EXAMINING TRUE BENEVOLENT AFFECT




Let us begin with the famous Karaniya Metta Sutta.

The Discourse on Benevolent Affect

1. "He who is skilled in well being, and who wishes to attain that state of Calm (Nibbana) should act thus: he should be dexterous, upright, exceedingly upright, obedient, gentle, and humble.

2. "Contented, easily supportable, with but few responsibilities, of simple livelihood, controlled in the senses, prudent, courteous, and not hanker after association with families.

3. "Let him not perform the slightest wrong for which wise men may rebuke him. (Let thoughts rise:) 'May all beings be happy and safe. May they have happy minds.'

4.and 5. "Whatever living beings there may be -- feeble or strong (or the seekers and the attained) long, stout, or of medium size, short, small, large, those seen or those unseen, those dwelling far or near, those who are born as well as those yet to be born -- may all beings have happy minds.

6. "Let him not deceive another nor despise anyone anywhere. In anger or ill will let him not wish another ill.

7. "Just as a mother would protect her only child with her life even so let one cultivate a boundless love towards all beings.

8. "Let him radiate boundless love towards the entire world -- above, below, and across -- unhindered, without ill will, without enmity.

9. "Standing, walking, sitting or reclining, as long as he is awake, let him develop this mindfulness. This, they say, is 'Noble Living' here.

10. "Not falling into wrong views -- being virtuous, endowed with insight, lust in the senses discarded -- verily never again will he return to conceive in a womb."


It is clear enough what Buddha’s view was, for several narratives in the Pali Canon show that the disciples were always urged to conduct themselves with benevolent affect, particularly in return for abuse.

It is this sutra that is most often quoted with respect to the theme of benevolent affect, but there are others that show that Buddha was well aware of its importance.

However, it is true that his reference was suffering, and thus most sutras were directed at the elimination of ill will in oneself and how to deal with the ill will of others.

As a person whose psychological base was aversion, it is quite natural that Buddha would have been well aware of the karmic dangers of hostility and aversion and that that subject would be paramount. As a practical person who lived in the real world, he saw that ill will was one of the major problems that causes much suffering to the innocent and that tumbles like a snowball down a hill, getting larger and larger if something is not done to stop it.

The solution is Benevolent Attitude, directed without personal selfishness towards others, projected as correct intention, transformed into speech and action (which can effectively be non-action). It is then a non-selfish affect which is a far distance from the mundane Love to which we cling, as potential receivers and hedonistic givers.


Mundane Benevolence and Benevolent Affect

We must now consider a subtle difference that exists between benevolent affect and merely giving what is directed by the mind with hedonistic self-interest or by custom. 

Such apparent generosity is certainly beneficial for those in need, but it is quite different from a gift in which the giver’s mind is directed with good will. That is why, in Buddhism, we distinguish between “mundane socially learned benevolence”, which is the act of Identity generosity on one hand, and “benevolent affect”, which is benevolence generated with the clear intention that that person be correctly glad on the other. This point we see in the Samyutta Nikaya XX.4, as Buddha speaks to his monks while at Savatthi.

Samyutta Nikaya XX.4

Okkha Sutta

 

"Monks, if someone were to give a gift of one hundred serving dishes [of food] in the morning, one hundred at mid-day, and one hundred in the evening; and another person were to develop a mind of good-will -- even for the time it takes to pull on a cow's udder -- in the morning, again at mid-day, and again in the evening, this [the second action] would be more fruitful than that [the first].

"Thus you should train yourselves: 'Our release of awareness through good-will will be cultivated, developed, pursued, given a means of transport, given a grounding, steadied, consolidated, and well-undertaken. That's how you should train yourselves."

 

Mundane karma is relative to actions committed with correct intentions, that have direct consequences in this world. It is true that a benevolent act made by someone without benevolent affect may receive equal karmic reward on the surface, but true benevolent affect carries a more profound karmic return. This karmic return should not be sought; nevertheless it exists as an unasked for karmic boon.

 

This karmic boon is the inner strength of natural goodness that develops as a consequence of action with the presence of benevolent affect. It is a “goodness for goodness' sake” not a “goodness for god’s sake”. It generates strength of the mind and is the strongest defense against the attacks of Mara’s Identities. We see that point made in the short but pointed Samyutta Nikaya XX.5.

 

Note that benevolent love, when put into practice, is still better fortified with the presence of equanimity that reinforces the attitudes that generate correct intentions.

 

Samyutta Nikaya XX.5

Satti Sutta

 

"Monks, suppose there were a sharp-bladed spear, and a man were to come along saying, 'With my hand or fist I will bend back this sharp-bladed spear, fold it in two, and roll it up.' What do you think? Would that man be able with his hand or fist to bend back that sharp-bladed spear, fold it in two, and roll it up?"

 

"No, lord. Why is that? Because a sharp-bladed spear isn't easy to bend back, fold in two, or roll up. The man would simply reap his share of trouble and vexation."

"In the same way, monks, when a monk's release of awareness through good-will is cultivated, developed, pursued, given a means of transport, given a grounding, steadied, consolidated, and well-undertaken, any non-human being who would think of possessing that monk's mind would simply reap his share of trouble and vexation.

 

"Thus you should train yourselves: 'Our release of awareness through good-will will be cultivated, developed, pursued, given a means of transport, given a grounding, steadied, consolidated, and well-undertaken. That's how you should train yourselves."

 

In the short Anguttara Nikaya XI.16, called the "Good Will Sutra", the benefits of benevolent affect are given. That ‘neither fire, poison, nor weapons can touch one’ may be doubted, but often these phrases cannot be taken literally. In this case, this phrase means that goodwill can open the hearts of those who would do you harm.


While Love, that pretends at times to be other-directed, brings a mundane love and benefits in return, the Benevolent Affect has quite differet consequences.


Anguttara Nikaya XI.16

"Monks, for one whose release of awareness through good will is cultivated, developed, pursued, given a means of transport, given a grounding, steadied, consolidated, and well-undertaken, eleven benefits can be expected. Which eleven?

"One sleeps easily, wakes easily, dreams no evil dreams. 

"One is dear to human beings, dear to non-human beings.

"The devas protect one. Neither fire, poison, nor weapons can touch one. 

"One's mind gains concentration quickly.

"One's complexion is bright. One dies unconfused and -- if penetrating no higher is   headed for the Brahma worlds.

"These are the eleven benefits that can be expected for one whose release of awareness through good will is cultivated, developed, pursued, given a means of transport, given a grounding, steadied, consolidated, and well-undertaken."


            True Benevolent Affect resists Fire, Poison, and Weapons

In the Middle Length Sayings, Ven. Punna relates that he desired to live in a remote province called Sunaparanta, which was notorious for its cruelty and violence. When Buddha asked Punna how he would respond if the residents of that place reviled, abused and assaulted him, his reply shows the true concept of Buddha Dharma  thought that rejects violence and insists on the same passive resistance that Mahatma Ghandi showed in India.

It is true that Ghandi’s sort of passive resistance was effective against the British because of their strange sense of justice. In different circumstances, Ghandi would have been immediately executed and his followers annihilated and dumped into mass graves.

We can say then that in the majority of civilized countries, eventually, after much sacrifice and sometimes loss of life, passive resistance wins out. However, where there is no sense whatsoever of justice and compassion, passive resistance will probably not result in the hoped for benefits.

But there is something deeper at stake here than simple pacifism, which is really an intellectual position. Perhaps the Ven. Punna makes it clearer when he shows his deep commitment to non-violence. 


                                Samyutta Nikaya XXXV.88


                                   The Punnavada Sutra

Then Ven. Punna went to the Blessed One and on arrival, having bowed down to the Blessed One, sat to one side. Sitting there he said to Gotama Buddha,

"It would be good if the Blessed One would teach me the Dhamma in brief so that, having heard the Dhamma from the Blessed One, I might dwell alone in seclusion: heedful, ardent, and resolute."

After having instructed Punna, Buddha asks the following question:

"Well then, Punna. Now that I have instructed you with a brief instruction, in which country are you going to live?"

"Lord, there is a country called Sunaparanta. I am going to live there."

"Punna, the Sunaparanta people are fierce. They are rough. If they insult and ridicule you, what will you think?"

"If they insult and ridicule me, I will think, 'These Sunaparanta people are civilized, very civilized, in that they don't hit me with their hands.' That is what I will think, O Blessed One. That is what I will think, O One Well-gone."

"But if they hit you with their hands, what will you think?"

"...I will think, 'These Sunaparanta people are civilized, very civilized, in that they don't hit me with a clod.'..."

"But if they hit you with a clod...?"

"...I will think, 'These Sunaparanta people are civilized, very civilized, in that they don't hit me with a stick.'..."

"But if they hit you with a stick...?"

"...I will think, 'These Sunaparanta people are civilized, very civilized, in that they don't hit me with a knife.'..."

"But if they hit you with a knife...?"

"...I will think, 'These Sunaparanta people are civilized, very civilized, in that they don't take my life with a sharp knife.'..."

"But if they take your life with a sharp knife...?"

"If they take my life with a sharp knife, I will think, 'There are disciples of the Blessed One who -- horrified, humiliated, and disgusted by the body and by life -- have sought for an assassin, but here I have met my assassin without searching for him.' That is what I will think, O Blessed One. That is what I will think, O One Well-gone."

"Good, Punna, very good. Possessing such calm and self-control you are fit to dwell among the Sunaparantans. Now it is time to do as you see fit."

Then Ven. Punna, delighting and rejoicing in the Blessed One's words, rising from his seat, bowed down to the Blessed One and left, keeping him on his right side.

Setting his dwelling in order and taking his robe and bowl, he set out for the Sunaparanta country and, after wandering stage by stage, he arrived there. There he lived. During that Rains retreat he established 500 male and 500 female lay followers in the practice, while he realized the three knowledges and then attained total (final) Unbinding.

Then a large number of monks went to the Blessed One and on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As they were sitting there, they said to him, "Lord, the clansman named Punna, whom the Blessed One instructed with a brief instruction, has died. What is his destination? What is his future state?"

"Monks, the clansman Punna was wise. He practiced the Dhamma in accordance with the Dhamma and did not pester me with issues related to the Dhamma. The clansman Punna is totally unbound."


Here we see too, in passing, Buddha’s clear stance against questions and discussions that were not directly related to existence here on this earth in this life. Only when faced with learned scholars who were his opponents did he discuss such issues.

Throughout all our study of the early sutras we find that Buddha directed his attention towards the ills of the world and the elimination of those ills. Thus the positive qualities were always discussed as a means either to acquire relief from suffering or to destroy incorrect attitudes, intentions and actions.

This was a consequence of his basic inherited characteristic of aversion that had been conquered. However his basic state, that of a critical leader, remained and dictated his way of teaching. Those who see beyond appearances see both the strength and the compassion within.

In this modern age, there is much talk about compassion and benevolence. Fine words are spoken with compassion and benevolence at center stage, but more often than not, this is not the compassion or the benevolence that Buddha spoke of.

When one looks deeply into the center of the rhetoric, we see that no matter how loudly (or how softly) one claims the Bodhisattva state, the essence of Buddhism, which is beyond the words, is not understood. Compassion and benevolence arise when intentions and actions are pure and unrelated to rhetoric or the mind, being generated by the essence of the human creature.


While this noble position shows a true benevolent affect which is not the mundane love of religions which is both mental and emotional, it brings to mind an important question: 

      How does one deal with Anger and hatred in ones self, provoked by Identity?

 Furthermore: 

               Is there no place then in Buddha Dharma for Justice?

Is there no retribution against those who harm others apart from their own Karma, which is simply to continue with the thorns of their own folly.


Dhammapada verse 223:

Hatred should be conquered by non-hatred. Unrighteousness should be
conquered by righteousness. Miserliness should be conquered by generosity. 
A person who speaks untruth should be conquered by truth.

A further question then arises. Clearly Benevolent Affect promotes giving. But that giving cannot ever be "blind" nor motivated by the sense of "I am giving and I am therefore truly with Benevolent Affect."

                   So what does the Dharma say with repect to Giving?