One of the most popular chants is the Karaniya Metta Sutta. It gives us wonderfully explicit instructions on how to develop loving kindness and radiate it to all of the world. The beginning portion gives a list of 14 qualities of the heart-mind that need to be cultivated if we aspire to being skilled in goodness and wish to walk the path of peace.
In the most common English translation the “Amravarti translation” that is usually chanted in English speaking monasteries, the one that starts “This is what should be done …” one of the 14 qualities is left out.
Perhaps because some of the old translations would not have been well received in our culture at that time.
The word is “mudu”. In translations by Sayadaw U Pandita, Bhante Gunaratana and Piyadassi Thero, it is translated as “obedient”. Hmm I can’t see that going down too well with most modern westerners! And yet, Mahasi Sayadaw transates it as “gentle” and the PTS Dictionary as “flexible”. Thanissaro Bhikku translates it as “soft and pliant”. Rahula translates it as “compliant”, Ñānamoli as “meek”, Dhammayut as “easy to instruct” and Khantipalo as”easy to speak to”.
Bringing together all of these words into a constellation of meaning, a bigger picture emerges. Of a mind willing to change. A heart that allows itself to change and be moulded into a new way of being. A Pliant receptivity. Not resisting or obstructing. An ability to receive instruction that runs counter to the usual way of thinking, being, feeling.
This is not at all easy! The more confident we are of how we exist in the world now, the harder it is to let go of the old habits of mind. The more attached we are to our current dramas and identity, the harder it is to allow the teachers’ instructions to take root and grow in our hearts.
If we want to become a being shining with love and compassion and goodness, we have to allow ourselves to change from what we are now to what we aspire to become.
And what about loving ourselves as we are now? About being content with the present moment?
Surely we can love ourselves now and yet acknowledging the reality of change, plant the seeds in the beautiful present moment for the development and cultivation of the qualities we admire and aspire to bring to fruition.