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5

Virtue - The First Theme

2 of 5


This is to be done by one skilled in aims
Who wants to break through to the state of peace
Be capable, upright, & straightforward,
Easy to instruct, gentle, & not conceited,

Content & easy to support,
with few duties, living lightly,
With peaceful faculties, masterful, modest, & no greed for supporters.

Do not do the slightest thing
that the wise would later censure.

As you see here, the sutta's themes do not necessarily correlate with full stanzas of the poem. The first theme — virtue or morality — runs from the opening verse through the first half of the third verse.

Virtue (sila) is said to lay down a solid ethical foundation upon which the development of the mind can become established. The first two lines teach that this ethical base is both a strategy for attaining the goal of awakening, as well as an expression of the quality of one’s character. It is taken for granted that all beings aspire toward their own welfare, and this sutta is intended to help people achieve this aim by learning what wholesome qualities of character to skillfully develop.

All that follows in the Metta Sutta is a series of descriptions of how a wise and skillful person, or a person who wishes to progress toward the goal, would hold themselves in the world. A list of specific virtues — gentle, not conceited, modest, etc. — is presented, followed by a general statement ("Do not do...") summing up all the other virtues not specified.