Quote from Aṅguttara Nikāya 4.125 Paṭhamamettāsutta:
Firstly, a person meditates spreading a heart full of love [...]
If they abide in that, are committed to it, and meditate on it often without losing it, when they die they’re reborn in the company of the gods of Brahmā’s Host. The lifespan of the gods of Brahma’s Host is one eon. An ordinary person stays there until the lifespan of those gods is spent, then they go to hell or the animal realm or the ghost realm. But a disciple of the Buddha stays there until the lifespan of those gods is spent, then they’re extinguished in that very life. This is the difference between an educated noble disciple and an uneducated ordinary person, that is, when there is a place of rebirth.
Why would an ordinary person, a worlding (puthujjano), go to hell after a lot of metta? I cannot believe this. My first guess was that this is probably meant to be a possibility, meaning lots of metta will not 100% prevent descending to lower realms forever. However, as I cannot read Pali, I compared other translations to modern languages, but none of them suggests the possibility. Instead they all seem to agree (at least by their grammar) on this direct chain of results:
(a lot of) Metta -> gods realm -> one of the lower realms
for a householder, at least. Disciples are better off. Grammatically, I fail to see any room left for interpretation as a possibility.
I must be misunderstanding something with this sutta. What is it? Wording, context, translatation, missing background?
Thanks for the answers so far. I understand your interpretation and I sympathize with it. But it seems I missed some explanation. Please let me try to clarify my question:
A puthujjano is one who has not overcome the ten fetters. If, with a lot of metta, such a person is reborn as deva in Brahma realm, then - according to my understanding of the words of this sutte - this person will be reborn to the lower realms. The text doesn't say the worldling "can go", or "could go", or "will go, if something else". The sutta, literally, states: "metta .. worldling ... brahma realm ... then hell".
This is against my intuition, which is that a worldling, after lots of metta, can be reborn as deva but still end up in a lower realm later for some reasons, e.g. if only concentration is highly developed, or for other karmic reasons. But the sutta does not suggest this result as possibility, only, but as direct result.
I would assume that the next rebirth could be elsewhere, too, if karma it favorable, if mindfulness, equanimity, whatever needed, have been developed. But the sutta does not mention any other factor, except: worldling (will go to hell) or disciple (will go to cessation).
My question is about the words of this sutta. Why do they go against this intuition. Blind guesses: Is it a translation error? Is Pali lacking forms like subjunctive, so pure possibility can't be expressed? Is this sutta a later addition to the canon? Did I miss context?