Sangharakshita, the founder of the Triratna Buddhist Order and Triratna Buddhist Community, is asked by Ratnaguna in this video from (I think) 1991 why some of us have difficulties feeling kindness towards ourselves, and what we can do about it.
Here’s a transcript of the video below.
Ratnaguna: I think it would be true to say that most people find the mindfulness of
breathing the easier of the two meditation practices [mindfulness of breathing and lovingkindness meditation] and some people I think go so far as to say they they just can’t do the metta bhavana [lovingkindness meditation] — it’s too difficult. What would you say to people who say that?
Sangharakshita: I think people say this for various reasons, so it’s difficult to generalize and also it’s difficult to given an answer that will be applicable to all cases.
I think a lot of people when they try to to develop feelings of goodwill towards other living beings are a bit too forceful about it — and I won’t say wilful, because that word has perhaps been overused, not to say abused. They they’re a bit too forceful, let us say. They don’t do it in a sufficiently relaxed sort of way.
I think the secret is to to look at your relations to people, to things, to animals, and just to ask yourself, well, where do you have positive feelings? Where do you feel good will? Take that as a starting point, and remind yourself that, yes, you are capable of feeling goodwill. And in as much as you do experience goodwill towards this person or that creature. You’re able to develop it towards a greater number of people, a greater number of creatures. You are able to eventually even universalize it.
Ratnaguna: I think of the five stages of, the metta bhavana, the one that people find the most difficult is the first stage — the development of loving kindness towards oneself — and they often say that they be able to do the metta bhavana if it wasn’t for the first stage. And they quite often miss the first stage out. Do you think that’s advisable?
Sangharakshita: Well, if one has really insuperable difficulty in developing goodwill towards oneself, but can experience at least some goodwill towards others, then concentrate on the goodwill towards others for the time being. But you mustn’t give up on yourself, as it were. You must nonetheless, sooner or later, come back to developing feelings of goodwill towards yourself.
Very often people are unable or find it very difficult to develop goodwill towards themselves because they’ve been brought up with the the idea, or they’ve somehow acquired the idea, that they’re unworthy — that they don’t deserve affection or goodwill. They may even feel, in specifically Christian terms, that they’re sinners — even miserable sinners — and not deserving of anything like goodwill. Perhaps they don’t like themselves. Perhaps they don’t — I’m not going to say “accept” themselves — again this is a term that has become overused. But in some ways they’re unduly critical of themselves, and they have to let up a bit.
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