Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied.
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm, and wise and skilful,
Not proud or demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
In my life I've met people who just seem to naturally fulfil this description. I remember a girl I knew in high school who was as mild and joyful as could be. She was a committed Christian. I was always so impressed with her gentle nature, and compared myself to her and felt inferior, wondered why she wanted to be friends with me. Last I heard she was working as a physical therapist in Baltimore. I wonder how she's doing now.
These days there's a lady at work who has similar qualities. She is mild and gentle with others, soft-spoken, calm in her approach to everything. She has a beautiful smile. I've noticed that in the three years I've worked with her, she does not seem to have bought a new garment. She takes care of her possessions and seems to see no need to buy more. I have observed her quietness when other people in the staff room indulge in gossip or criticism of others. Her carefully blank but gentle expression at these times seems to me to mean that she disapproves but also understands the reasons behind these words. She seems so compassionate. Her hobby is to take photography of local natural beauty, and I am always amazed that she can go to some very unlovely places and find the most beautiful details to photograph. At a garbage dump, she will photograph an extreme close-up of a flowering weed with a butterfly lighting on it. She notices these details, and every year she uses a computer to produce calendars of these images. I'm always so surprised to read the location in the caption under the photos. Who knew there could be beauty in some of those places?
I think my favourite phrase from this section of the Metta Sutta is 'Contented and easily satisfied, unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.' People really are happier when they keep things simple. We tend to spend too much time and effort, in the western world, getting and spending. It's not a new thought, it's common to all world religions, and yet this notion of living a simple life seems to slip right past our radar. I'm not talking about feeling guilty for buying a book or a DVD or new shirt, I'm talking about the focus of your life becoming cars, houses, closets stuffed with clothes and STUFF, STUFF, STUFF lying around everywhere and overflowing into the garage. For myself, my life is so much simpler than it used to be. I used to own two houses, a car, I had credit card debt, I was on anti-depressants, I was trying very, very hard to be a good Christian (I had a fish on my car and everything). It was not working for me. Now I live in a rented flat, I don't own a car and don't intend to. I have no debt. Financially I have no assets and no liabilities. That may make my financial situation a big fat zero--or maybe it's a big fat enso?? All I know is, I am happy now and I wasn't then.
It's not just the material things, either. Being 'contented and easily satisfied' can also mean to just let up on yourself and others. Why put all this pressure on yourself to meet some arbitrary expectation? Why expect things from others, and then be disappointed when they fail to meet them? Most of the 'duties' we feel burdened by are imaginary things we've assigned to ourselves. We can unburden ourselves from these duties--we can let go of control of the universe! To be 'frugal in our ways' can mean much more than keeping within a budget. We can be frugal in our approach to daily life, frugal in our emotional responses to things, frugal in the way we speak, frugal in our actions. Are there people in your life who have been examples of metta? Think about them today. Send them your gratitude.
May we all recognise our own awakened nature, and fully master the ways of practice.
May all beings be at ease.