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I'm trying to follow Buddhist teachings but I generally don't like people so I don't feel like practising metta towards them. They just irritate me and I don't care if they suffer or not. I usually just want them to F off and leave me alone. How can I be Buddhist if I feel this way? I cannot force a warm fuzzy feeling of metta.

17 Answers 17

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Try to start with yourself. If you cannot generate metta towards yourself that is fine. It just means that there is work to be done. With consistent practice you will able to do it.

When you can generate metta towards yourself you have a pure and clean source meaning you can then extend it to other beings. If you do not have a clean source then other beings who drink from it risk being tainted.

There are four types of persons one should learn to generate metta towards. These are:

  • A respected, highly valued, person, e.g. ones teacher.
  • A dearly beloved person such as a parent or a close friend.
  • A neutral person e.g. one who works in a store one often visits.
  • A hostile person, i.e. a person who one is struggling with.

One starts with oneself and then progress to the next person once one becomes familiar with the practice. If done correctly one will be able to progress through the stages ending up with the hostile person.

One does not start with a hostile person since that would be too difficult. Its like trying to run before one can walk. It will only generate too much resistance.

Start with yourself. How to do it? There are several methods to use.

  • Visualization: bring forth a mental picture of yourself smiling or a person (teacher, parent etc.) smiling at you.
  • Reflection: reflect upon the positive and wholesome qualities of yourself or a person, e.g. how you have helped someone or how someone did wholesome things for you. You could also reflect upon beings who possess wholesome qualities such as a Buddha.

The goal with these methods is to generate metta, the feeling of loving-kindness. When practicing you might experience this feeling getting stronger or weaker. If it becomes weaker then return to the methods (reflection or visualization) until the feeling becomes strong again. You should only direct metta towards yourself or another person when the feeling is strong. You will know when that is through practice.

Ultimately metta-practice ends up with one directing metta towards ones entire building (neighbours), the city (like minded communities), the country, then all directions: north, south, east, west, then all beings in the Universe.

Don't worry about the last part yet. It will come when you are ready for it. Start with yourself then the four types of persons.

  • 1
    You're answer is quite helpful. I'm struggling a bit with the same issue, although I wouldn't say "I don't like people" I have a real problem to generate a really untainted feeling of love towards them. When you say: "start with yourself then the four types of persons", is that in the same sitting session ? – BlackSwing Mar 19 '17 at 4:20
  • @BlackSwing. Thank you. I'm happy it could be of help to you. You do not need to incorporate all factors in one sitting. Break it up, learn about the practice and become comfortable with it. Start with yourself. When you can generate metta towards yourself go to the 1st of the four persons. Then become comfortable with that until you can progress to the next person and so forth. Its about the quality of the practice. Hope that helps or else feel free to mail me. – Lanka Mar 22 '17 at 12:54
  • One of the translations for metta/maitri is kindness. There are two uses of the word kind in English, as an adjective referring to a friendly disposition and as a word meaning sort or category e.g. two of a kind. Consider how the two meanings relate and how seeing yourself in others and others in yourself might be beneficial. Kind also shares the same root as kin and king. – Simon H Jul 11 '17 at 10:40
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I'm going to take a different approach from the answers already given...

I don't think this is a hindrance at all. It only seems a hindrance because we live in a world that unfortunately has put a high price on feelings and elevated them to the status of truth.

Metta isn't a warm fuzzy feeling. It's not a feeling at all. To see what I mean, do this thought experiment...

You see a person in pain. You can help the person, but your arm itches. What do you do? You disregard the itch (let it be) and help the person anyway. Why should the itch affect anything?

Feelings are like an itch. They don't mean anything, and we can accept them for what they are and continue to act. They only mean something if we make them mean something.

When you are on the cushion practicing metta, don't worry about feelings. Instead, try to cultivate this same well-wishing-despite-feelings that you would when you help someone you know is hurting. Adopt a mindset like you would in the thought experiment I presented earlier. That well-wishing need not be a warm fuzzy feeling or any feeling at all. Just send them your good wishes.

Compassion and the desire for all beings to be happy can be a purely logical attitude that's devoid of feelings. In fact, if you look at it, it's quite logical. If you start with the axiom that pain is bad, then you logically arrive at the conclusion that pain should be alleviated. Feelings don't enter into it anymore than feelings enter into an equation like 1+1 = 2.

  • Metta isn't feeling compassion for a hungry person; it's feeding the hungry person.
  • Metta isn't feeling anger with a friend because s/he was injured; it's trying to get the friend to get beyond the injury.
  • Metta isn't feeling compassion for a world gone bad; it's acting to fix that world.

In fact, I wonder if the warm fuzzies are a hinderance to metta? It seems all too easy for that to turn metta practice into a self-absorbed emotional masturbation session. But even more to the point, shouldn't we aim for non-attachment to feelings? And isn't one consequence of this non-attachment that we don't let our feelings dictate our actions? As long as our actions are subject to feelings, as long as we're trying to invoke certain feelings (especially to produce certain actions), then aren't we still attached to those feelings?

So in a way, doing metta despite disliking people, and not letting that dislike actually affect anything or be a big deal may be a better sign than someone who does metta because s/he "loves" people or can call upon the warm fuzzies on demand.

In short, don't confuse metta with feelings, and don't take feelings so seriously and you may find that this problem was an illusion to begin with.

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I read this question at the beginning of my day and have been thinking about it for some time. I've been in a similar situation myself, having many negative thoughts about people, being angry etc. In my case things changed when:

  1. The external situation changed
  2. My thoughts, expectations and perceptions of the actions of other people changed

Now things are much better for me but I still have negative thoughts about people from time to time, and I "get stuck" in these thoughts. When this happens what I try to do is to:

  • Practice self-compassion (Guided meditations by Kristin Neff)
  • Think about people that are easily likable (for example the Dalai Lama), either visualizing them or looking at a photograph

I could say more but I wanted to share what has worked in my own experience. I hope this will help you in some way

Kind Regards, Tord

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I would suggest investigating and understanding why you feel that way, what are the external and internal factors that cause you to feel that generalized hostility towards other people. After having understood that, it should be much clearer, and easier from there.

I want to also advise you, based on my experience, to try and not fool yourself in the process. Don't make up reasons for it, the goal is to simply understand the true reasons, which are already there. If you can and feel it is genuine, accept that you feel that way towards others and that that doesn't make you a bad person - you are as you are, and you are trying to improve, which is amazing to me. This acceptance will extinguish the need to make up excuses (or false reasons that don't make you feel bad) for the hostility, and allow you to see deeper and much more clearer the truth.

Nice voyage!

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Don't worry too much. You feel the way you feel, and there is nothing wrong about it. Actually, I don't like many people myself and I prefer to stay alone the whole day so I know exactly what you mean. Except maybe, I always feel pity when people suffer.

This does not conflict with being kind. If you are greeted, greet back. If you are smiled up on, you can make sure the other person knows you acknowledged. You can even wish everybody the best: everybody can find his own luck. It has nothing to do with you.

If you start being respectful, kind and benevolent, the "warm fuzzy feeling" might come, or maybe not. You should not try to enforce any feelings. It's not necessary to feel everything others feel. In example, I have 10 fingers, but I don't need to feel how it is to have only 5.

You don't even need to be part of social activities. You can stay alone, if you prefer. But I strongly recommend you to practice in a group. A meditation group (I prefer Zen, can just speak about this) helps you to practice harder and avoid pitfalls. Being with likeminded you might have a good start with practicing kindness.

The good thing is: you have recognised what's inside you. Now you can work further. Next stop would be to accept what you are and to accept what others are. Then you can start to tell people in a friendly, kind way to leave you alone.

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Have you tried the 4th component of Brahmavihara?

Upekkha might work better for you?

Buddha said he could not see any drawbacks from Upekkha other than it's subject to ending.

  • Could you provide references to "Buddha said he could not see any drawbacks from Upekkha other than it's subject to ending"? – ruben2020 Mar 16 '17 at 14:52
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Continuous mindfulness is the key.

You must learn to let go of that hatred. You must renounce hatred, anger, once and for all.

Whenever such a thought arise ''I don't like people, I hate people'', you must be aware and know it as it is.

Observe the related thoughts and feelings in an objective manner, without reacting, by simply turning, holding and sustaining your attention to what has just appeared, just at time of its duration.

You must ''decondition'' the habit pattern you have created.

Later on, metta will arise naturally. Or at the very least it will be quite easy to cultivate.

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Life is suffering. Not getting what you wish is suffering. We do not wish to be associated with things or persons we dislike, nor do we wish to be separated from things or persons we love. We do not get our wishes and desires always. What we least expect or what we least desire is often put on us. At times, such unexpected unpleasant things become so intolerable and painful that weak ignorant folk are compelled to act on such impulses of aversion. I hope that you are not weak or ignorant to do any wrong doings. The nature of this mind is changed by accentuating the opposite – in this case by METTA. So do not trust the mind. Only place your trust in the Dhamma of Supreme Buddha.

I hope that you will take this answer of mine in a positive light. It is not my personal views but is in keeping with Supreme Buddha’s advice. Supreme Buddha’s teachings are filled with advice and we must learn to welcome advice. You say the practising of the Metta meditation is difficult because you do not feel that way towards others. If so, don't go to the meditation state at once as it sure is a difficult one for you. When thinking of doing something difficult what have we got to do to make it successful? The mind must like to do it because it is done with the mind. We must make the mind agree to do it. If there is no agreement it cannot be done. What have we got to make the mind like it?

Just focus on the good aspect of it. That is a strategy. Before commencing the practising of Metta Bhavana think "I must practise meditating on Metta. It is something explained to us by Supreme Buddha. This meditation gives rise to a lot of merit. The merit is enormous. When I remain with a mind like this it is good for me. Good for others also. It is a good thing to remain with a mind of Metta towards all. If I live with a mind of spreading friendliness my mind gets one pointed. Concentration arises. That will exist for my benefit. It will help me to attain fruition in this Path. Therefore, I must live with a mind of Metta - generating Metta - practicing Metta".

After that slowly get on to focusing attention relevant to Metta Bhavana. Now we have generated mindfulness, we are remaining in that mindfulness, we have generated a liking for meditation and slowly commence practicing the relevant meditation. Then we get the opportunity to practice that meditation successfully.

Having commenced in this manner we do not perform the entire meditation at one stretch. Practice little by little, by meditating for a short while. First spread metta to self.

May I be free from hatred, may I be free from anger, may I be free from jealousy, May I be free from all ill-will, May peace engulf me…

When spreading metta to others, do not think of individual people, like your friends and loved ones. First spread metta to all beings, be it humans, animals, birds, insects, to all. Metta is a companionship that one feels within one’s heart.

One will always make sure that no harm is caused to oneself as one genuinely feel for ones own life. One will never cause any harm or pains to those beings (humans, animals, birds, insects etc.) around him, because he genuinely cares for others as much as he does for himself. There are two ways to spread loving kindness to oneself as well as to others as the Blessed One pointed out. As per Anuruddha Sutta in Majjhima Nikaya, they are boundless deliverance of mind & exalted deliverance of mind.

Boundless deliverance of mind is the spreading of loving kindness is to all directions without limit. It is limitless release of mind.

May all being in north direction be free from hatred, be free from anger, be free from jealousy, be free from all ill-will, lead a comfort life, feel the soothe and ease of their lives…

May all being in north east direction be free from hatred…. May all being in east direction….
May all being in south east direction…
May all being in south direction….
May all being in south west direction….
May all being in west direction…
May all being in north west direction…
May all being in upper direction…
May all being under directions….

Exalted deliverance of mind is the extending of the range. Firstly, one extends loving-kindness upon oneself, then to the community, country and the world.

May I be free from hatred, may I be free from anger, may I be free from jealousy, May I be free from ill-will, May peace engulf me…

As well as I am, may all other beings in this village May all other beings in this town…
May all other beings in this district …
May all other beings in this country…
May all other beings in this world…
As well as I am, may all beings be free from hatred, be free from anger, be free from jealousy, be free from all ill-will, May peace engulf them….

  • How can you start an answer with "life is suffering"? That doesn't equate at all. Life is life. When you attach meaning to what happens in life, you may suffer. Depending on the meaning you have attached. Life in itself has nothing to do with suffering. How could you otherwise end suffering in this life time? – Mike de Klerk Jul 11 '17 at 11:19
  • @Mike de Klerk... Life is suffering because the “made-up mental pleasures” or “käma äsväda” have consequences as per paticca samuppada. Thus the end point is suffering. The problem is that each time we enjoy käma äsväda, we do (abhi)sankhara. They lead to future suffering. This is what we have been doing in countless number of births up to now. That future suffering can arise both in this life as well as in future lives via as per paticca samuppada (dependent origination) that can materialize at different levels depending on the “strength of the käma äsväda“. – Saptha Visuddhi Jul 12 '17 at 2:04
  • The made up mental pleasure doesn't have to be present in order to live. Suffering is an indication of malfunctioning mental activity. It is possible to find out what you are doing, that causes the suffering. Seeing that the base of that mental activity is an illusion, like ego, or confusing subjective experience for objective reality. Life exists without the mental activity, the experience of life however doesn't. But you don't need malfunctioning mental activity in order to experience life. – Mike de Klerk Jul 12 '17 at 5:38
  • What you said is correct @Mike. It is important to realize that there are two dukkha. One is the Vipaka Dukkka / sukha that even an Arahant / Buddha feels. It is the other Dhukka/ äsväda that can be removed. Once we truly realize this other dukkha, we will see that anything in this world has the anicca nature; nothing in this world can provide long-lasting happiness in the long term. This is the other more important but hidden meaning of Anicca. Being Impermanent is true in only a couple of situations. Also for Loving Kindness there is a higher meaning but not mentioned above. – Saptha Visuddhi Jul 12 '17 at 11:51
  • Thank you for elaborating on the matter. This gives me new material to get into! Parinibbana seems like unexistence, I wonder what remains. – Mike de Klerk Jul 12 '17 at 12:00
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I am usually pretty adept at finding a kernel of compassion, but that's not to say I have always been so well equipped. This is an on-going struggle for many like me. Maybe you find yourself in the same position.

I had a long, drawn-out answer and it just sounds all blah blah blah. I know reaching that point when you just can't muster an iota of sympathy for someone. When there's just nothing there for anyone outside of my little world. It usually comes when I have developed some kind of initial contempt.

I convert that contempt to kittens.

OK, fine. a puppy. Who can resist a puppy? Or even just whoever is the object of my scorn as a small child ... and what must have happened to them to make them feel this way. What were they scared of and who didn't come to their side? Because it all comes down to trust.

Anyway, that usually helps me hack up some compassion. Or it at least makes me think so I don't just immediately dismiss them.

  • Christians express this as: "there but for the grace of God go I." In other words, seeing yourself in others, or putting yourself in their position. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a poem / story about this called "Please call me by my true names" – user2341 Dec 31 '17 at 0:39
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I think that all humans and non-humans are Buddhists as in subject to laws of mental and physical realities expounded by the Buddha. Whether a person identifies as a Buddhist or not, does not essentially matter, they are still part of the same system. To me "a being" is synonymous with "a Buddhist" in that sense, although "a Buddhist" is a far more innacurate term in the sense that identifying as a Buddhist does not guarantee right view which is seemingly expected of a Buddhist but not of a Being.

If OP does not like people then that is Aversion. Disliking is suffering. It is of little use to identify oneself with it as in saying i am such and such person, when likes and dislikes are very much conditioned and are subject to change, it is not appropriate to regard it as self.

There is disliking, it will change, it is what it is. Do not make more out of it than it is, for when you extrapolate and worry about it you do it by means of attaching to it extra characteristics, this is attachment to likes and dislikes.

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Buddhism has different practices according to one's ability. Such as Theravada practices does not require use of people as object of practice. Just liberating oneself is already a good practice.

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If you find that dislike (of people) and irritation are "painful" in some way (which you might, since you're presenting it in a question, possibly as a problem to be solved), then maybe Metta would benefit you.

For example:

  • Q: "I find that when I fight with people, I get hurt?"
  • A: "Then don't fight with them!"

Or for example the Dhammapada includes verses like,

  1. Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal.

Isn't that, I don't know what to call it, sensible and ... obvious?

How can I be Buddhist if I feel this way? I cannot force a warm fuzzy feeling of metta.

A warm fuzzy feeling isn't required. For example if people are living in a "burning house", as the metaphor goes, a "warm fuzzy feeling" isn't the appropriate reaction.

I'll mention, in case you didn't know, "Metta" is not one but one of a group of four related attitudes:

These four attitudes are said to be excellent or sublime because they are the right or ideal way of conduct towards living beings (sattesu samma patipatti). They provide, in fact, the answer to all situations arising from social contact. They are the great removers of tension, the great peace-makers in social conflict, and the great healers of wounds suffered in the struggle of existence. They level social barriers, build harmonious communities, awaken slumbering magnanimity long forgotten, revive joy and hope long abandoned, and promote human brotherhood against the forces of egotism.

The Brahma-viharas are incompatible with a hating state of mind, ...

I'm not sure what Buddhist teachings you're trying to follow, but "aversion" is one of the problems, unwholesome roots, which Buddhism tries to solve or free you from. I think you can infer that from the first noble truth, which includes:

to be with "the unpleasant" (also translated as "what one loves not") is suffering

Also if you're worried that you're expected to force warm fuzzy feelings to be a Buddhist, I don't think that's true. Buddhism is kind of a Middle Way. Sometimes its doctrine is pretty absolute (e.g. "no killing, no lying, etc."), at other times I find that there are two sides: for example it teaches compassion but also dispassion, good-will but also non-attachment, non-aversion but also dismay and urgency, having "admirable friends" but also "solitude" and renunciation, release.

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What you are experiencing as such, is not your "own". As you are well aware, you are unable to control it as your "own". Just constantly ask yourself to detach with these anger and any attachment. Buddha himself praises being alone so spend time alone contemplating dhamma.

  • Yes, that follows from the "Anatta-lakkhana Sutta". – ChrisW Mar 21 '17 at 0:04
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Are you ambivalent to all people, or just the vast majority? Are you a solitary person? Do you get enough time/freedom for yourself? What is your opinion of yourself?

People are generally reflections of oneself imo, act happy they will likely act happy, act scared and so will they, tempted, cautious etc.. In the end it's all a bit predictable, so why not just detach? Aversion is very much like attachment. People will float into your field of view now and then, just part of living on a small planet.

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Metta is very hard for me too. If any help, I noticed in my own experience that metta meditation is easier if practiced once you have developed calm in your mind with samatha or vipassana bhavana because you trigger a lot less feelings of aversion or anger.

I don't know your experience in meditation but I would suggest in your case to start by doing samatha bhavana first, once your mind has become a little quieter start metta bhavana.

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Metta meditation will enable you not to suffer on the account of other. Each time you generate dislike you generate misery for yourself. Though Metta mediation if you manage to stop your metal reaction of other with negativity this will help you also to be happy without irritation.

Following answer has more detail of the practice.

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You are making a few mistakes, which causes you to have illusions, rather than truth. You want to get rid of those illusions and see truth, that is why you asked this question.

There is no such thing as annoying people. That 'annoying' only 'lives' in YOUR mind because of what you focus upon. You are confusing something in subject reality to be objective, which I conclude from the sentence "They just irritate me". They can't, nobody can decide for you when you need to feel irritated. So there you have an illusion, that is, an erroneous perception of reality. So you are simply not seeing the things for what they are, apparently. You construct this irritation, why continue doing so?

That said, your emotion (feeling irritated) is a sense. It bluntly states "this hurts, do not do it again, whatever it was." Like putting your hand in a flame, it hurts, because it destroys. You feelings of irritation destroy instead of creates, that is what your emotion is telling. Your focus is destructive instead of constructive. So your feelings of irritation say a 100% something about the value of your mental activity, and nothing about other people. You see, the value of your mental activity towards other people is negative, that is why you feel it as such. Couldn't it be more simple?

Why would you want to continue doing that? Do you like feeling irritated? First get rid of the illusion by investigating what is real and metta follows naturally.

Also loving other people has nothing to do with them. What you 'think' them to be isn't objective reality. So when you love or hate someone, that shows a quality (or not) of you.

So it is not the question of practicing metta towards other people. It is a question of whether you want to improve the quality of your very own state of being. Quality mental activity can only arise from truth, not from illusion. You can't build a house of lego if you can't truthfully see the plans for what they are (the illusion). Life can't manifest on all that is based upon illusion. Have you ever seen an illogical vehicle being constructed upon things that aren't real? There is no such vehicle as it can't exist.

So you are limiting your own existence by holding on to your current perspective. Don't practice metta before you feel doing so. Investigate what it is that you are doing when feeling irritated. Because it is your own doing, it always has and always will be.

Go ahead and think of yourself to be a buddhist if you like, who is there to stop you, but you?

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