Bhante Gunaratana was ordained as a Buddhist monk at the age of 12 in Malandeniya, Sri Lanka. He is the author of The Four Foundations of Mindfulness in Plain English, Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness, and several other books. He travels and teaches throughout the world and lives at Bhavann Society Forest Monastery in West Virginia.
In his well-done resource, he sees "loving-friendliness" as a major component of Buddhist practice. When we lavish this natural faculty on all beings, we exude generosity and warm fellow-feeling. The author quotes Joseph Goldstein who says, "Metta (the Pali word for loving-friendliness) does not make distinctions among beings. It embraces all; there is no one who falls outside its domain."
How is this practice nourished, and what stifles it in our daily lives?
Gunaratana points out that mindfulness meditation and relaxation help nurture this seed within us. On the other hand, loving-friendliness is hindered in its expression by rigid thoughts, judgments, and negativity.
Being kind to others follows naturally from cultivating love for ourselves.
The Buddha listed eleven benefits derived from practicing metta including one's mind becomes calm immediately, neither fire nor poison nor weapon affect one, one becomes affectionate to human beings and non-human beings, one sleeps well, and one dies without confusion.
Gunaratana expands his exploration of loving-friendliness with top-notch chapters on communities of metta, stories about the practice, its relationship to ecology, and the challenges of listening, speaking, and working with metta. In summary, the author writes:
"It's the ultimate underlying principle behind all wholesome thoughts, words, and deeds. Metta transcends barriers of religion, culture, geography, language, and nationality. Loving-friendliness is the reliable path to peace, to warm connection. It is a universal and ancient law that binds all of us together. We need it in order to live and work together harmoniously."