THE FOUR IMMEASURABLES:
Love, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity
'Compassion and love are not mere luxuries.
As the source
both of inner and external peace,
they are fundamental to the continued survival
of our species.'
His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama
The four immeasurables, also known as the Brahma Viharas (Skt.) are found
in one brief and beautiful prayer:
May all sentient beings have happiness
and its causes,
May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes,
May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss without suffering,
May all sentient beings be in equanimity, free of bias, attachment and anger.
The Buddha taught the following to his son Rahula (from "Old
path white clouds" by Thich Nhat Hahn):
"Rahula, practice loving kindness to overcome anger.
Loving kindness has the capacity to bring happiness to others without
demanding anything in return.
Practice compassion to overcome cruelty. Compassion has the capacity
to remove the suffering of others without expecting anything in
Practice sympathetic joy to overcome hatred. Sympathetic joy arises
when one rejoices over the happiness of others and wishes others
well-being and success.
Practice non-attachment to overcome prejudice. Non-attachment is
the way of looking at all things openly and equally. This is because
that is. Myself and others are not separate. Do not reject one thing
only to chase after another.
I call these the four immeasurables. Practice them and you will
become a refreshing source of vitality and happiness for others."
If you are interested
in meditating on these and many other subjects, see the List
of Sample Meditations.
The definition of love in Buddhism is: wanting others to
This love is unconditional and it requires a lot of courage and acceptance
The "near enemy" of love, or a quality which appears similar, but is more
an opposite is: conditional love (selfish love, see also the page on attachment).
The opposite is wanting others to be unhappy: anger,
A result which one needs to avoid is: attachment.
This definition means that 'love' in Buddhism refers to something
quite different from the ordinary term of love which is usually about attachment,
more or less successful relationships and sex; all of which are rarely without
self-interest. Instead, in Buddhism it refers to de-tachment and the unselfish
interest in others' welfare.
'Even offering three hundred bowls of food three
times a day does not match the spiritual merit gained in one moment
"If there is love, there is hope that one
may have real families, real brotherhood, real equanimity, real
peace. If the love within your mind is lost and you see other beings
as enemies, then no matter how much knowledge or education or material
comfort you have, only suffering and confusion will ensue"
His Holiness the Dalai Lama from 'The
little book of Buddhism'
Attachment and love are similar in that both of them draw us to the other person. But in fact, these two emotions are quite different. When we’re attached we’re drawn to someone because he or she meets our needs. In addition, there are lots of strings attached to our affection that we may or may not realize are there. For example, I “love” you because you make me feel good. I “love” you as long as you do things that I approve of. I “love” you because you’re mine. You’re my spouse or my child or my parent or my friend. With attachment, we go up and down like a yo-yo, depending on how the other person treats us. We obsess, “What do they think of me? Do they love me? Have I offended them? How can I become what they want me to be so that they love me even more?” It’s not very peaceful, is it? We’re definitely stirred up.
On the other hand, the love we’re generating on the Dharma path is unconditional. We simply want other to have happiness and the causes of happiness without any strings attached, without any expectations of what these people will do for us or how good they’ll make us feel.
Don’t Believe Everything You Think: Living with Wisdom and Compassion, by Thubten Chodron
The definition is: wanting others to be free from suffering.
This compassion happens when one feels sorry with someone, and one feels an
urge to help.
The near enemy is pity, which keeps other at a distance, and does not urge
one to help.
The opposite is wanting others to suffer, or cruelty.
A result which one needs to avoid is sentimentality.
Compassion thus refers to an unselfish, de-tached emotion which gives one
a sense of urgency in wanting to help others. From a Buddhist perspective,
helping others to reduce their physical or mental suffering is very good,
but the ultimate goal is to extinguish all suffering by stopping the process
of rebirth and the suffering that automatically comes with living by reaching enlightenment.
The attitude of a so-called Bodhisattva is Bodhicitta: this
is the ultimate compassionate motivation: the wish to liberate all sentient
beings from the sufferings of cyclic existence and to become a fully enlightened
Buddha oneself in order to act as the perfect guide for them. Actually, this could well be the most honorable and idealistic motivation possible.
(See also the page on compassion.)
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The definition is: being happy with someone's fortune/happiness. Sympathetic
joy here refers to the potential of bliss and happiness of all sentient beings,
as they can all become Buddhas.
The near enemy is hypocrisy or affectation.
The opposite is jealousy, when one cannot accept the happiness of others.
A result which one needs to avoid is: spaced-out bliss, which can easily
turn into laziness.
Note: sympathetic joy is a great antidote to depression
for oneself as well, but this should not be the main goal.
By rejoicing in
others' progress on the spiritual path, one can actually share in their positive
Sympathetic joy is an unselfish, very positive mental attitude which
is beneficial for oneself and others. In this case, it also refers specifically
to rejoicing in the high rebirth and enlightenment of others.
Equanimity in Buddhism means to have a clear-minded tranquil state of mind - not being overpowered
by delusions, mental dullness or agitation. For example, with equanimity we do not distinguish between friend, enemy or stranger, but regard every sentient
being as equal.
The near enemy is indifference.
It is tempting to think that just 'not caring' is equanimity, but that is just
a form of egotism, where we only care about ourselves.
The opposite of equanimity is anxiety, worry, stress and paranoia caused
by dividing people into 'good' and 'bad'; one can worry forever if a good friend
may not be a bad person after all, and thus spoiling trust and friendship.
A result which one needs to avoid is apathy as a result of 'not caring'.
Equanimity is the basis for unconditional, altruistic love, compassion and joy
for other's happiness and Bodhicitta.
When we discriminate between friends
and enemies, how can we ever want to help all sentient beings?
is an unselfish, de-tached state of mind which also prevents one from doing negative
"If one tries to befriend an enemy for a moment,
he becomes your friend.
The same thing occurs when one treats a friend as
Therefore, by understanding the impermanence of temporal relations,
Wise ones are never attached to food, clothing or reputation, nor to friends
The father becomes the son in another life,
Enemy becomes friend;
It always changes.
is nothing definite in samsara."
"The foundation for practicing the seven-point cause
and effect method is cultivating a mind of equanimity. Without this foundation
you will not be able to have an impartial altruistic view, because without
equanimity you will always have partiality towards your relatives and friends.
Realize that you should not have prejudice, hatred, or desire towards enemies,
friends, or neutral persons, thus lay a very firm foundation of equanimity."
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, from 'Path
to Bliss: A Practical Guide to Stages of Meditation'
It is said that the awareness of a Buddha is completely
even, like the ocean, taking in equally the joys and sorrows of all people,
friends, loved ones, relatives, and those never met. This is the meaning
of a statement made by so many of the world's great spiritual teachers,
"Love your enemy."
It doesn't mean love the person you hate. You can't do that. Love those
who hate you.
with an Attitude: The Tibetan Seven-Point Mind-Training'
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LONG VERSION OF THE FOUR IMMEASURABLES
How wonderful it
would be if all sentient beings were to abide in equanimity,
Free of hatred
May they abide in equanimity!
I myself will cause them
to abide in equanimity!
Please, guru-Buddha, grant me blessings to be able
to do this.
How wonderful it would be if all sentient beings had happiness
and the cause of happiness!
May they have happiness and its cause!
shall cause them to have these!
Please, guru-Buddha, grant me blessings to
be able to do this.
How wonderful it would be if all sentient beings were
free of suffering and its cause!
May they be free of suffering and its cause!
I myself will free them from suffering and its cause!
grant me blessings to be able to do this.
How wonderful it would be if
all sentient beings were never separated from the happiness of higher rebirth
May they never separated from the happiness of higher rebirth
I myself will cause them never to be separated from these!
Please, guru-Buddha, grant me blessings to be able to do this.
extensive article by ven. Sangye Khadro at Bodhicitta.net.
See also The
four Sublime States from the Access to Insight website; a complete free
See also the Discourse on Loving-Kindness
- a short Sutra, by Shakyamuni Buddha
The Law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich, as well as
the poor, to sleep under the bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.
I love love, especially if someone does it to me.
(Me : )
I love being married. It's so great to find that one special person you want
to annoy for the rest of your life.
Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things
not worth keeping around the house. Don't forget your husbands.
updated: December 27, 2012