I have some questions about the Karaniya metta sutta. The actual sutta talks about sending loving-kindness to all beings and the benefits from doing this. At the end, it mentions 'not being reborn in the womb again'. I know bhante talks about the benefits of Loving-Kindness and that it should be something that one should practice all the time. The sutta seems to make the daily practice of Loving-Kindness a priority. Could you comment on this in relation to what Bhante is teaching in regards to going through the Jhanas and the goal of not being reborn again and attaining nibbana if not in this life but in a higher realm.
Yes - the sutta and the sutta text talk about radiating metta to all directions - and there are many styles that have developed like sending metta to beings in different realms or beings in this room, the house , the city etc.
The early suttas say that you pervade Metta as a meditation practice in developing the jhanas by pervading the 6 directions and then all around with the feeling of Metta. As you go deeper this goes automatically to compassion and then joy and finally to equanimity. This IS the practice of the Brahmaviharas and it is the basis for Bhante's teaching.
Now the first process Bhante has students work with is a spiritual friend. Why is this? It is to develop your Metta with just one object and learn the 6Rs. If you start with all of the directions your mind will tend to wander around to all kinds of things and it will lose energy quickly. It becomes quite scattered and one cannot build tranquility in a deep way.
So Bhante has you-- ingeniously I think -- work with just one thing: either yourself first and then a spiritual friend. You work with that friend in your mind until samatha/tranquility is developed up to the 4th jhana. When you have attained that then your meditation is changed because now you know what to do. The power of your Metta has become strong enough to pervade to all beings in all directions. You now are changing your practice to exactly what it says to do in the suttas quite literally.
So you work with your spiritual friend until you have enough collectedness and then you go to pervading all six directions. You start with 5min in each direction up/down/left/right front/back and then to all directions at once for the rest of your sitting. You continue you this practice until you reach the base of Nothingness. After this there will be a few more tweaks which we won't get into here. And then Nibbana is next!
Born in a Womb.- Going beyond this
As to being born in a womb. What is the goal of the BrahmaVihara Meditation? The goal is the attaining of divine abiding of equanimity. When you have attained this jhana you are destined to be reborn into the formless realms. You don't have a body there, not even a fine material body. Thus your rebirth is not from a womb.
In fact as soon as you attain the first jhana your rebirth in your next life will be no lower than the first "form" or rupa realm of the First Jhana. This is a fine material realm and you become a deva which is a being which appears in that realm fully developed - not born in a womb.
So it can be interpreted to mean a few different things. Each jhana is a progressive level of success and with each jhana there comes the benefit of not being reborn from a flesh body in your next life.
But the real goal of the brahmaviharas is to go through to the 8th jhana of Neither perception- nor-non perception and finally to cessation and attain Nibbana for the first time and become a Sotapanna. A Sotapanna only has at most seven lifetimes left before they completely get off the wheel and are not reborn again anywhere ever again.
I hope that gives you the answer to your questions.
When we are in the world and not specifically sitting in meditation you do want to be radiating lovingkindness to everyone you see, to all beings everywhere. Just keep Metta in your mind and radiate it as you go about your daily affairs.
When you sit down to do the more formal practice you will start with the Friend for some time and then you will move on to directions.
And it isn't that hard to move from the level of Friend to the directions - Many people can do this in an online retreat and definitely on a 7 to 10 day retreat at our center. Many get to the 7th and 8th jhana in only a 10 day retreat. When this practice is done correctly it is quite fast.