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When we say the phrase may I be healthy may I be free from suffering? Isn’t that kind of not accepting where we are if we are suffering or in pain or not healthy? Can someone help me understand what we’re trying to achieve by saying that?

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Maybe you got the wrong idea about metta.

Metta is loving kindness. This term metta has also been translated as benevolence, friendliness, amity, good will and universal love.

It's not about wishing only yourself to be happy and free of suffering. If you think only about your own happiness and not of all beings, then that's not metta at all.

Cultivating metta is about changing YOUR state of mind.

Loving kindness is about you changing your thoughts, emotions, intentions, attitude, outlook and conduct, in such a way that it radiates with benevolence and friendliness to all beings (including yourself). It is so that you become the true friend who wishes everyone, without discrimination, to be happy and at ease with themselves.

Loving kindness is a cure for one's ill will towards others (and presumably including yourself).

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Metta meditation

meditation is a Buddhist technique primarily used for relaxing the mind, such as Metta/Samatha, and developing skills that aid in understanding the nature of the universe and ourselves, like Vipassana.

Metta meditation mainly focuses on relaxing our mind and spreading kindness to ourselves and the entire universe. This meditation technique is helpful in reducing our hateful mindset and fostering a peaceful heart.

In this meditation, you wish for your well-being and the well-being of the entire universe. You wish for good health, relief from every problem faced, a happy life, and a relaxed mind for yourself and the whole universe.

Metta Meditation can generate powerful positive karma and relax our mind.

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It is not the purpose of Buddhism to accept suffering. The purpose of Buddhism is to overcome suffering.

While we can certainly accept suffering happens in life, the ultimate purpose of Buddhism is for an individual to end the suffering within their mind.

Even if acceptance is used as a coping strategy & as a means of gaining perspective, ultimately, the goal is to be free from suffering.

Even if acceptance of suffering may help overcome suffering, the ultimately goal remains to end suffering.

Generally, acceptance is used as a strategy when the suffering is overwhelming. But when the suffering is manageable, acceptance is not a tool of practice. Instead, when suffering is manageable, mindfulness, wisdom, calming, concentration & the other tools of Buddhism are used to end suffering.

I have not read the Buddha use any word that means "acceptance". "Acceptable" seems more of a Western word introduced into Buddhism. I suppose the closest word to "acceptance" the Buddha used may be "forbearance" or "patient endurance".

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  • Sadhu. Words from the heart.
    – Desmon
    Sep 19, 2023 at 8:53
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If we can agree that "acceptance" entails "enduring", then the following teaching may be of interest:

AN5.140:12.2: It’s when a mendicant endures cold, heat, hunger, and thirst; the touch of flies, mosquitoes, wind, sun, and reptiles; rude and unwelcome criticism; and puts up with physical pain—sharp, severe, acute, unpleasant, disagreeable, and life-threatening.

In this regard, it is also worthwhile noting that the same perspective is applied to "conventionally pleasant" perceptions:

AN5.139:23.1: And how is it that a mendicant can endure sights?
AN5.139:23.2: It’s when a mendicant, seeing a sight with their eyes, is not aroused by a desirable sight, so is able to still the mind.

From these two suttas, we can consider that freedom from suffering is the freedom from grasping at circumstance, be that painful or pleasant. It is freedom from the five grasping aggregates.

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As long as we are not enlightened, full acceptance of who and what we are can never be guaranteed. At times, this manifests itself in the form of disappointment, frustrations and ill will towards ourselves. Metta practice was originally taught by the Buddha to overcome such negativities towards ourselves and others.

To understand such negativities, we need to understand their origins i.e. desires that have been thwarted. When we have desires and expectations upon others or the world and they disappointed us, there will be feelings of anger, disappointment and frustrations. Similarly, if we failed to live up to our own expectations, we become disappointed, frustrated and possibly angry with ourselves. Such self-negativities are not necessary a bad thing if we used them appropriately to self-motivate, self-improve and adopt the right attitude. But they are subtle forms of sufferings and can be very harmful if not carefully managed. This is especially true when our negative feelings towards ourselves become so strong that we become depressed and self-destructive.

May we be happy, may we be free from suffering is a reminder to ourselves. Despite all the difficulties, our ultimate aim is to achieve happiness and well-being for ourselves. This is where the benefits of Metta meditation show. As our negative feelings towards ourselves reduce, our inner well-being improves. Likewise, as our negative feelings towards others reduce, our inner well-being too improves. So, don’t just stop at ourselves, practise Metta towards the world as well. The benefits grow, the more we spread it.

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