The number one Buddhist meditation for compassion is the Loving Kindness meditation (Metta Bhavana meditation), a practice which was taught by Guatama Buddha more than 2500 years ago as a means of developing love and selflessness.
Loving Kindness Meditation is best practiced alongside Vipassana, walking meditation and Anapanasati. In Theravada, loving kindness is offered to all living things, while Tibetan Buddhists practice Loving Kindness to receive suffering and give love in return (Tibetan Loving Kindness meditation involved breathing in the suffering of other living beings while breathing out love to all).
Loving Kindness is used to heighten the four qualities of love, which are: Equanimity (Upekkha), Metta (Friendliness), Compassion (Caruna) and Joy (Mudita). Loving Kindness naturally leads to heightened levels of compassion as it teaches us to empathise with the suffering of others.
It is important while practicing Loving Kindness to not pity others. Pity lacks empathy. It is important in Buddhism that we develop genuine empathy for others.
Loving Kindness is not only about being compassionate for other people’s suffering but also valuing their joy, happiness and success. So it is that we need to approach from two directions: empathy for the suffering of others and appreciation and joy for their success.
Practicing Buddhist loving kindness meditaiton is the best way to develop compassion and love
Benefits of Buddhist Loving Kindness Meditation /Metta Bhavana Meditation
In Loving Kindness we recite certain words that help us to feel compassion for other people. Matthieu Ricard, a scientist and Buddhist monk, has stated that over his 40 000 hours of meditation he has learnt to develop more positive emotions in his mind and to limit negative emotions. In the Pali Canon (an ancient Buddhist text), it is said that Loving Kindness Meditaiton (Metta Bhavana) helps us to sleep well, to wake well, to avoid nightmares, to be closer to other people, to feel a sense of emotional protection, to feel closer to others and to develop concentration.
Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist and Director of the University of Waisman Center, conducted research involving fMRI scans of monks who had been meditating for many years. The research revealed that Loving Kindness has a profound impact on the brain as it significantly heightens our compassion for others. Loving Kindness was shown to heighten levels of joy, happiness and contentment. So it was scientifically proven that Loving Kindness makes people happier.
In order to glean these benefits of compassion it is important to practice the technique often. S.N. Goenka (a notable Vipassana teacher) advises that compassion be be practiced immediately after Vipassana or Anapana meditation. Goenka stated that once a meditator has achieved equanimity they are able to send Loving Kindness universally to all sentient beings.
As well as extending loving kindness to others it is important to extend it to ourselves as well. As Buddha said, “You, yourself, as much as anyone else, deserve your love and compassion.”
How to do Loving Kindness Meditation / Buddhist meditation for compassion
- Find a quiet spot where you will not be disturbed for 20 minutes
- Sit comfortably with good posture.
- Focus on your breathing for a few minutes
- You will perform the following procedure for many people, begin with yourself, then family, friends, acquaintances and finally people you do not get along with particularly well. For each of these people say “May [name of person] be free from suffering. May they have love, kindness and success. May they also have the strength to overcome any obstacles in life. I love [name of person]. I am one with [name of person]
- Repeat stage 4 for each person.
Practice this Loving Kindness Meditation each day to receive the benefits we have discussed above.