Four Brahma Viharas
Often translated as The Four Heavenly Abodes or The Four Divine States
In Pali, the language in which the Buddha’s teachings were recorded, Brahma means “best”, “supreme” or “celestial”. Viharas means “dwelling”, “abiding” or “home”. Taken together, we could say that Brahma Viharas are where we can best reside. Perhaps, what would be the setting of an ideal home. An ideal home setting would have these four qualities:
- Metta/Maitri: Lovingkindness – unconditional-friendliness
- Karuna: Compassion – empathy & care, wishing for alleviation of suffering
- Mudita: Sympathetic joy – unconditional joy in happiness of others (and self)
- Upekkha: Equanimity – balance of mind
Often these are taught as qualities to cultivate. It’s pretty easy to see these as emotions to aspire to be able to have. While I like the idea that these are qualities that can be developed and cultivated, I also like to remember that these are qualities that we already have; that they are inherent to all being; that this is the ground in which we already live.
What we practice and cultivate is the ability to access the knowing we have/are these qualities.
Traditionally, when applicable, the meditation is directed in this progression of categories: self (any stage of yourself), mentor/good friend, neutral person, difficult person, and then all beings. Absolute sincerity is key with this practice .
Visualize an actual person(s) in each category if possible. Some can be more difficult than another; often at either end. Don’t rush thru a difficult category(ies) as this can often points towards a category which currently most needs attention. Know also that this is a purifying practice so the opposite feeling may arise at first or at times. Gently work thru it.
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