May all beings, all breathing things, all creatures,
all individuals, all personalities,
may all females, all males,
all noble ones (saints),
all worldlings (those yet to attain sainthood),
all devas (deities), all humans,
all those in the four woeful planes,
be free from enmity and dangers,
be free from mental suffering,
be free from physical suffering,
may they take care of themselves happily.
May all beings be free from suffering.
May whatever they have gained not be lost.
All beings are the owners of their own Karma.
I have been noticing lately that in the morning, when I offer the wish for the welfare of all beings, it is very hard to hold onto the mind that insists on being in opposition to the world and to others. In this, I recognize that one of the things that connects me to all beings, is that we all have to contend with the problem of the greed, hatred and delusion – the three poisons – that arises in our own individual minds. I have to contend with these three poisons in my own life just as each person reading this (and those who aren’t reading this, for that matter) has to contend with these three poisons; it is true that there is a great variety in how much each individual is entangled with the three poisons, but they are there for each of us.
The matter of the three poisons being a problem for each of us, leaves no room for pity or condescension in the offering of loving-kindness. There is no sense of “I am offering this loving-kindness to the poor benighted ignorant masses from my great benevolence.” We are all in the same boat, and it helps all of us, me included, to bring a thought of unconditional loving-kindness to my day to day interactions.
The verse above comes from a work called the “Chant of Metta” by Imee Ooi. (The full text is available at Chant of Metta Text and you can hear the whole chant at Chant of Metta video. It is quite lovely.) I am not sure how this particular chant might be used traditionally, but there are some things I like about it. The first is that it does a pretty great job of including everyone and everything.
The second is that line “All beings are the owners of their own karma.” I hear this line as an expression of respect, among other things; it is respect for each being’s ability to make choices and receive the consequences for their choices. I am the owner of my own choices and consequences and it is for me to take responsibility (or not) for that as I will. For myself, I have learned, pretty much the hard way, that it works out best for me if I do my best to make my choices in accord with the Buddhadharma. But I know and respect that that is not what others want to do in their lives. All beings are the owners of their own karma.
The practice of offering loving-kindness and respect, of not being in opposition, does not inherently impede any particular action we might take in the world or in our lives. It might be the case that in our efforts to practice loving-kindness we come to a place where we have a sense that a particular action would not be wise or it would not, in the long run, be helpful, but this is different from prohibiting an action.
There is a story of an old monk who noticed that deer started to hang around his temple. He took to chasing them off by running after them and shouting; when asked about this, he said that he was concerned that the deer would get too used to people and become vulnerable to local hunters. In the context of honestly looking at what our minds are doing, and bringing the offering of loving-kindness to our minds, many things are possible.