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Lions Roar : July 2012
41 SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2012 evening of the third day, as he sat in meditation, he addressed the snake quietly in his mind. “Look,” he said, “it’s not that I don’t like you, but our minds work in different ways. It’d be very easy for there to be a misunderstanding between us. Now, there are plenty of places out in the woods where you can live without the uneasiness of living with me.” And as he sat there spreading thoughts of goodwill to the snake, the snake left. If Ajaan Fuang had shown overt love for the snake, trying to embrace it with intimacy, the snake would have attacked him. The simple attitude of goodwill was just right for the situation. And, when you stop to think about it, goodwill is right for all situations. The idea of expressing love for everyone sounds very noble and emotionally satisfying, but sometimes that is not the skillful thing to do. Many beings in the cosmos, like the snake, would react to your love with suspicion and fear; they’d rather be left alone. Others might try to take unfair advantage of your love, reading it as a sign either of your weakness or of your endorsement of whatever they want to do. In none of these cases would your love lead to anyone’s true happiness. This is why goodwill is so often the best place to start— wishing the other person well, but realizing that true happi- ness is something that each of us ultimately will have to find for ourselves. This attitude is borne out in passages from the Buddha’s discourses, in which he recommends phrases to hold in mind when developing thoughts of metta. These phrases provide his clearest guide not only to the emotional quality that under- lies goodwill, but also to an understanding of happiness that explains why it’s wise and realistic to develop goodwill for all. The first set of phrases comes in a passage where the Buddha recommends thoughts to counter ill will. These con- clude with the wish that all beings “look after themselves with ease.” In other words, you’re not saying that you’re going to be there for all beings all the time, because most beings would be happier knowing that they could depend on themselves rather than having to depend on you. PAINTINGS BY KAZUAKI TANAHASHI