Monday, November 7, 2016

Thanissaro Bhikkhu's idea on the meaning/image of Mother in the Metta Sutta (bilingual)

Bài trước đã nói qua về ý nghĩa Tâm Từ. Một đoạn kinh Nam Phạn (Pali) đã gây khá nhiều phân vân, ý kiến khác nhau— của ngay cả các nhà sư, học giả đọc, dịch tiếng Pali. Hôm nay ghi lại đây ý kiến của tỳ khưu Thanissaro ( Ajaan Geoff) . Theo ông, nên hiểu ý nghĩa, hình ảnh, ví dụ Mẹ trong đoạn văn 

                            Mātā yathā niyaṃ puttaṃ
                            āyusā ekaputtam anurakkhe
                            Evam pi sabbabhūtesu
                            mānasam bhāvaye aparimāṇaṃ

           tạm dịch

                        [Như bà mẹ với đứa con trai của mình
                        Bảo vệ đứa con duy nhất ấy bằng chính mạng sống
                        Cũng thế với tất cả chúng sinh
                        Hãy mở (Từ) tâm rộng khắp ]

như sự nuôi dưỡng/ đào luyện (cultivate) tâm Từ như một "goodwill" [ thiện chí/thiện ý mong điều lành cho chúng sinh ], chứ không phải mang ý xây đắp/nuôi dưỡng lòng yêu thương như một người mẹ đối với con, dễ gây ngộ nhận. Tuy nhiên, ông cũng nói : hai tâm ý đó cũng có khi có những chỗ giao nhau.

Sometimes, when reading the sutras, sastras of Buddhism, at difficult junction, we need to think hard, research diligently to understand thoroughly the meaning of the words, the messages, the images, or contents. One of those instances is a paragraph in the Metta Sutta ( Sutra on Caring-Kindness/Goodwill, which used to be translated not-so-well-thought as Sutra on Loving-Kindness) :

                              Mātā yathā niyaṃ puttaṃ
                              āyusā ekaputtam anurakkhe
                              Evam pi sabbabhūtesu
                              mānasam bhāvaye aparimāṇaṃ

normally translated as :

                                    Just as a mother would protect her
                                    only child at the risk of her own life,
                                    even so let him cultivate a boundless heart
                                    towards all beings.

                                                          (by Mahathera Dhamananda) 

Here is how Thanissaro Bhikkhu explains his understanding of the meaning of the word, image and example of Mother in the passage:

“But as I learned from Ajaan Fuang’s encounter with the snake, metta is not necessarily an attitude of lovingkindness. It’s more an attitude of goodwill— wishing the other person well, but realizing that true happiness is something that each of us ultimately will have to find for him or herself, and sometimes most easily when we go our separate ways.
This understanding of metta is borne out in the Pali Canon, first of all in the word itself. The Pali language has another word for love—pema—whereas metta
is  related to the word mitta, or friend. Universal metta is friendliness for all. The fact that this friendliness equates with goodwill is shown in the four passages in the Canon where the Buddha recommends phrases to hold in mind when developing thoughts of metta. These phrases provide his clearest guide not only to the emotional quality that underlies metta, but also to the understanding of happiness that explains why it’s wise and realistic to develop metta for all.”

Some people misread this passage—in fact, many translators have mistranslated it—thinking that the Buddha is telling us to cherish all living beings the same way a mother would cherish her only child. But that’s not what he’s actually saying. To begin with, he doesn’t mention the word “cherish” at all. And instead of drawing a parallel between protecting your only child and protecting other beings, he draws the parallel between protecting the child and protecting your goodwill. This fits in with his other teachings in the Canon.


This doesn’t mean that lovingkindness is never an appropriate expression of goodwill."

(Metta Means Goodwill-T B)

I agree with Thanissaro Bhikkhu more than with others, and believe his interpretation is more correct. It is also congruent with the principal meaning in explanations from Theras Narada and Dhammananda

Tâm Nguyên


English Translation

(This is a fairly literal translation by Jayarava)

This is what ought to be done by one skilled in the good
Having understood the path to peace
Able, straight forward and straight up,
polite, they should be mild and not arrogant
Contented and frugal,
with few responsibilities and easy going,
grounded, and not impulsive;
not chasing status
And not doing the slightest thing
which is denounced by the Wise in others
May they have happiness and peace;
May all beings be happy in themselves
Whatever living beings there are
fearful or fearless – without remainder
Huge, large,
medium, small. Fine or coarse.
Seen or unseen,
Remote or living nearby,
Born or seeking birth:
May all beings be happy in themselves
Not humiliating,or despising
anyone anywhere
Though anger or experiencing repugnance:
[they] should not wish suffering for another.
Like a mother’s own child,
[she will] protect that only child with her life
Thus for all beings should
the heart become infinite
And friendliness for all the world,
[should] the heart become infinite
In all the directions of space,
unobstructed, peaceable, without enmity
Standing, walking, sitting
or lying down, As far as possible without sluggishness
This mindfulness should be undertaken;
[It is like] dwelling with god here and now
Not falling into views,
ethical and with perfect vision
Having given up greed for sensory pleasures,
freed without doubt from birth.


1. Ed Conze translated Maitri  ( Sanskrit) , or "Metta" in Pali, as Unlimited Friendliness. This was agreed, "confirmed" as the first principal meaning of "metta" in the Pali-English dictionary of the Pali Text society.

2. Friendliness trong trường hợp này thì dịch 'tối ưu' là : sự thân thiện, thân mật, thân ái



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