Mindfulness Minus Metta is Boring
Mindfulness is the way to live happily and peacefully. Being mindful does not means one’s mind is full with something. If one is mindful one’s mind is clear and one is living in the present moment. The whole teaching of the Buddha is based on ‘mindfulness.’ If one develops and cultivates mindfulness one can attain enlightenment in this very world. The Buddha taught us the way to develop mindfulness and wisdom so that we would be able to realize the real nature of existence and attain the ultimate bliss of Nibbana.
In this regard, the Buddha taught us the Four Establishments of Mindfulness. According to this teaching, one has to establish mindfulness on four places:
1. The Body
2. The Feelings
3. The Mind and
4. The Mental objects.
Mindfulness can be developed as a power of mind and a power of memory. Though one has developed mindfulness through a learned memory, using that memory one cannot attain enlightenment. The best example is Ven. Ananda. He was the foremost of all monks for mindfulness. But that was not the mindfulness of the power of mind, but mindfulness as a power of memory. Such a brilliant monk for memory! His memory power is incomparable with any other unenlightened person. But he could not attain enlightenment with that power. He had to practice mindfulness as a power of mind for the attainment of enlightenment.
When we practice mindfulness, we are able to generate both serenity and insight. For both these, mindfulness is a necessity. There is no insight without serenity. The Buddha taught that these two work in tandem in his unique technique of vipassana. In the Satipatthana sutta, we come across this tandem from the beginning to the end.
Nevertheless, when we try to practice mindfulness for days and nights on end it is no easy task, especially for folks caught up in busy lives, racing to keep up with day-to-day chores. They may think it is boring, dull or monotonous. They need something more. By the same token, for those with hotter tempers, mindfulness may seem impossible, even as they see the fruits of their anger, hatred or resentment. This is where the excellent balm of metta or loving friendliness is necessary. Metta is a cool balm for when we practice vipassana.
Sometimes, when we practice vipassana it may feel dry and clinical. That is the best time to apply this cool balm—metta.
Practicing metta at any time gives wonderful solace and great benefits. The Buddha has pointed out the results of practicing metta in many discourses. In the Mettanisamsa sutta he enumerated 11 benefits of practicing metta.
Our point in this article is to underscore that mindfulness without metta is insufficient. For the best result in practicing and developing mind, both metta and mindfulness should go together. This is why in the Karaniya metta sutta the Buddha emphasized the need for maintaining mindfulness with metta as a resolution (etam satim adhittheyya). We suffuse it with all beings above, below and all around, unobstructed, without hatred or resentment, whether standing, walking, sitting, laying down or as long as one is awake. This is what is called “Divinely Dwelling” (brahma vihara).
An apt example for the union of mindfulness and loving friendliness is given in the Manibhadda sutta of the Connected Discourses of the Buddha. According to this sutta, the demon Manibhadda comes to the Buddha and says, “It is always good for the mindful one. The mindful one thrives in happiness. It is better each day for the mindful one. And he is freed from enmity.” The Buddha then said:
“It is always good for the mindful one,
The mindful one thrives in happiness.
It is better each day for the mindful one,
But he is not freed from enmity.
One whose mind all day and night
Takes delight in harmlessness,
Who has ‘loving friendliness’ for all beings —
For him there is enmity with none.”
So, according to this statement, it is clear that though one has mindfulness it is not sufficient to be free from enmity. For that one needs loving friendliness, as well. Loving friendliness is such a powerful energy to appease all hatred. “Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. Only by non-hatred [loving friendliness] hatred is appeased”, said the Buddha.
Loving friendliness is the way to living friendliness. In the discourse of “The Finger-Snap”, the Buddha said that if monks are practicing metta, at least for the duration of the snapping of one’s fingers, they deserve to receive the four requisites (clothing, food, shelter and medicine) provided by the lay community. So all people, whether monk or nun, laymen or laywomen, if they practice mindfulness and apply metta in their daily life, indubitably their life will be successful, fruitful right now and in the hereafter. This is why we all have to practice mindfulness and metta energetically.