Posted by: Upāsaka Subhavi | 04/03/2011

A New Take on a Mother’s Love – Karaniya Metta Sutta

Happy uposatha everyone! I have been listening to a brief Dhamma talk by Thanissaro Bhikkhu on the subject of metta and encountered an interpretation that I have never heard before. This is all the more surprising to me as I often chant the Karaniya Metta Sutta and have read several commentaries and line-by-line analyses of it. Anyway the talk in question may be found at the following and the comment occurs at approximately 3:54:

http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/110309%20Metta%20Means%20Goodwill.mp3

The verses in question are the following (taken from Ven. Thanissaro’s translation):

As a mother would risk her life
to protect her child, her only child,
even so should one cultivate a limitless heart
with regard to all beings.

In short, Ven. Thanissaro claims that the passage that makes the analogy of a mother risking her life to protect that of her child is really referring to the way in which we should protect and cultivate our own attitude of metta not (as I have always assumed) the attitude to be taken towards all beings.  This certainly changes the way in which one conceptualizes the practice and (to my mind at least) would seem to completely strip the Karaniya Metta Sutta of any Mahayanic pretensions.  I have deep respect and admiration for Thanissaro Bhikkhu which is why I am inclined to believe in the veracity of his claim but I am not so humble nor confident that I will not question it.  Anyway, I would be interested to hear if anyone has encountered this reading anywhere else and general thoughts on the matter. Metta.


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