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5

Concentration - The Second Theme

3 of 5

Think: Happy & secure,
may all beings be happy at heart.

Whatever beings there may be,
weak or strong, without exception,
Long, large, middling, short,
subtle, blatant,

Seen & unseen, near & far,
Born & seeking birth:
May all being be happy
at heart.

Let no one deceive another
or despise anyone anywhere,
Or through anger or
irritation wish for another to suffer.

Half way through the third verse, the voice changes to reflect a transition to a meditation practice. Imperative verbs ("May they be...") and direct speech ("Let no one...") are used to guide intention in the present moment to the generation of loving kindness or good will. While the virtues in the first theme are discussed conceptually ("Be capable, upright..."), from a distance, here the language is immediate and points directly to cultivating the state of wishing well for all beings. This aligns the poem with the actual practice of metta bhavana, or loving kindness meditation and these phrases can be taken as guiding that meditation practice.

The generation of intention is central to the practice of loving kindness meditation, where it plays the role of shaping the quality of the mind in the present moment. Rather than thinking about something, or remembering or planning, one engages in this very moment the quality of mind that wishes well to others. Hence we are moving from general virtue to specific meditation, to the deliberate cultivation of certain mind moments and the intentional holding of a particular object in mind. Here the object of the mind is the thought of all beings, while the quality of mind cultivated in regard to this object is the intention or wish that all beings be happy and secure.

Notice that in the 6th verse the verb form shifts from a positive imperative of the last two verses (“May they be…”) to a negative optative in this verse (“One should not be…”). This shift indicates that we have left the mode of direct speech and are now describing some of the guidelines of effective or wholesome action. 

Metta and loving-kindness meditation are taught in Liberating the Heart:The Brahma-Viharas, an Ashoka course by Sharon Salzberg.