Guy Armstrong has been practicing Insight Meditation for over 30 years. His training included a year as a Buddhist monk in Thailand, primarily with Ajahn Buddhadasa. He began teaching in 1984 and has led retreats in the U.S., Europe and Australia. Guy is a member of the Spirit Rock Teachers Council and a Guiding Teacher of Insight Meditation Society.
The talk this evening is on the power of loving kindness. There’s a poet from Rumi that I like here. Rumi, you know, is the poet ___ of Spirit Rock, so we quote him whenever possible.
“Someone who does not run toward the allure of love walks a road where nothing lives.”
It was path of our path- the allure of love. And I’m so grateful that we have the practice of loving kindness within our tradition- well established, clear instructions, easy to follow, reliable and trustworthy.
When I was a young man in my early twenties, I had a lot of access to love, but it came and went like nobody’s business. I hate my emotions wherein there are a lot of ___ at that time, and so I could make strong connections with people, nature, music, art, but I couldn’t stabilize in it. I didn’t know how it came about or how it went away.
So that actually finding the access to love became a really important motivation in my dharma practice, and what I discovered, of course, is probably what you all know, too. It needs the wisdom from ___ in order to make it more stable. It needs the wisdom of non-clinging to have regular access to love. And then it’s possible.
So, we have a practice within our tradition that gives us an avenue to developing this quality of love in our hearts. And I’m very grateful that I’ve found it, I’ve done a lot of Metta practice over the years and it has changed my life and my practice a lot.
So, I want to talk tonight about some of the great things that come out of Metta practice. There’s probably a really long list, but I’m going to talk about five (5) tonight. These are the powers of Metta. It makes the heart responsive, or you might say, tender. It purifies the heart. That it cleans it up. It scrubs it. Then leads to concentration. It connects us to all of life. Meaning, that we develop an inclusive sense of what being alive means. We allow all beings into our hearts, and it brings happiness in a very reliable way. So, I want to talk about all of these.
So, when we say it makes the heart tender, what we mean is that it lets us feel the joys and sorrows of life, our lives and others, more ___. Things land on us with more impact, because the heart is being trained to be responsive and you can see this in the Metta phrases. What we’re practicing is going to different individuals and going “I hope you’re happy,” “I hope you’re well,” “I hope you’re peaceful,” “I hope you’re healthy.” So, it trains us to keep looking into the inner experience and the inner welfare and inner well-being of everyone we come and contact with.
The emotions of Metta will go through lots of ups and downs, but this movement of caring and interest, you could say the empathy of that is what of Metta is what continues. This is how we’re shaping the mind and this is what we learn as a practice and as a habit from doing the loving kindness.
Now, not everybody who does Vipassana does Metta, nor do you have to do Metta, nor should you feel guilty if you’re not doing Metta. If you don’t want to run into the allure of love, that’s your business.
And some personalities, I feel, open up to Metta in a big way just through Vipassana. I think about ___, wonderful Indian teacher. Somebody mentioned, I think John mentioned, in his talk- very deep Vipassana practitioner. I don’t know that she ever did much formal loving kindness practice, but she just had the heart qualities that when her suffering went away through Vipassana, her big heart was right there. And Metta was one of the things that people felt in her most strongly. She just had a very loving attitude to everyone she met, and Joe’s have been sharing, used to say that when they visited her in Calcutta, they would just walk into her little house, part of an apartment, and just feel the space filled with love, which is just her way of being.
But for other teachers who don’t have a natural heart quality in personality, they can come out of Vipassana practice, and I’ll put it this way, their Metta feels a little distant. So, personally, I really gravitate to the teachers who develop both wisdom and loving kindness, and those teachers who have shown to me the possibility of development, that it’s there for us, human beings.
So, take a look at your personality if loving kindness is a natural flowering through Vipassana that might be plenty. On the other hand, if you feel, you know, a little dryness of heart, all cerebral inclination, loving kindness is a really wonderful supplement to the Vipassana to draw out those heart qualities.
One of my teachers, he’s a Tibetan teacher, was giving heart advice at the end of our retreat. Tibetans have a way of doing this, you know, they kind of sum up ___ instructions they want you to take with you. And he said, “I want you to carry three things out into the world.”
The first, he said, “Be natural.” Just be yourself. Don’t be pretentious. Don’t put on big spiritual airs. Just be a, you know, nice person. Be natural.
The second thing he said is, “Be wise.” Go out. Conduct yourself well. Don’t make big fusses for people. Don’t make mistakes in your conduct and your speech. They want to understand that good qualities come out of Buddhism. Good actions come out of Buddhism.
And the third thing he said is, “Be juicy,” because that’s what will communicate with other people and let them know about your inner-development. Now, “juice” is a technical term in Buddhism. It covers a wide range of qualities.
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