May the earth be wholesome everywhere
The world blessed with prosperity
May the poor and destitute find wealth
And the stooping animals be freed
May every being ailing with illness
Find relief at once from suffering
May all the sickness that afflict the living
Be instantly and permanently healed
May those who go in dread, have no more fear,
May captives be unchained and set free,
And may the weak now become strong,
May living beings help each other in kindness.
May travelers upon the road,
Find happiness no matter where they go,
And may they gain, without hardship,
The goals on which their hearts are set.
From the songs of birds and the sighing of trees,
From the shafts of light and from the sky itself,
May living beings, each and every one,
Perceive the constant sound of Dharma
It is customary in Buddhism and other traditions to dedicate the merit of our practice for the benefit of all beings. We ask to accomplish the twofold benefit – that our practice is for our own benefit and that of all sentient beings. All sentient beings can include humans, animals, plants, and beings in other realms. Dedicating merit offers our practice for the support of others, asking that the loving-kindness and compassion we have cultivated may be beneficial to all and at the same time, it helps our mind to remain firm in our dedication to transformation. The opening by Shantideva offers one a way to work with this. Although there are traditional ways to dedicate merit, you can explore finding the words that work for you.
Over the last week we have seen much suffering in our world. As we began our practice I shared that as we do May Is For Metta 2015, we are holding the intention of offering loving-kindness to the people of Nepal and the people of Baltimore as well as any other communities and individuals whom we may wish to support. Traditionally in Buddhism, merit is offered at the end of one’s practice. May Is For Metta is adapted from the Buddhist practice of Metta and incorporates heart-centered practices from other traditions as well. For many years now, I have had the practice of inviting an intention of benefit for myself and all those who are in need of support as I first begin my practice. Then, at the end of my practice each day I take a few moments to dedicate the merit of my practice to any specific individuals, groups or locations in the world that I am feeling to offer it on this day and ultimately for all beings without exception. You may wish to use the Shantideva prayer, you may wish to name those people or places you wish to support, or you may wish to simply wish to say something like this Metta prayer at the end of your practice:
Here is another brief way to offer this; and as we have discussed with choosing the phrases, feel free to find the language that feels best for you:
- May all beings have happiness and it’s cause.
- May all beings be free of suffering, joyous content and at ease.
- May all beings be balanced in equanimity towards one and all.
- May the merit of my practice be for my own benefit and for that of all sentient beings.
For today’s practice, we will continue working with the category of Benefactor/Mentor and conclude with dedicating the merit of our practice. Sometimes people have difficulty choosing whom to work with. I had suggested a practice yesterday to explore by working with the heart, but also it is good to just be open. The name Benefactor/Mentor connotes a certain type of person but we should not get caught up in the title. Remember, we say choose a being because in addition to a human being, it can be an animal or something you love in nature, a tree, a river, or the mountains. The essence of this category is that this being creates warmth in you and puts a smile on your face.
Sometimes, it is easier to practice for the Benefactor/Mentor than for ourselves; we may feel a sense of ease or pleasantness that arises as we practice for this being. Still, there are days when our practice will be more difficult than others. We may not feel connected to anyone; we may not be able to decide who to practice for or we may feel resistance to practicing altogether. This is the time to return the focus of the practice to yourself. It may even be a day when you need to just practice for yourself. That’s okay. As I shared yesterday, learning to respond to yourself with loving-kindness and compassion is at the heart of Metta. Part of that is allowing yourself to be where you are and embracing yourself with gentleness and acceptance.
Do your foundational practices. Begin by getting comfortable and settling in to your breath. Spend a few moments centering on your heart, recalling a moment you felt immersed in unconditional love or see yourself in the center of your circle of loving beings. Begin to send Metta to yourself by repeating the phrases you have been working with.
- May I be happy.
- May I be peaceful.
- May I be free of suffering.
- May I have ease of well-being.
If you feel strongly to continue with the Benefactor/Mentor you were working with, do so. If not, why not try to practice for an animal or something in nature that really nourishes and supports you, maybe even Mother Earth herself.
When you have chosen who or what being you will work with, invite an image to arise in your mind and let yourself feel what it feels like to be in the presence of that being. Allow yourself to enjoy the feeling of connecting with your Benefactor/Mentor in whatever way feels good to you. Remember, this being makes you feel warm inside. Begin by saying to yourself, “Just as I wish to be happy and free from suffering, may you be happy and free from suffering.” Then, begin repeating the phrases for your Benefactor/Mentor:
- May you be happy.
- May you be peaceful.
- May you be free of suffering.
- May you have ease of well-being.
If you notice your mind has wandered, return to the phrases and the image of your benefactor. Continue practicing for your Benefactor/Mentor for as long as you feel to or have committed to for your practice. Let the image of the Benefactor go and come back into your own heart center. Repeat to yourself just once:
- May I and all beings be happy.
- May I and all beings be peaceful.
- May I and all beings be free of suffering.
- May I and all beings have ease of well-being.
Daily Journal Reflection:
Take some time to reflect and journal about any experiences, feelings or awareness that arose during your practice or throughout the day today. Did you explore working with the Benefactor/Mentor in a different way? Are you remembering to return your practice to your self when you are having difficulty? Are you being gentle and loving with yourself as you practice and in your daily life? How do you feel about dedicating merit at the end of your practice?
Take a few moment as you finish to dedicate the merit of your practice in a way that feels best for you. If you already have a way you do this, you can just continue with it. May Is For Metta is meant to support or enhance your existing practices. Or, if this is a new concept for you, take some time over the next week or so to explore various ways to dedicate merit until you find one that feels good for you to continue with. Also, be sure to check out the “Extra Credit” below for another idea on this…
May your day be filled with happiness, love and equanimity.
P.S. If you are enjoying the practice and would like to connect with others doing, come join our May Is For Metta Facebook group. There’s lots of great sharing going on there!
This song written by American monk, Ven. Heng Sure carries the essence of dedicating merit as well as what the overall intention of our Metta practice is centered on. Hope you’ll take a few moments and listen. I’ve included the words below as well.
May every living being,
Our minds as one and radiant with light,
Share the fruits of peace
With hearts of goodness, luminous and bright.
If people hear and see,
How hands and hearts can find in giving, unity,
May their minds awake,
To Great Compassion, wisdom and to joy.
May kindness find reward,
May all who sorrow leave their grief and pain;
May this boundless light,
Break the darkness of their endless night.
Because our hearts are one,
This world of pain turns into Paradise,
May all become compassionate and wise,
May all become compassionate and wise.