Karuna Practice

Hello all,

I am currently using Bhante Sujato’s metta retreat from the Santi Forest monastery as my main practice. I am finding it very useful, and am interested in spending a year focused mainly on the brahma viharas. I have been practicing 3-4 hours a day and would like to do so for the year, spending 3 months on each of the brahma viharas. Does anyone, or Bhante himself, have any suggestions for where to look, or how to practice karuna in a way reminsiscent of those on the metta retreat? Or, do you have experience practicing karuna formally to develop karuna and samadhi and what was that like? Thanks.




Dear Bill,

Inspiring endeavor! One way I do karuna is to look at pictures of suffering and arouse compassion for everyone. The other way you can do it is just being gentle, kind, and peaceful towards yourself ('cos you matter too:))


May all beings be free,

Hi Bill

This is a lovely and unusual question.

I would like to share with you how I occasionally do karuna meditation.

It’s a little convoluted but it really makes me feel deeply and arouses compassion strongly for me. I’m glad you’ve reminded me actually!! I should do it more often!

Because, it seems to me, karuna requires some acknowledgement/understanding/empathy with regard to suffering, I usually direct it to a suffering being. I start by saying, to myself, “I know you’re in pain and I deeply acknowledge your suffering”. Then I say, “I know there’s not a great deal I can do to alleviate your pain, but if there was something I could do, I would” (and I really try and mean it). Crucially, I steer clear of the other being’s suffering becoming a cause for me to feel suffering too…rather, a strong sense of love, understanding and deep care is aroused. It’s not as ‘carefree’ as the feeling of metta in my opinion, but it is still a very nice feeling…in a sense, it is deeper (because of the need to understand suffering perhaps) than metta, i think.

I once directed this exact practice at a little bird that had been rescued from a cat. It was lying in front of me on a little towel in a small box and was expected to die of shock…apparently this is what usually happens. However, after a couple of minutes, it stirred a little, looked at me, got up, hopped on to the edge of the box, looked at me for a few seconds further, then flew off!!! I was extremely happy and joyously surprised. I’m not daring to take credit here…but it was a very nice coincidence and reinforced my faith in compassion and understanding. I’d forgotten about this incident…I should do more of this!

With regard to developing formal practices of this kind…I think it’s a lovley thing to get ideas from others and to play with them and then come up with your way that is tailor made just for you.

The way I’ve described, is something I came up with that works nicely for me.

You could do it, or some other method, in the way Bhante S teaches metta and start off with yourself and so on… Or you could do it to all beings… Or a combination… Whatever makes the love and peace and understanding flow the most deeply and pleasantly and easily…that’s the one for you.

Thank you Bill for your beautiful question…it’s made me feel happy to remember this and to write about it…you’ve inspired me to do it next time I sit.

With metta


Thank you both for your responses.-Bill

Dear bill,
Inspiring to see your practice! I have found Mettā meditation immensely useful in my own practice. Generally , I use the 4 person method as taught by Aj Brahm and Bhante Sujato. Like, Kay has written above about the little bird experience , something similar I would like to share too. There’s an old dog residing nearby my house, he’s having a tumour( non cancerous) at his neck and what is expectional about him is the ‘loving kindness’ that I could sense from him, never felt that before and also a kind of grief/ sadness reflects from his face. He stays within a small boundary and whenever I go to feed him some food, he shows so much love, tenderness, gratitude ! These kind of events helps me to develop more and more mettā for all beings, thinking about such beings acts as a catalyst in my mettā mediation, realising that if I can try to alleviate suffering of even a single being and bring up some joy and ease, that drives me to develop more mettā and act with compassion, thereby aiding the development of loving kindness. Subsequently, including myself in the mettā sphere and when I could sense that sufficient mettā has been developed then move towards neutral person so on and so forth.
Also, In my views, in order to make foundations strong, it very important to eliminate which hinders metttā i.e. ill will ( vyāpāda). I found these lines by buddha very useful : Suppose some bandits catch one of you and sever his body limb from limb with a two-handed saw, and if he should feel angry thereby even at that moment, he is no follower of my teachings( MN 21 )
P.S. I have given the dog a name : ‘karuna’ afterwards :smile: and take care this doesn’t leads to attachment toward a specific being.

Thanks for your question.

With Mettā,