Sabbe sattā sukhi hontu is a Pali phrase meaning “May all beings be well (or happy)”.
It’s not, properly speaking, a mantra, but is a chant that is used in exactly the same way as a mantra.
Unlike most mantras, it has a definite grammatical meaning.
Sabbe = all
Sattā (or sattaa) = beings
Sukhi = happy, well
Hontu = may they be
The chant has an attractive tune, and it’s lovely to chant this at the end of a period of the metta bhavana (development of lovingkindness) practice. It makes a beautiful group chant as well.
Outside of formal meditation, you can chant this mantra while walking, driving, or while engaged in any other such activity. It can help if you keep your attention centered on your heart, and also if you imagine that light is flowing from your heart and touching other people.
There are many other Pali chants that are similar and that are also closely related to the practice of lovingkindness, yet none seem to be as common as sabbe satta sukhi hontu, which really expresses the essence of lovingkindness.
Click below to listen to an MP3 version:
Sabbe satta sukhi hontu is the key of the development of lovingkindness and compassion. Although most religions teach us to love our neighbors and even our enemies, it’s often hard to know exactly how to do that. Buddhism, being a very practical tradition, offers a number of practices, including the development of lovingkindness (metta bhavana), and the development of compassion (karuna bhavana) meditations. Each of these practices helps us to develop a healthier and more loving relationship to oneself and others.
Metta is often translated as love as well as lovingkindness, and the essence of love in this sense is that we recognize that all beings, just like us, wish to experience happiness and do not wish to experience suffering. Metta is an empathetic sense of caring for others’ wellebing. It’s for that reason that sabbe satta sukhi hontu (“may all beings be happy”) is considered to express the heart of the lovingkindness practice.
In cultivating lovingkindness we commonly repeat phrases such as “May all beings be well; May all beings be happy; May all beings be free from suffering.” The accumulated effect of those words, when they are mindfully repeated, is to create a genuine sense of caring.