Sympathetic Joy
Wrapping Up



Lovingkindness [metta]

7 of 11
Seeing the good in another metta's proximate cause

The proximate cause of a brahma-vihara is its nearest arising condition, the likeliest springboard for something else to arise. A proximate cause for metta is seeing the goodness in someone. When the proximate cause of metta is present, lovingkindness arises.

If we focus on, fixate on, obsess about the problem with somebody — problems we perceive in their behavior or problems we have with them — then naturally we’re going to want to recoil. We'll feel a sense of distance from them, along with, perhaps, anger or fear.

But if we can find just one good thing about them, even if it’s a little quality, in a sea of difficulty, the recommendation is that we actually pay some attention to that good quality.

Do you focus on the faults of others —the harms done, or imagined, by others? Reflect on how this affects you. Now, having reflected on the disadvantages of fixating on the faults of others, consider the idea of "If I can find just one good thing about them..." Do you still find yourself resisting this?

We don't look at the good in order to enter some fog of delusion, to be walking around saying ‘everything’s fine, aren’t they wonderful’, even if they’re not at all.

There’s a kind of bridge that’s built when we look at the good. We don’t feel completely defensive; we don’t feel completely alienated. We can, in a sense, from the vantage point of feeling a connection, look directly and honestly at the difficulty. It’s not that we pretend it’s not there, but we’re not looking at it from this huge gulf as though we were not connected to this person at all. So it’s said that we look for the good.

Looking for the good also applies to how we view ourselves.

Consider this example and see if you can find a similar experience for yourself:

All beings want happiness — another proximate cause

The are times when we just can’t see the good in others. Perhaps it does not feel real. We know it's just not going to happen – whether we’re talking about ourselves or we’re talking about somebody else.

Can you relate to this feeling?

Rather then trying to force yourself to feel something you can't, you can reflect that all beings everywhere want to be happy. Everyone just wants to be happy. The problem really is our ignorance. Often we don’t have a clue where happiness is to be found, so we continually do the things that create so much pain and suffering for ourselves and for others.