Posted in lists

The Four Immeasurables

The Four Brahmaviharas, or Divine Abodes, are often translated as ‘the immeasurables’ or ‘the ‘immeasurable minds’.

When these four qualities are cultivated they are said be a powerful antidote to negative mind states.

These teachings are found in several different Buddhist texts, including the Metta Sutra.

A very similar list is found in the non-Buddhist spiritual text “The Yoga Sutras” by Patanjali, which was written a few centuries after the rise of Buddhism.

The Brahmaviharas represent a method for engaging life in a positive and enlightened way, a way that helps us avoid suffering and encourages peace and happiness. They represent a way to overcome our ego.

They are:

Metta (lovingkindness): this is benevolence and kindness. It signifies wanting others to be happy and succeed. It’s often easy to wish for success for our friends and relatives, not to mention ourselves. But, in this case we’re trying to extend this to all beings.

Karuna (compassion): this is wanting others to be free from suffering. It’s easy to say we don’t want others to suffer, but it must be mentioned that this includes people we don’t like as well.

Mudita (empathetic joy): this is celebrating and being happy when others are successful. Congratulating people and telling them we’re happy for them is normal. It’s something we’re taught to do, I think.

Upekkha (equanimity): this is learning to weather the storm of life, learning how to accept loss and gain, success and failure. This might be the most difficult one. It’s certainly hard to keep an even mind when things aren’t going well. It can be so easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged.

In the Metta Sutra they’re listed this way:

May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes;
May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes;
May all sentient beings not be separated from sorrowless bliss;
May all sentient beings abide in equanimity, free of bias, attachment and anger.

In the Visuddhimagga (path of purification) written in the 5th century by Buddhaghosa, he explains the Brahmaviharas as things you take on for yourselves and then cultivate for others around and then spread out your view to encompass all beings.

you can listen to a guided meditation based on the four immeasurables here:

 


 

 

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*another version of this article appeared on Patheos

Posted in bodhisattva, buddhism, lists, mahayana

Four Ways to Practice Being a Bodhisattva

Mahayana Buddhism encourages everyone to become a Bodhisattva.

What is a Bodhisattva?

A being that is dedicated to working toward the Awakening of all beings. A being who is motivated by compassion and wisdom to help others.

It’s thought that the Bodhisattva ideal was created as an alternative to the monk ideal. In the monk ideal, one would leave the world behind and practice as a hermit in a monastery or cave until attaining Enlightenment. In the Bodhisattva ideal, one stays in the world with the rest of humanity and practices there. This is still debated today. I think disappearing from the world is not all that helpful.

Ram Dass said, “If you think you’re Enlightened, go spend a few hours with your relatives on Thanksgiving.”

Ram Dass is not a Buddhist, but I think his point is really relevant here.

So, here are four methods to help us practice being Bodhisattvas.

1) Cultivate the 6 Perfections: generosity, morality, patience, diligence, meditation, and wisdom. These are the positive, active virtues of the Bodhisattva. Once we have resolved to avoid harming others, the next logical step is to cultivate these virtues in order to help them. To me the cultivation of the six perfections is the central part of Buddhist practice.

2) The art of dharma communication. This means the Bodhisattva helps those who are not Buddhists learn about Buddhist practice, not necessarily so they become Buddhists. We aren’t seeking to convert anyone. We only want to spread compassion and wisdom. Also the Bodhisattva helps those who are already Buddhists to become better Buddhists and engage the path more successfully.

3) Bring benefit to others. A Bodhisattva must be generous and helpful. They must praise and encourage others whenever possible. Help others or at least don’t hurt them.

4) Seek Enlightenment for the self and others as a major focus of life. The Bodhisattva must share awakened awareness with others and not use it for personal gain.