Metta in Early Buddhism

Hello all,

I am new to the site, and glad to be here.

I have been practicing for several years, but never delved too deeply into the suttas. I am curious to what extent the practice of metta is emphasized, if at all, in the early suttas? Along the same lines can anyone reccommend any contemporary teachers of buddhism that highlight metta as it was taught in the suttas? I am looking for essays/practice instructions, etc. Thank you all.


P.S: I have Bante Sujato’s retreat focusing on metta for the cultivation of jhana. It is wonderful. I am looking for additonal resources of a similar nature.

Hi Bill,

Welcome! Yes, metta is taught a lot in the suttas. Not only do we find beautiful texts like the Metta sutta, it is also included in the 4 brahma-viharas, which are found many times. In addition, it is also taught under different names, for example as "non-anger’ and so on, which is how it appears in the 8-fold path. So metta is very fundamental to the Suttas.

Thank you, Bhante! Great to connect with you. Your metta retreat recording has been very useful for me over the last six months. Do you reccomend any other resources from contemporary teachers regarding metta? Thanks again.-Bill

I’m sorry, but I don’t keep track of everything that’s out there. perhaps someone else knows of something. Anyway, glad you found the teachings useful.

O.K. No problem. Thank you for your response.-Bill

Dear Bill,

where are you from? In November / December this year Bhante Sujato will come to Europe again and give teachings on Metta meditation. He will be in Austria, Italy, France, Poland and Germany. For more details you can follow this website, details will be published here as time comes.

With metta,

Greetings Bhante and everyone! I am interested in the relationship between the development of metta brahmavihara as it is commonly found in the suttas (suffusion to all as to oneself in all directions in turn) and the way of taking up the 4 types of beings in turn, leading to the breaking of barriers, which, if I am not mistaken, is mostly found in later texts (commentaries). I practice both, and find the connection to a specific person helps keeping things real, while also working on biases and unskilful intentions in a very direct way. The suffusion of metta to all living things, as an expansion of energy throughout the body and outwards, with a minimal use of phrases, I find more peaceful and it blends naturally with breath meditation. In the end I see no difference in the feeling or attitude itself. But I was told by a teacher that in order to develop jhana through metta you must focus on a single being as your object, rather than the directional suffusion. I look forward to attending your retreat in Italy , Bhante; meanwhile I’d be grateful for a general reflection on the matter. Also, in the suttas metta and the other appamanas are taught both as a deliverance in itself, and as a platform for final deliverance (through wise reflection on the conditioned nature of these states - see e.g. Majjhima Nikaya 52). Reading Gombrich (e.g. his discussion of Tevijja Sutta in What the Buddha Thought)I got the sense that maybe the distinction between forms of deliverance is more a later development; could you please clarify? With much appreciation for this wonderful website. Anjali

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I see this difference as being mainly one of development; the suttas mainly speak of the state of meditation to be developed with metta, while the commentaries go into more detail as to the means of achieving this state.

I’ve been practicing the “4 people” approach to metta for 20 years, and it works for me! I’d be suspicious, however, of any statement that you have to do it this way or that to get jhana. Remember, the Bodhisatta got into jhana just by sitting peacefully under the Rose-Apple tree. The true cause of jhana is the happiness of letting go, and meditation methods are nothing more than aids in developing this.

Gombrich’s reading of the Tevijja Sutta are, to my mind, far-fetched, and so far as I know they haven’t found much influence. The Suttas are far too consistent and clear on the relation between samadhi and wisdom, and the nature of wisdom itself. You can’t just ignore this because of one possible reading of one text.


Thank you, Maria. I am currently in the United States.-Bill

Yes, what Gombrich says doesn’t affect our understanding of the nature of wisdom in EB; but he argues (if I got his point) that cittavimutti and pannavimutti refer to the same experience, and the liberating (or “salvific”) role of metta and compassion that was stated in several texts (quotes Dhammapada, eg.) was somehow downplayed or missed at some point, and all you could expect from developing the appamanas was rebirth in the Brahma realm . I don’t know if that’s true, and perhaps he misses the difference between developing a wholesome state and seeing through the whole process with dispassion and not in terms of self. But in the suttas you typically find groups of monks each devoted to a specific cultivation (4 satipatthana , asubha and the rest) including metta, and I don’t take it to mean than some can dispense with sati-sampajanna while others won’t have loving kindness or samadhi. I get the sense that each “menu” must include all the right nutrients and is just a base upon which the letting go, relinquishment experience can occur and deepen (liberation through non clinging). Then it would seem that loving kindness, when “made much of and taken as a vehicle” can fulfill this role.