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Side effects of Practicing Metta Bhavana

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  • Side effects of Practicing Metta Bhavana

    Dear Ajahn Brahmali,

    I have heard that practicing Metta Bhavana has the side-effect of increasing lust. So how do we come to know the amount of metta we should practice till it becomes a problem?
    Also is there a reference in the suttas which states this problem. I believe Ajahn Chah made this statement "If you practice too much metta, you end up making babies"

    With Metta

  • #2
    Dear Abhishek,

    Yes, I think there is something to this. I would suggest what happens is as follow: because mettā practice makes you relax and feel good about yourself, you become less judgmental of yourself and therefore less controlling. Whereas previously you may have held back lustful thoughts (whether consciously or unconsciously), you now allow yourself to indulge. So even though it may seem as if your defilements are increasing, it is just that you are feeling more at ease and have more goodwill towards yourself. Although it may seem otherwise, you are actually going in the right direction. Paradoxically, even anger can appear to increase after mettā practice. Because may be less on your guard and you are less inclined to control your anger, given the right circumstances, anger may come up more strongly than you are used to. But it is not really that lust or anger are increasing, just that you are relaxing your defenses against them.

    In the long run, mettā will certainly counteract anger, but also to some extent lust. You are shifting your main source of happiness from one area to another, and therefore lust becomes less important. Remember that anger is a much more serious problem than lust. So if you are dealing with the anger, you are doing what is more important. Of course, if the lust is a real problem because it makes you do the wrong sorts of things, you have to find ways of counteracting it too. Essentially you have to see that lust leads to suffering. Firstly, it does so through being the condition that drives you to do unwholesome things, such as adultery. Even if this is just a potential problem right now, you can be quite certain that the potential will eventually be realized. Secondly, just consider the unpleasantness of the the lust itself. The craving involved is very far from the beautiful state of peace. In general, recognizing the suffering aspect of lust is one of the best ways in helping you to turn away from it. But as will all development of the mind, it takes time and commitment to make these practices work.

    There is no specific reference in the suttas to this, which probably shows that it was considered a relatively minor thing by the Buddha. And yes, I have also heard that Ajahn Chah made such a statement. I suspect it was meant as a reminder not to do the practice wrongly, rather than as an exhortation not to do mettā at all.

    With mettā.

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    • #3
      Thank You for the response, Ajahn Brahmali. That was some really deep stuff.

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