Curative action of meditation on loving kindness
- C. Boange
Meditation could generally be described as a method by which the Mind could be cultivated or developed. Just as the physical body of a being could be cultivated, for example, by consuming wholesome food and proper exercise, the mind too could be cultivated with beneficial results by certain techniques which are set out in the SATIPATTANA SUTRA.
Faring far, wandering alone
The mind has been described in the Dhammapada (stanza 37) – translation by Ven. Narada as « Faring far, wandering alone, bodiless and resting in a cave in the mind. Those who subdue it are freed from the bonds of Mara. » Thereafter, stanza 42 states « Whatever (harm) a foe may do to a foe, or a hater to a hater, an ill-directed mind can do one far « greater harm ». Thus it appears from the above stanzas that the mind has a tendency to wander at Will, and also has the capacity to do harm, if not properly directed and controlled. Now, those characteristics of the mind could be observed and experienced by oneself, without the aid of any other person or thing.
As stated in the first stanza cited above, the Mind which is imperceptible and Immaterial (unlike the body with which it arises at birth) has the capacity to travel far and wide unless it is controlled e.g. A person who has been abroad and presently driving a car, could see a place or thing similar to something he had seen abroad; whereupon his mind, if not properly controlled, could begin to recollect all those memories and incidents connected with that place or thing and get absorbed in a reverie, and if the vehicle in front suddenly brakes or stalls, or if a child suddenly jumps across the road, an accident could occur, as the mind had wandered far away from the present moment of action, viz Driving.
The second stanza sets out the harm that could be done by an ill-directed mind. Here, it is necessary to consider the first and second stanzas of the Dhammapada viz. (1) Mind is the forerunner of (all evil) states; mind is chief; mind made are they.
As the wheel follows the hoof of the draught-ox
If one speaks or acts with a wicked mind, because of that suffering follows as the wheel follows the hoof of the draught-ox. For example, if there are two persons vying for a position, and one begins to sense defeat and forms an intention to eliminate his opponent by employing hired assassins, and the deed is accordingly done, and subsequently the assassins are apprehended and they confess to the crime and implicate the hirer, then the hirer could be burdened with an ignominious trail, involving incarceration, expenditure, ill-fame etc. and it convicted, punishment and loss of office.
Now, this train of events originated from an ill-directed Mind, as it was in the Mind that those thoughts and ideas originated which were subsequently put into action.
Thus, if the mind is not properly reined in by virtue, then misery and untold hardship would inevitably follow. Even if one by some chance, escapes the ill-effects in this life, it would surface at some point in the future and cause suffering. Conversely, if one speaks or acts with a wholesome mind, because of that, happiness follows one even as one’s shadow never leaves. For example, philanthropists invariably receive the encomiums of the public quite apart from the mental satisfaction and happiness they obtain themselves, and furthermore a happy destination after death.
An ill-directed mind
In the aforesaid stanza No. 42, it states that an ill-directed mind would cause a person greater harm than even an enemy, and could be interpreted in the sense that, an enemy would cause harm only in this life, but the ill-directed mind could cause untold suffering even in successive lives; like appearance in the hell, quite apart from the ill-effects that could accrue in the present existence.
Then one has to consider the possible internal harm that could be done by an ill-directed mind. For example, when a person gets angry, a change in the facial expressions and the complexion could be observed, and internally a rise in the pulse-rate and heart-beat, blood pressure and secretion of hormones could occur, thus altering the balance of the elements in the body. Even though the exact internal reactions could be explained by medical science, even to the person concerned internal changes would become perceptible, like rapid heart-beat, sweating, shivering etc. Now these conditions, which are unwholesome could spring from the root cause of Dosa or Hatred, would have an effect on the physical body as stated above and also on the internal organs as well, as both the mind and body arise and function together. At this juncture it would be necessary to refer to the process of Dependent Arising, which is the core of Buddhist philosophy.
Maha Nidana Sutta in the Digha Nikaya
When considering the process of Dependent Arising, the working of which is explained (among other Suttas) in the Maha Nidana Sutta in the Digha Nikaya, Nama Rupa – (mentality and materiality) together with consciousness (vinnana) are continually arising and ceasing.
The Nama Rupa and Vinnana, having simultaneously arisen in the New Existence, The Nama with which consciousness is inextricably merged begins to condition Rupa (form) and Physical action henceforth, as stated in the first two stanzas of the Dhammapada, all good and evil states are activated by the Mind.
In these circumstances, the moment an evil or unwholesome mental state originates in the mind, the rupa or materiality that arises with that state of mind will invariably be tainted and unwholesome, which in turn could lead to ill health, either physically or mentally. In this connection, the states of mind that are based on dosa or hatred have the greatest potency to cause ill health. As pointed out earlier, when anger or hatred arises, ostensible changes in a person’s appearance could be seen. The other two unwholesome roots i.e. Lobha (greed) and Moha (delusion) too could be contributory factors in the advent of illness.
In these circumstances, therefore, when persons are affected by illness, especially the graver ones caused by bad Karma (Action) the practice of meditation based on loving kindness (Metta) would be of immense benefit in the elimination of the illness.
Once the person concerned begins to generate the thoughts of loving kindness from his mind, the physical states that arise within the being would also acquire a wholesome complexion, thus gradually replacing the unwholesome bodily states which had earlier sprung up from unwholesome roots. Thus there is every possibility of the illness or disease being gradually purged out of the person’s body.
In practicing Metta, one should start with oneself and gradually and mindfully purge one’s mind of hatred (dosa) and cultivate loving kindness (metta) in the Mind and then resolve that it spreads through the entire body.
Practice at least three times a day
After suffering ones body with these thoughts for about 10 to 15 minutes, one should thereafter radiate these thoughts to all beings, irrespective of whether they are friends, relatives, foes and all beings seen and unseen, for about the aforesaid length of time. This practice should be done at least three times a day, and whenever a thought of hatred springs up in the mind, one should note it and consider it unwholesome and injurious to oneself, and thereafter expel it from the Mind.
It should be noted that there are various reasons for illness like previous Kammic activity, disturbances of the elements within the body, change of seasons, airborne infections etc, and those illness would in all probability subside with the cessation of the causative conditions.
Whereas those ailments produced as a result of previous unwholesome activity, would not be so easily eradicated and the person concerned would have to counteract the bad effects by one’s present positive and wholesome acts.
The process of Dependent Arising
For example, if a person had continued to harbor hatred against another over a period of time, such thoughts which originated in the mind could also have tainted the bodily elements of that being with which they had continually arisen in terms of the process of Dependent Arising.
Thus in course of time a part of the body or organ could have got diseased causing a serious ailment. But by adopting a wholesome frame of mind continuously, a process of reversal would be set in motion and the illness could be cured in course of time, as the physical body too, like the Mind, is in a state of Arising and Ceasing, in terms of the said process i.e. dependent arising.
It should also be borne in mind that if the present malady is the result of some weighty Kamma (action) and that the lifespan of the present assistance is at an end, the practice of Metta would ensure birth in a good destination as stated in the Karaneeya Metta Sutta.
Therefore the practice of Metta would in either eventuality, be not in Vain. The daily and mindful recitation of the Karaneeya Metta Sutta (Hymn of Universal Love) too would be beneficial for one’s well-being.
May all beings be happy!