Zen priest Liên Shutt teaches a short meditation to foster compassion for beings in search of refuge.
Many people think Buddhism is about getting rid of desire. Really, our main focus is on promoting non-harming in the world. We look at how we can alleviate suffering.
Given the social climate of the world today, people often ask, “How do I know when to meditate and when to take action?”
I first met my teacher, Zenkei Blanche Hartman, during a Martin Luther King Day march many years ago. She died last year. In the later years of her teaching, she was very focused on the Buddhist practice of metta. Metta means “loving-kindness” or “goodwill,” and it’s a practice that helps us to access the qualities of groundedness and non-harming in the service of compassion.
Classically, we recite four phrases in metta practice. However, as a child, I lived through the war in Vietnam. As a result, a sense of home and safety is very important to me, so I’ve added a line referencing safety, based on tradition teachings on compassion, or the wish to alleviate suffering.
The five phases are:
May I be filled with loving-kindness [or goodwill, or unconditional friendliness].
May I be well.
May I have inner and outer safety.
May I have peace and ease.
May I be happy.
These are all things that everyone in the world is looking for, and should have as a human right.
For this specific theme, we’ll recite these phrases in three categories of practice: for yourself, for refugees, and for all beings.
If we understand these phrases for ourselves first, it makes it easier to be able to offer them to others. So start by visualizing yourself, and repeat these phrases:
May I be filled with loving-kindness.
May I be well.
May I have inner and outer safety all the days of my life.
May I be peaceful and at ease.
Let me be happy all the days of my life.
Take a deep breath and bring it in. Know it to be true.
Now, visualize a refugee — a specific person or a group of people. Allow yourself to believe in these aspirations, as though they are gifts you are actually giving this person.
Repeat these phrases:
May this refugee be filled with unconditional kindness.
May they have good health.
May they have inner and outer safety all the days of their lives.
May they be peaceful and at ease.
Let them know happiness today and always.
Now visualize all beings and repeat these phrases:
May all beings, including myself, be filled with loving-kindness.
May we all know good health all the days of our lives.
Let us know that inner and outer safety is our right in all the days of our lives.
May we all be peaceful and at ease.
May all being in all directions and all times be happy all the days of their lives.
When you inhale, know these qualities to be right and true. And when you exhale, send unconditional sincerity to all beings.
From this grounded and connected place, may you be able to bring these intentions into your actions, “off the cushion,” for the benefit of all beings.
Thank you for your practice.