I’ve been taking some time lately to study Buddhist philosophy a little more deeply.
That said, I almost decided not to write about it here. This blog is a place for me to document my journey as a writer, not as a Buddhist, but in a class I was in this week, the instructor invited us to try and memorize the Metta Sutta. It’s a poem of sorts, on lovingkindness (“metta” is a word in the long-dead language of the Buddha that translates roughly into “lovingkindness”).
“Don’t worry,” my teacher said, “it’s just a short one.”
I quickly realized that the concept of “short” in the mind of someone who has been a monk and spent days, if not months, studying the Buddhist texts is very different from the mind of someone who can’t remember her own daughter’s phone number. I mean, who memorizes anything anymore?
Here’s the “short” poem:
The Metta Sutta
This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech,
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied,
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm and wise and skillful,
Not proud or demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
Wishing: In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born—
May all beings be at ease!
Let none deceive another,
Or despise any being in any state.
Let none through anger or ill-will
Wish harm upon another.
Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will.
Whether standing or walking, seated or lying down
Free from drowsiness,
One should sustain this recollection.
This is said to be the sublime abiding.
By not holding to fixed views,
The pure-hearted one, having clarity of vision,
Being freed from all sense desires,
Is not born again into this world.
I actually love memorizing poems, and the few times that I’ve done it, I always notice new things in the lines as I repeat them. Of course, I’ve never tried to memorize such a long poem. Wait- that’s not true. I just remembered that in sixth grade I memorized the poem Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too by Shel Silverstein. That’s actually a pretty long poem. So there’s precedent. I can do this.
Wish me luck.