The word sutra in Sanskrit (sutta in Pali) means a thread, and has come to represent a religious thread of thought — a sermon, homily, dharma talk — especially one given by the Buddha or one of his close associates.
To me, the Metta (Loving Kindness) Sutra is one of the most beautiful. One remarkable thing about it is the circumstance that led to it. The Buddha’s disciples were afraid. They were camping in a forest for the rainy season and, as the story goes, the tree devas were trying to chase them away. I take that to mean that the wind was blowing, the forest was making fierce noises, and strange images were appearing.
Instead of instructing his monks on how to combat the spirits of the forest, he taught them to love all forms of life. They did what he said were able to remain safely and harmoniously in the forest.
I recently came across a translation of the Metta Sutra, done by the Amaravati Sangha, that I especially like. Here’s what the Buddha told his monks:
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.
Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born —
May all beings be at ease!
Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.
©1994 English Sangha Trust. You may copy, reformat, reprint, republish, and redistribute this work in any medium whatsoever, provided that: (1) you only make such copies, etc. available free of charge; (2) you clearly indicate that any derivatives of this work (including translations) are derived from this source document; and (3) you include the full text of this license in any copies or derivatives of this work. Otherwise, all rights reserved. Documents linked from this page may be subject to other restrictions. From Chanting Book: Morning and Evening Puja and Reflections (Hemel Hempstead: Amaravati Publications, 1994). Used with permission of the English Sangha Trust, Ltd. Last revised for Access to Insight on 2 November 2013.
How to cite this document (a suggested style): “Karaniya Metta Sutta: The Buddha’s Words on Loving-Kindness” (Sn 1.8), translated from the Pali by The Amaravati Sangha. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 2 November 2013.
— Mel Pine (Fearless Lotus)
Copyright 2016 © Mel Harkrader Pine