I was practicing metta meditation today and the thought came up: "What if your wish for happiness for one person (Person A) causes another to suffer indirectly (person B)?"

My understanding of the problem: the wish of metta is conditional, that is, it is for person A. Since metta is meant to be an unconditional love, how can we wish metta for individuals? Doesn't metta only make sense if it is wished for all beings?

How can we wish metta and have that wish be moral without understanding the consequences of what that wish may cause. Is metta not meant to be a literal wish? I have a feeling that I am not fully understanding metta properly, so I'd like to hear where I am falling short in my understanding.

Kind wishes.


3 Answers 3


Yes, your understanding of Metta is wrong.

ex: If you are doing Metta towards a person who wishes to rob a bank, you don't wish the robbery to succeed. You simply wish happiness to arise in his mind so he does not need to rob. If Person-A wants to beat Person-B, you don't wish for that to happen. You simply wish for Person-A's anger to subside.

Metta does not mean wishing for beings to give in to their defilements.

loving-kindness is characterized as promoting the aspect of welfare. Its function is to prefer welfare. It is manifested as the removal of annoyance. Its proximate cause is seeing lovableness in beings. It succeeds when it makes ill will subside, and it fails when it produces (selfish) affection. -Visuddhimagga


As I understand things: Metta-meditation is not "magic", not something like "positive voodoo". In the first instance it is a training for you and your ability for loving kindness.
Based on this it is also a stepwise training: you start with simple ones (loving kindness with yourself, your mama, your spouse, your best friend). After you have some fluent experience you change the subject to more neutral persons, and then even to some people you dislike (or you think they dislike you), or to rivals.
The effect of the training - if successful for you : then your new way of impulses might have effects to the world...


You don't have to understand metta. Metta is an emotion, not a thought. You focus on people you like in order to give rise to this emotion and then develop it further and further. You can't start with loving all beings right away.

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