Metta and The Serenity Prayer

August 18, 2008

I’ve recently added metta to my list of spiritual practices. Metta is the Buddhist practice of silently repeating blessings for oneself, others, and all sentient beings – blessings such as:

  • May I be at peace
  • May I have joy

One starts metta focusing on oneself.  Next one substitutes “you” for “I” and moves to a person one cares for, then a neutral person, and then a person with whom one has difficulty.  Finally the statements are said for all sentient beings: 

  • May all sentient beings be at peace.
  • May all sentiaent being have joy.

Buddhists do not consider these statements to be prayers  They are said with the intention of opening one’s own heart to lovingkindness.

Many different statements are used for metta.  One that I have seen says, “May I accept things as they are.”  Taken literally, one might refuse to give food to a starving person because one is trying to accept things as they are.  This would be the opposite of the aim of metta.

I recall the prayer of Reinhold Niebuhr, commonly called the “Serenity Prayer.”:

God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

This prayer could become four statements for metta:

  • May I have serenity
  • May I accept what I cannot change
  • May I have the strength to change what should be changed
  • May I have wisdom guiding my actions.

When I practice metta, I allow five minutes for each area of focus: self, friend, neutral person, difficult person, and all sentient beings – for a total of twenty-five minutes of meditation.

2 Responses to “Metta and The Serenity Prayer”

  1. […] the Serenity Prayer By sunfiresblog Last August I posted an article that quoted Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer. This prayer begins, “God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be […]

  2. […] and focused act of unconditional love.”  Buddhists understood this when they created the metta (lovingkindness) meditation.  AlixSandra’s emphasis on blessing led me to post “A Meditation of Blessing” on […]

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