The Metta Sutta: a Christmas gift of love

It’s not often recognized that morality is the basis of the practice of loving-kindness. It’s easier to entertain thoughts of non-ill will when not subject to remorse for transgressions:

This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech,
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,
Not proud or demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.—Sn 1.8

"Buddhist ethics is twofold: fulfillment of certain virtues (caritta), and precepts of abstinence (varitta). Caritta, as found in the Metta Sutta, is as follows:

[He] Should be able, honest and upright,
Gentle in speech, meek and not proud.
Contented, he ought to be easy to support,
Not over-busy, and simple in living.
Tranquil his senses, let him be prudent,
And not brazen, nor fawning on families.

Varitta is covered by the next gatha:

Also, he must refrain from any action
That gives the wise reason to reprove him.

Caritta and varitta are thus practiced through metta expressed in bodily and verbal action; the resultant inner happiness and altruistic urge is reflected by the aspirant’s metta of mental action, as found in the conclusion of the stanza:

May all be well and secure,
May all beings be happy!"—Buddharakkhita

“Given that I have declared, Ananda, that good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, & good mental conduct should be done, these are the rewards one can expect when doing what should be done: One doesn’t fault oneself; observant people, on close examination, praise one; one’s good reputation gets spread about; one dies unconfused; and — on the break-up of the body, after death — one reappears in the good destinations, in the heavenly world. Given that I have declared, Ananda, that good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct, & good mental conduct should be done, these are the rewards one can expect when doing what should be done.”—AN 2.18


Thank you, Bhante! Really, it is a wonderful gift for us.


The thesis was proposed by A.K. Warder in his Indian Buddhism. I don’t know if he was the first person to do so, but he’s the earliest I know of.


I’m just now reading Ven Bodhi’s translation, and he has virtually the same as i do. I must be on the right track!


Dear Bhante Sujato, thank you so much for this exquisitely beautiful translation of the Metta Sutta. Your voice along with the drone and heartbeat make a very tender, heart warming combination. I can understand why @UpasakaMichael would compare your singing with Sinead O’Connor. For me, your Metta Sutta song reminded me loosely of Current 93’s Sleep Has It’s House (C93 - The God of Sleep has made his House - YouTube) - although your singing is much more soothing, boundless and gentle on the heart. Anyway, Bhante Sujato, I truly hope this is the beginning of Sutta album :pray:. I am profoundly grateful for your gift and dedication to metta :orange_heart:


Beautifully translated and recorded.
Thank you.


17 posts were split to a new topic: How to understand a mother’s love in the Metta Sutta

Did you go to the church of U2? The style was almost spot on for something I used to have in my collection but I just can’t put my finger on what it was I had been listening to. U2 was the only thing that came to mind…

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Dear Bhante @sujato, I am listening to this gift every day, at least once a day. Right now I’m in the open, in a little meditation tent, and I chanted along with you and then sat meditation. I love your heartfelt offering so much. I think the trees and wind love it also. :pray:t4:


It’s that time again. :sparkles::pray::sparkles: Thank you Bhante


One of the few Christmas gifts I used all year. :pray:


Hi ven @Sujato! And others.

I like many of the translation choices. Not sure about nikubbetha but the idea makes some intuitive sense with the grammatical object para.m.

One thing I think differently about, though, is ‘skilled in goodness’ for atthakusala. First of all, it is a bit odd that one who is “skilled in good” would have to be told “what should be done”. Wouldn’t people skilled in good already do all the good things that follow?! Now, in AN5.169 we have atthakusalo too, and here it seems to mean “skilled in the meaning (attha)” of the Dhamma. This would make it convey the same idea as “who know the place of peace”. So then it seems the sutta is particularly aimed at stream enterers: they who know the peaceful “place” of nibbana, and who are skilled in the meaning of the Dhamma. That makes sense in light of the last verse, and the practice of metta: stream-enterers practice to let go of ill-will (along with sense desire) and can become non-returners.

Unless there is something I’m overlooking? Because everybody else translates it as “skilled in goodness”.


It’s a good point. Comm has:

Atthoti paṭipadā, yaṃ vā kiñci attano hitaṃ, taṃ sabbaṃ araṇīyato atthoti vuccati, araṇīyato nāma upagantabbato

But elsewhere, atthakusala is paired with dhammakusala then with byañjanakusalo niruttikusalo pubbāparakusalo so the sense must be “skilled in understanding the meaning (of a text)”.

The literal sense would then be:

This is what should be done by one who is skilled in comprehending (the Dhamma) and has experienced the state of peace.

Which makes sense. They have done the book-learning, and have tasted the fruits of practice, now this is what is next.

But given the ambiguity of attha and the consensus of the translators, I wouldn’t be in a hurry to discard the sense of “goodness” or more precisely according to the commentary, “practice”.

I don’t disagree: if you really look at it, it seems a lot of suttas have this focus.


Thanks bhante. Two minutes after posting I started to suspect the commentary had something to do with it. :smiley: I should have checked. :disguised_face: Indeed, we can’t totally disregard “skilled in good” but contextually I don’t think it makes as much sense.

Yeah, the eightfold path even starts there, at right view. They are the true “trainees” (sekhas), after all, so it makes sense.

Anyway, again, I like a lot of choices. Such as “love” instead of “loving kindness”, and “keep in mind” for sati—I’ve been using that myself in some other contexts too. Many phrases with sati are generally translated too literally, I think. (Like Ven. Bodhi in this case: “one should resolve on this mindfulness”.) “Courteous” is also nice.

metta to all translators!