More years ago than I can pinpoint, I sat in the second floor of an old abandoned factory that had been turned into artist space and a yoga studio.  It was heaven.. Perfect old wood beams and 20-foot wavy glass windows.  I’d driven six hours to come for one hour to hear a traveling monk talk.

We sat in the middle of a studio and the monk began to chant the Metta Sutta, something I hadn’t heard before.  His voice and cadence had a rhythm that captured everyone.  It was like he’d somehow connected our hearts with a current we could all feel.

I find most sutta’s boring and overly provoking, however I became enamored with this one.  Since then I’ve heard it a thousand or more times, but not like I heard it that day.  Maybe it was the freshness of it, or maybe this particular monk had a special way, I’m not sure.  It sunk deep into me.

Metta is a Pali word… but who cares about that.  It’s meaning is broad:  loving-kindness, friendliness, goodwill, benevolence, fellowship…”a strong wish for the welfare and happiness of others”.

The Metta Sutta is often described as “The Hymn of Universal Love”.karaniya-metta-sutta

The Buddha originally taught the Metta Sutta to 500 monks and the story goes that each one of them found “supreme happiness” as a result of this practice, discovering that “no harm can ever befall a person who follows the path of Metta.”

When monks chant the Sutra, it feels amazing and although I don’t speak nor understand Pali much, I just can tell it’s a holy experience.  I wanted to understand more of what I was hearing.. and I wanted something I could hold and speak and taste and practice.. something that I could integrate into my behavior.  I don’t want more wisdom unless I can do this.

I always think about Gandhi and how although not a Christian, he read the Sermon on the Mount every morning and night for more than 30 years.   I love a practice like that, something that becomes as sturdy as my bones and as constant and reliable as my breath.

I set out to craft a version of the Metta Sutta that I could use and understand and practice….like a prayer or mantra that I can chew on in the middle of my days, I call it “this is the work” it’s a mixture of bits and parts of numerous interpretations as well as my own, flawed to be sure but effective for me none the less:

This is the work

When I am skilled, peaceful and seek the good in all, I will:

Strive to be able and upright, straightforward, of gentle speech, and not overly proud.

Be content, easily supported, unburdened, my spirit calm and sound.

Seek the wise, not arrogant, and will live without desire.

When I am skilled, peaceful and see the good in all, I will:

Work for all beings to be happy, for all beings to live in safety and joy.

Wish for all living beings, whether weak or strong, medium or short, seen or unseen, near or distant, born or to be born, to be happy.

Strive for transparency and truthfulness while dispelling anger and hatred wherever possible.

When I am skilled, peaceful and see the good in all, I will:

Cultivate a boundless heart and cherish all living beings, sharing over the whole world my unobstructed loving-kindness.

Standing or walking, sitting or lying down, during all my waking hours, may I remain mindful of my heart and this way of living that is conscious and complete.

This is the work. 

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