Sunday, July 18, 2021

Metta, Tonglen, and the World Today

Ephesians 2:11-22

Remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision” —a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands— remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.


So there is much that could be said about this reading in relationship to current events.  The trouble in the middle east continues to this day.  The trouble in the United States also continues as well.  Elsewhere in the world war and conflict continue.  Churches have conflict, most recently over LGBTQ+ rights.  But I remember in the 70’s this struggle being over women’s rights.  I remember the first female priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland serving her transitional deaconate in my home parish.  I remember hearing her preach and feeling the doors opening for me.  I remember being the first female head acolyte in my parish in my senior year of high school.  I remember what it felt - and at time still feels -  like to be on the outside.

But the above question begs the now trivialized question, “What would Jesus do?” I contend his answer is no different then the answer Buddha would give.  Both lead with loving kindness and acceptance of all. The Buddha taught the Metta Meditation which is a meditation on loving kindness that many in yoga lead and do on a regular basis.  I found this recently written article by Jack Kornfield that explains this well:

“How to Do Metta by Jack Kornfield| June 15, 2021

Jack Kornfield on beginning this time-honored, heart-opening practice.

In our culture, people find it difficult to direct loving-kindness to themselves. We may feel that we are unworthy, or that it’s egotistical, or that we shouldn’t be happy when other people are suffering. So rather than start loving-kindness practice with ourselves, which is traditional, I find it more helpful to start with those we most naturally love and care about. One of the beautiful principles of compassion and loving-kindness practices is that we start where it works, where it’s easiest. We open our heart in the most natural way, then direct our loving-kindness little by little to the areas where it’s more difficult.

First, sit comfortably and at ease, with your eyes closed. Sense yourself seated here in this mystery of human life. Take your seat halfway between heaven and Earth, as the Buddha did, then bring a kind attention to yourself. Feel your body seated and your breath breathing naturally.

Think of someone you care about and love a lot. Then let natural phrases of good wishes for them come into your mind and heart. Some of the traditional ones are, “May you be safe and protected,” “May you be healthy and strong,” and “May you be truly happy.”

Then picture a second person you care about and express the same good wishes and intentions toward them.

Next, imagine that these two people whom you love are offering you their loving-kindness. Picture how they look at you with concern and love as they say, “May you too be safe and protected. May you be healthy and strong. May you be truly happy.”

Take in their good wishes. Now turn them toward yourself. Sometimes people place their hand on their heart or their body as they repeat the phrases: “May I be safe and protected. May I be healthy and strong. May I be truly happy.”

With the same care let your eyes open, look around the room, and offer your loving-kindness to everyone around you. Feel how great it is to spread the field of loving-kindness.

Now think of yourself as a beacon, spreading the light of loving-kindness like a lighthouse around your city, around the country, around the world, even to distant planets. Think, “May all beings far and near, all beings young and old, beings in every direction, be held in great loving-kindness. May they be safe and protected. May they be healthy and strong. May they be truly happy.”

The Buddha said that the awakened heart of loving-kindness and freedom is our birthright as human beings. “If these things were not possible,” he said, “I would not teach them. But because they are possible for you, I offer these teachings of the dharma of awakening.””

There is a form of mediation that takes this a step further called Tonglen. Buddhist Monk Pema Chodron recently described it this way, “Tonglen practice, also known as “taking and sending,” reverses our usual logic of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure. In tonglen practice, we visualize taking in the pain of others with every in-breath and sending out whatever will benefit them on the out-breath. In the process, we become liberated from age- old patterns of selfishness. We begin to feel love for both ourselves and others; we begin to take care of ourselves and others… You can do tonglen for people you consider to be your enemies—those who hurt you or hurt others. Do tonglen for them, thinking of them as having the same confusion and stuckness as your friend or yourself. Breathe in their pain and send them relief.”

We humans have a lot of work to do. We may not all agree but leading with compassion and understanding is a great place to start.  Even if we solved all of the current issues in the world more would present themselves.  This cycle and self-reflection never really end.  With meditation, prayer, and scripture reading hopefully we, or I, can find a way to a better, more compassionate future.


Image from:


No comments:

Post a Comment