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  1. Does metta mean that we should not ignore people?

  2. Is it possible to forcefully and assertively tell people their wrong doings? What about scolding?

  3. My reservation: If one always remains kind it's likely that people will do whatever they want with you which will result in more problems or not stating one's concerns sufficiently

  • Why (in what situations) would you want to tell people "forcefully" (and is "forceful" really a good description for speech, what does it mean, or do you mean something related but slightly different like angry, intimidating, persuasive, loud)? And why would "stating one's concerns sufficiently" be difficult without "remaining kind"? This question might be clearer if it were more specific and personal (i.e. why are you asking, what problem[s] are you facing), otherwise answers might be general but irrelevant to your concern.. – ChrisW Aug 8 '18 at 11:03
  • My question can be generalized since metta in Buddhism is also generalized and should applied in any situation. If for example somone treats us (repeatedly) wrongly and does not want to stop. Wouldn't assertive speaking to him be more effective? Human are emotional beings and they usually change if you forcefully and again repeatedly tell them a new way of behaving. Or let us take life threatening situations or child abuse.. How is kindness helpful in these instances? – Val Aug 8 '18 at 11:14
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Human are emotional beings and they usually change if you forcefully and again repeatedly tell them a new way of behaving.

People can also be (or learn to be) bullies -- and unless you are able and willing to be the biggest bully on the block, I suggest that trying to persuade people using "force" is the wrong way to go about it.

To be honest, i.e. to avoid concealing a fact that appears to contradict my thesis, the suttas describe the Buddha has having a "lion's roar" ... and being like a bull among men ... but,

  • Perhaps (I'm not sure) that's not relevant to use of force -- for example:

    The Pali Commentaries explain that there are two kinds of lion's roar: that of the Buddha himself and that of his disciples. The former is sounded when the Buddha extols his own attainments or proclaims the potency of the doctrine he has realized; the latter, when accomplished disciples testify to their own achievement of the final goal, the fruit of arahantship.

  • See also Did the Buddha ever 'thunder' during a Fire Sermon?

  • The Buddha can be trusted to know when what and how is appropriate -- for example:

    In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, but unendearing & disagreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them.

What about scolding?

I don't know (exactly what "scolding" is), according to the dictionary it's "an angry rebuke or reprimand".

So that seems to get into the question of whether and when anger is appropriate.

There was a topic What is a wrathful Buddha? from Vajrayana where an answer describes that as being like a parent pretending to be angry with their children in order to protect them -- and/or transmuting the energy of anger in a skillful way.

I'm not convinced that everyone is able to be so skillful, though; I think of anger as associated with a loss of skill (like a regression to one's infancy), and generally something to steer clear of. The Dhammapada:

Na hi verena verani
sammantidha kudacanam
averena ca sammanti
esa dhammo sanantano.

  1. Hatred is, indeed, never appeased by hatred in this world. It is appeased only by loving-kindness. This is an ancient law.

Another possibility might be that "scolding" implies telling someone something repeatedly or endlessly. I'm not sure that's effective though -- if it were effective, ought you need to repeat it?

Or let us take life threatening situations

I think you might go to the police, or the courts, or use physical force yourself (though this may not have been true everywhere, my personal experience of police leaves me admiring their ability to arrest a person "with overwhelming force" and yet still "without violence" -- like you might restrain a young child near something dangerous).

Or consider a drug addict, for example, asking you to help them to continue their habit. I think you'd be within your rights to reply, "No, I won't. It's not good for you." (though I'm sympathetic to the fact that people do help addicts).

And I think that when you say "No" like that it doesn't have to be forceful (though it may need to be repeated), nor unkind -- the kinder the better, in my opinion. The kindness may be an even more important part of the message than the "no" (the "no" closing a door but the kindness opening one).


There's also an expression that I thought might be relevant -- i.e., "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog" -- that might help to explain how larger people can be bullied by smaller.

My experience of dogs tells me that's superficially true, e.g. that to deter a cowardly dog attacking a smaller dog, I may to need to be loud and explosive i.e. bark and not remain silent myself: to show it that I have a bigger bark than it does -- that there is (contrary to first appearances) a 'big dog' in me (or "in the fight"), i.e. that I'm the bigger dog.

Among humans, though, it may be more a matter of perseverance than intensity -- unless you can (and are willing to) sustain anger for hours, days, years, you may lose an anger-based competition -- anger is unreliable as a motive (but may fuel your opponent's opposition).

And so, I don't recommend it, I think it's the wrong avenue to pursue or to set off on.

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Does metta mean that we should not ignore people?

Metta is loving kindness or the wish for others to be happy. If you can ignore people while maintaining the wish for them to be happy, then there is no contradiction. Introspect and see if this is possible. To be clear, I'm not saying it is or isn't. You should investigate yourself and see.

Is it possible to forcefully and assertively tell people their wrong doings? What about scolding?

Can you be forceful with people and assertive while wishing them nothing but happiness? Again, introspect and see! If you can do this, then there is no contradiction whatsoever.

My reservation: If one always remains kind it's likely that people will do whatever they want with you which will result in more problems or not stating one's concerns sufficiently

It is not about acting kind. What matters is what is in your mind and in your heart. If you can maintain a mind of calm and a heart full of nothing but the wish for them to be happy, then whatever you do will be motivated by loving kindness. Is it possible to be forceful and assertive towards another being motivated with nothing but the wish for them to be happy? Again, introspect and find out. Is it possible right now for you? Is it possible that if you keep training your mind in metta that it could become possible for you? These are good questions to experiment with :)

  • +1 "Find out for yourself" usually seems to me an unsatisfactory, insufficient answer; and yet I like this answer. – ChrisW Aug 8 '18 at 15:20
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When you do metta, simply concentrate on sending good wishes to people. I use mantras for this purpose. They are very effective and practical. By singing mantras of loving kidness (e.g. "May all human beings be happy!") you build up positive impressions of loving kindess in your mind and slowly transform.

You don't need to concetrate on ingoring people because this just distracts you from metta. Bad people will gradually go away. This is one of the benefits of doing metta, that fire (mening anger or angy people) will not touch you (read Mettanisamsa Sutta for the list of full benefits).

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Does metta mean that we should not ignore people?

In my opinion metta and ignoring people or not are two different things altogether. They don't relate at all. You can abide in metta and still ignore people. Ignoring people doesn't mean that you no longer have a 'metta-mind'.

Is it possible to forcefully and assertively tell people their wrong doings? What about scolding?

One can be assertive. That again doesn't mean that one has no metta.

My reservation: If one always remains kind it's likely that people will do whatever they want with you which will result in more problems or not stating one's concerns sufficiently

I think that a better translation of metta is well wishing instead of loving kindness. I did a metta retreat this year with a nun and she spoke of well wishing as a better translation. To me it makes more sense indeed.

If you work with well wishing as translation for metta you'll see that it's not a problem to be assertive towards other people, that you could even scold (the Buddha did), that it doesn't mean that you let other people walk all over you. It just means that you don't wish harm for other people.

Reacting with "I wish you break your neck" if someone hurts you, is not metta for instance. Reacting with metta in this situation would be to walk away, give yourself room, distance, safety. Make a wish for yourself to not give rise to anger, fear or whatever. You can also make a wish for the other person: "May (s)he be able to let go of this/that behaviour."

As the nun told me it's important to take care of one's own safety. That's also part of metta practice. You don't have to wish another person happiness. I tried that with one person of the 'enemy category'. Guess what, it doesn't work. It felt insincere. But, as she told me, that's not necessary. I wished him: "May he be able to live his life skilfully." According to her that was metta, it was well wishing.

I'm not sure I'm making sense. (Hope you understand what I want to convey; English is not my first language.)

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    Indeed, I also try not to globally judge them as being bad rotten and also try to wish them all best, since all human beings have to face vicissitudes like loss of others, sickness, aging, death, mental suffering etc. – Val Aug 9 '18 at 14:22

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