The Metta Sutta is a discourse of ten verses from the Sutta Nipata and is one of the most popular and well-known of all the Buddha’s discourses. In it the Buddha describes some of the characteristics of love, which include being humble, contented, easy to speak to and skilful in doing good.
He also says that love should be expressed to all sentient beings without exception - ‘the seen and the unseen, those dwelling near or far’ (Sn.147). One of the Buddha’s most famous sayings; ‘As a mother would protect her only child even at the risk of her own life, develop a love like this to all beings’ is from the Metta Sutta (Sn.149). In countries like Sri Lanka many people know the Metta Sutta by heart and chant it in the belief that its calming and confidence-giving effect offers them protection.
Sutta Nipata 1.8
What should be done by one skillful in good So as to gain the State of Peace is this:
Let him be able, and upright and straight, Easy to speak to, gentle, and not proud, Contented too, supported easily, With few tasks, and living very lightly; His faculties serene, prudent, and modest, Unswayed by the emotions of the clans; And let him never do the slightest thing That other wise men might hold blamable.
(And let him think:) "In safety and in bliss May creatures all be of a blissful heart. Whatever breathing beings there may be. No matter whether they are frail or firm, With none excepted, be they long or big Or middle-sized, or be they short or small Or thick, as well as those seen or unseen, Or whether they are dwelling far or near, Existing or yet seeking to exist. May creatures all be of a blissful heart. Let no one work another one's undoing Or even slight him at all anywhere: And never let them wish each other ill Through provocation or resentful thought." And just as might a mother with her life Protect the son that was her only child, So let him then for every living thing Maintain unbounded consciousness in being;
And let him too with love for all the world Maintain unbounded consciousness in being Above, below, and all round in between, Untroubled, with no enemy or foe. And while he stands or walks or while he sits Or while he lies down, free from drowsiness, Let him resolve upon this mindfulness: This is Divine Abiding here, they say.
But when he has no trafficking with views, Is virtuous, and has perfected seeing, And purges greed for sensual desires, He surely comes no more to any womb..
- Buddhism A to Z. Ven. Dhammika, 2007.