I'm a beginner and I'm studying (and trying to practice) both meditation on breathing and mettā meditation, and in the book Anapanasati by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, which i'm following with some initial success, when dealing with preliminaries and false views, it is said:

"[...] Some forms of "radiating loving kindness" are phrased in an amusing way, for instance: "May I be happy, free from suffering hatred, difficulties, and troubles, and may I live in happiness!" This really reflects fear and self love on the part of the speaker. How could a person with such a weak mind ever put forth the effort necessary to realize impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and non-selfhood? With this kind of ritual he will only disturb his mind all the more. [...]"

Now, i think almost every book and guide on mettā I've read suggests phrases like the one took as example in the above cited text. For example in Brahmavihara Dhama by Ven. Sayadaw it is suggested the phrase "May i be happy and free from misery" and similars. So the above mentioned paragraph confused me a bit. Do the Buddhadasa teachings conflict with traditional mettā practice? What view of things should a beginner follow, between these? Thanks in advance!

5 Answers 5


I suggest this book you are studying might be too complex for a beginner, even though the section on metta is reasonable. The book 'Unveiling the Secrets of Life: a Manual for Serious Beginners' might be more suitable.

As for metta meditation in relation to Anapanasati, Buddhadasa's point is obviously straightforward and correct, namely, to realise enlightenment the idea of "I" must be abandoned. The Buddha taught suffering can only be extinguished when the idea of "I" is abandoned therefore the Ven. Sayadaw idea "May I be free from misery" is obviously illogical, as the suttas show, as follows:

...it's because Ven. Sariputta's I-making & mine-making and obsessions with conceit have long been well uprooted that even if there were change & alteration in the Teacher, there would arise within him no sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress or despair. SN 21.2

Buddhadasa's idea may conflict with the majority of teachers who consider themselves to be Buddhists but Buddhadasa's idea obviously does not conflict with the Dhamma of the Buddha. The Pali suttas generally refer to what Buddhadasa said in his earlier paragraph, namely, "metta is radiated towards all living beings based on reason & insight", as follows:

There is the case where a monk keeps pervading the first direction — as well as the second direction, the third, & the fourth — with an awareness imbued with good will. Thus he keeps pervading above, below, & all around, everywhere & in every respect the all-encompassing world with an awareness imbued with good will: abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will. MN 43

And he lets his mind pervade one quarter of the world with thoughts of Love, and so the second, and so the third, and so the fourth. And thus the whole wide world, above, below, around, and everywhere, does he continue to pervade with heart of Love, far-reaching, grown great, and beyond measure. Just, Vāseṭṭha, as a mighty trumpeter makes himself heard—and that without difficulty—in all the four directions; even so of all things that have shape or life, there is not one that he passes by or leaves aside, but regards them all with mind set free, and deep-felt love. DN 13

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. Sn 1.8

Occasionally, there are teachings in the suttas about 'self-love' but unlikely to practitioners of samatha-vipassana. For example, in Ud 5.1, the Buddha makes a comment to himself about unenlightened worldlings who love themself more than others:

Having gone around in all directions with the mind, There is surely no one found who is loved more than oneself.

In the same way others each love themselves, Therefore one who cares for himself should not harm another.

Ud 5.1

This teaching in Ud 5.1 is about the 'Golden Rule' or 'morality' rather than about Anapanasati.

In conclusion, the teaching of metta in the Anapanasati Sutta itself shows Buddhadasa is correct & all of the other teachers, regardless of how many of them exist, are wrong. The Anapanasati Sutta includes the following instruction, as found in MN 62:

Develop the meditation of good will (metta). For when you are developing the meditation of good will, ill-will will be abandoned.

Develop the meditation of compassion. For when you are developing the meditation of compassion, cruelty will be abandoned.

Develop the meditation of appreciation. For when you are developing the meditation of appreciation, resentment will be abandoned.

Develop the meditation of equanimity. For when you are developing the meditation of equanimity, irritation will be abandoned.

Develop the meditation of the unattractive. For when you are developing the meditation of the unattractive, passion will be abandoned.

Develop the meditation of the perception of inconstancy. For when you are developing the meditation of the perception of inconstancy, the conceit 'I am' will be abandoned.

This shows metta is to be developed together with abandoning the conceit "I am".

Therefore, the statement by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu certainly conflicts with traditional (worldly) mettā meditation but does not conflict with the mettā meditation the Buddha taught.


The Buddha’s injunction is that one should take the axiom ‘one is dear to oneself’ as a self-evident illustration and develop mettā towards others depending on that conviction. But Visuddhimagga misinterprets that injunction and recommends developing mettā to oneself as the first step. Meditations on ‘Divine Abiding’ (Brahmavihāra) are solely concerned with our attitude towards others. The gravity of the blunder of ignoring this fact comes to light in the Visuddhimagga account of the breaking down of the barriers between oneself, one’s dear person, neutral person and hostile person.

The Buddha says that one should develop mettā towards all beings with the self-abnegating love of a mother to her only son. But Venerable Buddhaghosa recommends a practice of mettā, which goes against the spirit of the Buddha word. What sort of Deliverance of the Heart can that kind of approach lead to? In pervading the directions with thoughts of mettā one has to be aware of one’s position only as a peg in the center with which to survey the world as above, below and all around. Apart from that, the Buddha has never sanctioned a selfish attitude of developing mettā to oneself. The object of mettā is not a group of persons discriminated as one’s dear, not dear or neutral but the totality of living beings which the Buddha has presented as five universals.

The Five Universal Categories:

‘..... ye keci pāṇabhūtatthi ‘..... whatever beings there are

  1. tasā vā thāvarā vā anavasesā whether feeble or stable – without exception

  2. dīghā vā ye mahantā vā majjhimā rassakāṇukathūlā whether long or large, middling, short, minute or massive

  3. diṭtḥā vā ye va addiṭtḥā whether seen or unseen

  4. ye ca dūre vasanti avidūre whether they live far or near

  5. bhūtā vā sambhavesī vā whether already come into being or seeking birth

sabbe sattā bhavantu sukhitattā

May all beings be happy at heart.

So developing metta to oneself is a later comentarial addition that is not present in the Pali Canon

Above text cited from: http://seeingthroughthenet.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Deliverance_of_Heart.pdf By Bhikkhu K. Ñāṇananda

It is worth reading all to clear things and also other work by K.


Ajahn Sumedho, in his excellent book, Don't Take Your Life Personally, offers in many passages the perspective that the four Brahma-Viharas are the transcending sublimation of our usual self centered reactive patterns towards the Vedanā, the hedonic tones of experience.


Sakko ujū ca sūjū ca (being honest, very honest: a very prerequisite, not only for metta practice with conductive effects)

The Buddhas words on one occation: "Do you really love yourself? Are you going to content yourself simply with the food, clothing, shelter, and medicine of lay life even though this means staying in the cycle of birth, aging, illness, and death? Or would you really like to put an end to suffering?" (See: "Selves & Not-self", by Ven. Thanissaro on more about general instances on the roots here)

The traditional lines.

Ahaṃ sukhito homi May I be happy.

Niddukkho homi May I be free from stress & pain.

Avero homi May I be free from animosity.

Abyāpajjho homi May I be free from oppression.

Anīgho homi May I be free from trouble.

Sukhī attānaṃ pariharāmi May I look after myself with ease.

As a matter of karuna, in short, for those capable not to get lost on the main stream of Dhamma-trade:

For those "wishes to attain that state of Peace", e.g. having goodwiil with themselves:

Yes (Buddhadasa Conficts, here in one of his bestsellers), not only 2600 tradition but also the Buddhas teachings.

Just think how confused it is to think not being into existence and then wish well-being, metta, goodwill, to all other BEings...

Where would be a you if there is no I.

Metta meditation requires objects and it usually starts best with oneself, for one not having goodwill for oneself (given that oneself is most dear for everyone) is incapable to wish well-being for all others.

Buddhas way is for oneself and all others. Once one forgotten there will be a on going turn around.

As mentioned in an earlier question of on who answered here, (which was deleted): Buddhadasa was "a politican", call him philosoph or a favor doer for strong identification views (eg.: we, or nation...), another "Ghandhi",, far away from Path and abounding even low fetters, something especially lay teacher have adopted, which actually is nothing else as the Uposatha of the Jains, and of cause a good sell... eg. Dhamma-trade.

They get their disciple to undertake the following practice: 'Here, my good man. Lay down the rod with regard to beings who live more than 100 leagues to the east... more than 100 leagues to the west... more than 100 leagues to the north... more than 100 leagues to the south.' Thus they get the disciple to undertake kindness & sympathy to some beings, but not to others.

"On the Uposatha day, they get their disciple to undertake the following practice: 'Here, my good man. Having stripped off all your clothing, say this: "I am nothing by anything or of anything. Thus there is nothing by anything or of anything that is mine."' Yet in spite of that, his parents know of him that 'This is our child.'

So far as to the reason why some "smart" look for making points under the big mass of "enemy" outwardly seekers in the "ego-less" way, teaching "there is no self" and hold on huge houses.

So now one might wonder why such as the traditional line of thought to develope metta can not be directly found in the texts. One really practicing has such as goodwill for oneself as "drive", why practicing if having not? But since it easy happens that one seeks identification in outwardly "seeming" objects, falling into the other extreme, a good way is to also start balanced and focus on uprooting the real problem where it can be made and with a good reason not to get lost, "loosing" the base and ooze into anywhere, hard to find back on a base where things can be solved.

And if looking a little on how the famous sutta starts, one sees that it starts with goodwill for oneself:

Karaṇīyam'atthakusalena Yaŋ taŋ santaŋ padaŋ abhisamecca:

Sakko ujū ca sūjū ca, Suvaco cassa mudu anatimānī.

  1. He who is skilful in his welfare, And wishes to attain that state of Peace Should act thus:

He should be capable [of practice], Upright and very upright, Easy to instruct, gentle, and not arrogant.

If seeking for the dual approach on other places and how to best use the goodwill for each in best was (active on the base, releasing wishes to the world), the famouse bamboo lady inspired this:

Looking after oneself, one looks after others. Looking after others, one looks after oneself.

And how does one look after others by looking after oneself? By practicing (mindfulness), by developing (it), by doing (it) a lot. And how does one look after oneself by looking after others? By patience, by non-harming, by loving kindness, by caring (for others). (Thus) looking after oneself, one looks after others; and looking after others, one looks after oneself.

Again: Where does it start? What's the required drive to arrive?

Some short accounts on [From mettā Jhāna to nibbāna] and some deeper guidance on the development of the Brahma-Viharas one may find here.

Again, short and on the point, as a matter of karuna, and further will be up to you, leaving with metta and mudita.

Certain: "Sukhī attānaṃ pariharāmi May I look after myself with ease." is/would be wise :-) what do you think? Do not stay to much under confused and seek out for those who know and do/have done the job not just talk, as a matter of metta torward youself and with it for all others.

On "What view of things should a beginner follow, between these? Thanks in advance!": seek for people of integrity, a proper teacher., and if having found a proper teacher follow his/her advices, hold them higher as others and especially you own views. That is the meaning of refuge. There is much to learn and to understand, so strong association is very required if having goodwill for yourself, willing to let go.

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma, not meant for commercial use or other low trades and exchange for the world.]

  • You didnt quote the metta parts from sutta but from comentary. There is no may I be happy in any suttas. That is divisive. May all being be happy is inclusive of others and oneself and is found in suttas
    – user4878
    Commented Feb 3, 2018 at 15:56
  • What's the point, @UrsulRosu ? Suttas are quoted, commentars are quoted, and some words to possible get confusion into more simple. Maybe Ursula make "the metta parts" she talks about more traceable, so that possible corrections and additions can be added. As for 'Yes' in regard of the OP, aside of meaning, it holds. And yes, the fist lines are "just tradition", just follow the link. The other quotes following are Suttas origins. Commented Feb 3, 2018 at 16:06
  • "May I be happy" can you give the sutta for the quote?
    – user4878
    Commented Feb 3, 2018 at 16:08
  • How could my person? Did @UrsulRosu read all or just react on. Dhamma starts with "May I be 'happy', progresses and possible ends there. Can Ursula quote a "what can be found in the suttas" in the op qu.? "Do the Buddhadasa teachings conflict with traditional mettā practice? " Commented Feb 3, 2018 at 16:10
  • Sorry Samana Johann. I realized my reactions came because I am comparing myself with you and other people and I enter a foolish competition in my mind. It gives me something to think about. The need to better than other people because as a small child I was compared to others. Very good excuse from my behalf. I am tricky and cunning like hell. Self disparagement. Why do I self disparage ? Good question. I'm also self amused about what I write. Sorry.
    – user4878
    Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 21:11

Do the Buddhadasa teachings conflict with traditional mettā practice?

Yes, he did, because he is a unusually argumentative regard to commentary and abhidhamma. His quote is in visuddhimagga. So, he againt it.

What view of things should a beginner follow, between these?

The uneducated beginner should follow the traditional mettā practice, because it is easier to understand "what is mettā".

So in the path of purification, loving kindness meditation section, wrote:

when the practitioner doesn't know how to mettā, he should mettā to himself, before meditate mettā follow the tipitaka. "May I be happy, free from suffering hatred, difficulties, and troubles, and may I live in happiness!"

It is because the uneducated practitiner can easily notice giving-happiness-to-himself mind by this way. When he know what is mettā, then he can let the giving-happiness-to-the-others mind arise.

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