Metta Bhavana

Last Updated: January 1, 2018

Definition - What does Metta Bhavana mean?

Metta bhavana is the Buddhist meditative practice of cultivating loving-kindness toward all sentient beings. From Sanskrit, metta means “love,” “kindness” or “friendliness” and bhavana means “cultivation.”

In addition to being a Buddhist practice, Patanjali, the composer of the Yoga Sutras, emphasized the importance of fostering the quality of loving-kindness. This powerful meditative practice can help to overcome hurt, bitterness and anger toward others, as well as developing self-love. Yoga practitioners wishing to incorporate metta bhavana into their spiritual practice often pair this meditation with heart-opening asanas.

Yogapedia explains Metta Bhavana

Metta bhavana has five stages and strives to grow the emotion of loving-kindness, transforming the yogi over time to care and promote harmony for all. For a beginner, each stage should be practiced for about five minutes.

  • Stage 1: A yogi has metta toward him/herself and becomes aware of feelings of peace while meditating. Many choose to repeat a loving phrase or well-wish for themselves in this stage, using it for the remainder of the practice.
  • Stage 2: The yogi now thinks of a close friend and his/her good qualities, repeating a loving phrase or well-wish for the friend.
  • Stage 3: The yogi repeats the process in Stage 2 for a person they have neutral feelings toward. For example, someone they may not know personally or do not like or dislike yet.
  • Stage 4: The yogi now repeats the process in Stage 2 again, but for a person they dislike. For example, someone whom they consider an enemy, someone who hurt them, or someone they harbor resentment toward.
  • Stage 5: Finally, the yogi thinks of all the four people together and then, while still repeating a loving phrase or well-wish, extends these feelings of loving-kindness to all people and things.
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