At Bright Way, we’ve been discussing the Brahmaviharas lately, particularly goodwill (metta) and compassion (karuna). One of the main questions we’ve been addressing, naturally, is how to deal with anger and hatred – our own, as well as that of others. When someone is actively causing harm, what does it mean to feel goodwill and compassion for them? (I address that question in detail here.)
Last Tuesday we did an exercise to explore what authentic goodwill might look like when we can’t ignore the fact that someone is presently causing harm. I shared the basic metta prayer (May ____ be free from fear and anxiety, may ____ be at ease, may ____ be happy) and then asked people to call to mind someone for whom they find it very difficult, if not impossible, to genuinely feel goodwill or compassion. Then I asked people to write a short metta-based prayer for that person, praying for things specific to that person; what might inspire or allow the person causing harm to stop?
Here’s some of what people wrote for a person of their choice towards whom they feel resentment, anger, or even outrage:
I hope you will be able to one day slow down and view all that is around you. Truly take in all the wonderful and not so wonderful parts of life. Really get to know the people here and try to learn and understand their points of view. Life is short and this might be your only one. How will people speak of you when you’re gone?
May you know intimately the binds that hold you. May you be free. May you be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May you discover true affection. May you feel the love of family.
May you deeply appreciate others. May you feel honest respect. May you be kind towards others. May you be filled with understanding and compassion for all. May you help others be successful.
May you see our common humanity. May you want safety from all danger and harm for all citizens of the world. May you experience the intimacy and joy of non-separation from all beings, regardless of what they look like, how they live, or where they come from.
May you feel deep satisfaction. May you truly feel complete.
May you be who you deeply are. May you be at ease with yourself. May you know you are complete and loved even when you aren’t the center of attention.
May you be free of anger, insecurity, and fear.
May you learn the beauty of silence and reflection so your words and decisions may be skillful and beneficial. May your guardianship bring you peace and mental happiness.
May you see the beauty of nature. May your children’s children live and grow in a world where all children can flourish.
May you be at peace.
If our prayers come true, would the subjects of our prayers continue willfully causing harm?