. That is why it should not be developed towards one who is dead.

Path of Purification, Ñāṇamoli translation, pages 291-292.
Is there any explanation for why, if the object metṭā is directed at does not exist, then access concentration or beyond does is not achieved? It's sounds like, to reach access, you somehow need to 'connect' to the object(person), and therefore if the object doesn't exist, you don't get there? After all there are other mediation subjects that are not living beings (e.g. kasina) and they can lead to jhāna. So as long as one can generate metṭā in themselves, why does it matter if the person it is directed at really exists or not?
"Delighting in existence, O monks, are gods and men; they are attached to existence, they revel in existence. When the Dhamma for the cessation of existence is being preached to them, their minds do not leap towards it, do not get pleased with it, do not get settled in it, do not find confidence in it. That is how, monks, some lag behind."
- It. p 43

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Re: Viṡuddhimagga Instructions on Metṭā

Post by retrofuturist » Tue Dec 18, 2012 2:45 am

Greetings Rohana,

The backstory presented in the text sounds a little curious since, since it infers "connection", as you point out.

Two practical reasons for not selecting the dead may be that:

1. By virtue of being dead, there is no more experience for them as that dead person... thus, the dead person cannot be subject to dukkha and cannot be receptive to metta. Thus, one would know on some level that metta towards the deceased is misaligned - for how can one wish for them to be happy? (Respect on the other hand, or wishing a favourable rebirth etc. would not be out of line.)

2. Recalling them to mind may bring grief, which is counter-productive to mental tranquility.

In the context of the backstory, if you were under the impression that the recipient was alive, that would seem sufficient as far as I can tell, though obviously not for the text. Taking a sutta perspective, mind creates all mental states (Dhp1-2) including metta... thus the actual object seems a pragmatic concern at best.

Retro. :)
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Re: Viṡuddhimagga Instructions on Metṭā

Post by Ben » Tue Dec 18, 2012 4:01 am

My own practice is to extend metta to myself first and then to all beings throughout the universe and then to dedicate my merits to particular individuals and groups (living and departed). I practice metta for a few minutes at the end of an hour+ session of vipassana. I did benefit from using the formula in the metta sutta and the Vism when I first commenced my meditation practice. These days, my metta practice is fairly fluid/free form.
kind regards,

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Viṡuddhimagga Instructions on Metṭā

Post by mynameisadahn » Thu Dec 20, 2012 11:50 pm

I believe Mahasi Sayadaw answers this question briefly, in his manual on Metta. (which is a book that can be found on the access to insight webpage, I believe). He is fairly brief, as I recall, and it is something like you cannot really wish good will towards someone who has passed on and is reincarnated, etc.

Sorry I do not recall the justification more specifically. But I would recommend this manual anyways, since it is another great source.

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