Compassion Meditation – The Four Immeasurable Virtues: Maitri, Karuna, Mudita, and Upeksha
Sri Amit Ray talks about the importance of the four immeasurable Brahmaviharas – compassion meditation techniques and attitudes. They are the highest form of all virtues. The four Immeasurable Virtues are: Maitri, Karuna, Mudita and Upeksha. Brahmaviharas means divine abiding. Dr. Ray talks about the nature of Brahmaviharas and the importance of Brahmaviharas. He also discusses how these four virtues increases our emotional intelligence and happiness in life. The four Immeasurable divine virtues are explained in details.
Purpose of yoga and meditation is to get a permanent blessed and peaceful state of mind. Being able to control our emotions is key to our happiness as well as our relationships. Though there is nothing inherently wrong with any kind of emotion, some of them can lead to major amounts of distress when left unchecked. By changing our thoughts, we would not change the situation, however, we would change the way it affects our life.
Four Immeasurable Brahmaviharas and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra
These four virtues are mentioned in the teachings of Buddha, Patanjali’s yoga sutra and Upanishads. They are the four types of attitudes towards people and society. The yoga sutra (1.33) states that blessed state of mind is developed through meeting happy people with friendliness, those who are suffering with compassion, those who are virtuous with delight, and indifference or neutrality towards those we perceive as wicked or evil.
Four Immeasurable Brahmaviharas as Taught by Buddha
The Buddha taught the four great virtues, known as the four “Brahmaviharas”. The word Brahmavihara is Pali, and comes from two words. First, there is the word brahma. In the Buddha’s time, a brahma was a deity who lived in a heavenly realm. The word vihara means abode or dwelling. Hence, the word Brahmavihara means dwelling in the realm of blessedness. They are mindfulness practices that protect the mind from falling into habitual patterns of reactivity with the cultivation of our best intentions
Four Immeasurable Brahmaviharas
Loving-friendliness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity are the four virtues are great peace-makers in social conflict, and the great healers of wounds suffered in the struggle of existence. These virtues grow as we begin to recognize and cultivate them in our ordinary life. They are the essential nature and radiance of the enlightened heart. These four virtues are;
Maitri – Warmheartedness, friendliness and good will towards all. We may reflect on our own deepest desire to be happy and at ease, remembering that all other beings also desire the same. Knowing that other beings just want to be happy, we can cultivate a heart that cares for the well-being of others.
Karuna – Compassion; which is the wish that living beings may be free from suffering and its causes. Cultivate compassion, which is the wish for beings to be freed from suffering. Imagine a prisoner who is about to be executed, or an animal at the slaughterhouse, and put yourself in their position, or imagine that they are your own dear mother. When you experience an unbearably intense feeling of compassion for them, consider that although the one experiencing such suffering is not actually your mother or father in this lifetime, he or she has been your mother and father countless times throughout the course of your innumerable lifetimes.
Mudita – Happiness / Sympathetic Joy; Whenever you see someone who is wealthy and powerful, and apparently enjoying all the pleasures of the higher realms, or whenever you see someone who possesses the qualities of scriptural learning and realization, do not feel resentful or envious of them, even if you consider them to be an enemy. Instead, feel joyful and make the wish that their riches and power increase even further. And pray that all sentient beings may experience the same kind of good fortune. Train your mind in this way, again and again.
Upeksha – indifference and equanimity; Initially, you need to train the mind in equanimity. The way in which we are currently attached to our friends and aggressive towards our enemies is a fault which comes from failing to examine the situation thoroughly. In reality, today’s so-called “enemies” have, in the course of our many past lifetimes, been dear friends who have helped us enormously. And those whom we currently consider to be our “friends” have been our enemies in past lifetimes, having caused us considerable harm.
Generally, our emotions varies throughout the day, as we are confronted with different kinds of people our emotions chanes. Our usual reaction is if there is a good person we are nice, bad person we are angry. Cultivation of these four virtues develop the blessed state of mind.
Four Immeasurable Brahmaviharas from the Discourses of the Buddha (Digha Nikaya 13)
- Here, monks, a disciple dwells pervading one direction with his heart filled with loving-kindness, likewise the second, the third, and the fourth direction; so above, below and around; he dwells pervading the entire world everywhere and equally with his heart filled with loving-kindness, abundant, grown great, measureless, free from enmity and free from distress.
- Here, monks, a disciple dwells pervading one direction with his heart filled with compassion, likewise the second, the third and the fourth direction; so above, below and around; he dwells pervading the entire world everywhere and equally with his heart filled with compassion, abundant, grown great, measureless, free from enmity and free from distress.
- Here, monks, a disciple dwells pervading one direction with his heart filled with sympathetic joy, likewise the second, the third and the fourth direction; so above, below and around; he dwells pervading the entire world everywhere and equally with his heart filled with sympathetic joy, abundant, grown great, measureless, free from enmity and free from distress.
- Here, monks, a disciple dwells pervading one direction with his heart filled with equanimity, likewise the second, the third and the fourth direction; so above, below and around; he dwells pervading the entire world everywhere and equally with his heart filled with equanimity, abundant, grown great, measureless, free from enmity and free from distress.
Summary of Four Immeasurable Brahmaviharas
The four immeasurable Brahmaviharas are abiding in loving-friendliness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity in everyday life. This 4-stage model, with practice, you can apply to most troublesome emotional situations. These 4-stage practice can enhance your emotional intelligence. Being able to modify your thought processes, assessments and reactions will lead to better control of your overall emotions and situations of life. The mind becomes purified by cultivating feelings of friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion for those who are suffering, goodwill towards those who are virtuous, and indifference or neutrality towards those we perceive as wicked or evil. These Brahmaviharas are the four elements of true love. They are called “
If, when you practice training the mind in these four immeasurables, you proceed gradually—first considering your own parents; then including your friends and relatives; and finally extending the practice to all beings —you will come to feel the same love and compassion for every being.
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