AUDIO: Mettā Meditation and Analytical Meditation - How to Do Them Correctly [Dharma Talk MP3+Transcript Included]
A short Dharma talk on (1) how to do loving-kindness meditation correctly, (2) how to do Analytical meditation correctly, and (3) how they are used to make progress.
How to generate genuine feelings of love and compassion while meditating.
Most people are doing mettā meditation (i.e., loving-kindness meditation) ineffectively. Why is this? Because there are very few people who are actually teaching others how to do it correctly, and many of them are hidden away in Buddhist monasteries. In this article + audio dharma talk I provide clear instructions to make your practice more effective for progress toward Buddhist Enlightenment.
A student reached out to me via email for something quick, and being in-between student sessions, I had a few minutes to hop onto a brief video call to answer his question. Here is the recording of that off-the-cuff, momentary interaction.
The Student Question:
"I think I know how to do analytical meditation, but I want clarification on how to do it. I've been inspired to use mettā for the contemplation, but what is the interplay between contemplating and resting in silence? I feel like resting in silence may be a part of it."
Dharma Talk Audio (11:16)
[Audio begins here]
"The interplay between contemplation and thought is going to differ based on the type of analytical meditation that you are doing. So Mettā meditation is an analytical meditation in the perspective that we are actually not sitting there just being with, and being present; we are literally engaging the mind in thought. That in it of itself makes it a form of analytical meditation. But it's not a contemplative meditation. Right? However I will say this, most people who do Mettā meditation are doing it wrong. Of course I am going to say that because I say everyone is doing everything wrong. Right? [student laughing]
So how is it that people who are doing Mettā meditation incorrectly doing it wrong? They got their script, OK? And at a very high level they will say, 'I wish these people to be happy and I wish these people to be free from suffering, I wish myself to be happy and I wish myself to be free from suffering, I wish this person whom I love to be happy, I wish this person I love to be free from suffering, all the way to this person I dislike to be happy, to be free of suffering, to the world to be happy, to be free from suffering.'
That is not how we do Mettā meditation, that is basically how we iterate a script, we basically are robots, OK, I've said this and I've said that and now on to the next person, OK, I've said this and I've said that and now on to the next person, there is nothing that we are doing there that is doing us any good.
Why do we do Mettā meditation? I don't know why I didn't put any of this in the instructions on my Mettā meditation post, but I probably should go back to it. The reason we do Mettā meditation is to actually cultivate genuine compassion for the targets of those verses. We don't want to just like I want to be happy and I want to be free from suffering. No. We want to actually be present, not with those words, but with the emotional understanding. With the heart, not with the mind. I want to be happy. I wish to be free of suffering. 'May I be happy. May I be free of suffering.' And not just say the words, but 'may I really be happy.' And when we say those words, we really want to create this unbelievable overwhelming feeling of yes, may I be happy.
But knowing what is happiness? It's not eating a bag of Frito Lays while watching Game of Thrones. Really being happy means I am free of craving. I am free of attachment, I am free of resentment, I'm free of resistance, I am free of tension. 'May I be free of suffering.' What is suffering, but craving. 'May I be free of the deluded mind that believes that these outside external things will create pleasure for me. May I be free of suffering.' And really we are cultivating that for ourselves.
Now you, I imagine, I don't get the sense that you are a strong self-harsh-talker where you don't have compassion for yourself. But when we are targeting the people who are neutrals or targeting people whom we don't like especially, people who have harmed us in the past, right? We want to stay away from politicians and people who are distant, we want to stick with people who have actually caused us harm.
We really want to cultivate a true feeling of 'may they be happy, may they come to the true sources of happiness, may they find the Dhamma.' Because if they are happy, how can they possible create harm for others. If they are happy, how can they possibly injure other people, speak harshly to other people if they are happy, 'may they be happy.' 'May these people who have caused me harm genuinely be free of their suffering.'
We want to cultivate these feelings because, not only do we want to genuinely want to apply these notions of happiness, lovingkindness, and equanimity with no bias, for all sentient beings, even the ones who have harmed us, but when we wish those who harmed us happiness and freedom from suffering, we are allowing ourselves to let go of the pain that we experienced as a result of their harm. We are opening up our heart, and we are slowly starting to chip away at that hard shell around it, that opens us up to skilful compassion that is coupled with Wisdom.
All right? So, I am not answering your question, but this is an important teaching on how to do Mettā appropriately, it should not be rote, and when we are saying these verses, don't say the same verses for all people, because when you are targeting yourself you know what experience you need to work on, maybe you do feel a sense of happiness, so target the things you wish you felt more of, 'may I be at-ease with restlessness, may I be at-ease at not being included,' you know, make that your Mettā, 'may I be free of the desire to be with those who aren't tagging me [student laughing], may I be free of the feeling of the fear of missing out.'
And then, when you are targeting someone who hurt you in the past, let's say they punched you, all right? 'May this person be free of the desire to create physical harm to others. May this person be free of the anger that causes them to lose control.' So when we are giving Mettā recitation, it should not be the same verse for all people. We have to make it very specific. Because that's how we make it personal, and how we make it impactful, and how we actually cultivate or realise the reason why do we do Mettā meditation, which is to start cultivating the genuine lovingkindness and compassion for others. Not to have this rote recitation.
All right so, Mettā meditation is a form of analytical meditation, but it is not a contemplative one, we are trying to cultivate these certain feelings. Contemplative analytical meditation is something like you read something, you read...
[Reaching for a Random Nearby Dharma Book]
I am literally just going to go to a [random] highlight [in this book], so highlight:
"The more that we get what we want, the stronger our attachment becomes. The stronger our attachment, the more difficult it is to find satisfaction."
All right, we take this sentence. Basically what it is saying, if I am going to summarise it, is that the stronger our attachment, the stronger our suffering. Right? I think that's a way to describe it.
So we sit on the cushion thinking, "the stronger our our attachment, the stronger our dukkha." We repeat it such that we don't have to think about it. "The stronger our attachment, the stronger our suffering, the stronger our suffering, the stronger our dukkha..." We can start transforming it, right? But we maintain the meaning, "the stronger our dukkha, the stronger our pain, the stronger our attachment, the stronger pain."
So now we've got it in our head, right? And we are sitting there with it, and we start thinking about "OK, how is this true?" We can ask ourselves, 'how is this true,' but we can also start reflecting on the things that we love. Something that we love that broke and responded so negatively to it breaking. Was I attached to it? Was my pain a direction function of the amount of attachment I had to it? A relationship that ended. That really crushed me. How attached was I? Were there other relationships that ended that I didn't care [as much] about? How much attachment did I have in those relationships? Then really starting to understand, you know? Yeah. Yeah. The stronger my attachment, the stronger my experience of dukkha at its loss, or its separation, or its break-up.
Attachment is suffering.
And then we sit on this and start reflecting, OK where am I attached in my life today? What are the things, or the concepts, or the people, the objects, the notions, the ideas that I am attached to? That I feel a strong sense of attachment to. If I didn't have these things, if these things disappeared today, what kind of suffering would I experience. If I don't get these things that I want that I am so attached to, what kind of experience will that be for me? Can I still have these things in my life without being so attached to them? Can I still want these things and strive for them without the strength (and burden) of attachment.
That's contemplative analytical meditation. And that's really where the difference between a recitation meditation that uses thinking versus a recitation meditation that's meant to cultivate certain feelings and breaking down, you know, our hardness in the case of Mettā or a contemplative analytical meditation where we are literally trying to think about something to gain direct insight into it, how it affects us, and how we will work with it moving forward.
That's powerful contemplative meditation; and that transforms who we are as people and that's why I say that enlightenment and streamentry comes through the contemplation of the Dharma... 'cause this is how we re-wire our mind."
"Awesome. That's all very clear."
[Audio ends here]
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The Sagacious Buddhist Blog
by Anagārika Pasannacitta
Michael Turner is a pre-monastic ariya-puggala and a full-time Buddhist anagārika; and he is also a deeply accomplished streamentry mentor and applied-dharma teacher. He emphasises and teaches the practical application of the Buddha's teachings in our everyday lives to overcome our human problems that stand in the way of making measurable progress toward Buddhist enlightenment and he is particularly adept at explaining them in ways that can be easily understood and practiced by Western Buddhists. He has been meditating and cultivating the views and techniques that generate indestructible resilience, inner-strength, and direct experience for almost 30 years and has helped countless numbers of students and peers enhance and course-correct their practice to make veritable progress along the path toward Nibbāna.
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