The Brahma Viharas
The Four Immeasurables—Loving-kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic [Appreciative] Joy, and Equanimity—are the sublime expressions of love. They are also known as the Four Limitless Ones, The Four Sublime States, and the Brahmaviharas or Divine Abodes. These four qualities of true love are said to be sublime, lofty, noble, and most excellent for they are the right and ideal way of relating with all living beings.
These sublime qualities of love provide the answer to all situations we may encounter in our lives. They are the great removers of tension, the great peace-makers in social conflict, and the great healers of wounds suffered in the struggle of existence. These noble qualities of love level social barriers, build harmonious communities, awaken the slumbering generosity within us, and revive the joy and hope long abandoned.
These four qualities of love are called immeasurable because their capacity to purify the heart and generate positive energy is beyond measure. In addition, as this sublime love grows within us through sincere practice, it extends immeasurably to all living beings throughout all realms of existence.
Through deep contemplation and dedicated practice of The Four Immeasurables, we transform our delusion, greed, self-centeredness, and negativity. We heal the afflictions of anger, hatred, loneliness, sorrow, and unhealthy attachments. In this way of practice, we develop a noble heart filled with the abundance of wisdom, compassion, and love.
In time, these sublime qualities of love become natural and spontaneous—a constant life-affirming attitude radiating from our heart bringing benefit and happiness to all. These immeasurable qualities of love are also called abodes (vihara) because they should become the constant dwelling places of the heart and mind; where we feel at home.
They should not remain merely places of rare and short visits, soon forgotten. In other words, our minds should become thoroughly saturated by these qualities of love. They should become our inseparable companions, and we should be mindful of them in all our daily activities. The Buddha tells us: “Cherish all living beings with a boundless heart, radiating kindness over the entire world.” He suggests we remain in this loving state of being at all times. This he calls the “sublime abiding” (divine abode).
Source: Used with permission from SourcePoint Global Outreach, The Heart of Dharma Collection (Mount Shasta, CA: Naljor Prison Dharma Service, n.d.) http://sourcepointglobaloutreach.org/what-we-offer/
The four brahma-viharas represent the most beautiful and hopeful aspects of our human nature. They are mindfulness practices that protect the mind from falling into habitual patterns of reactivity which belie our best intentions.
Also referred to as mind liberating practices, they awaken powerful healing energies which brighten and lift the mind to increasing levels of clarity. As a result, the boundless states of loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity manifest as forces of purification transforming the turbulent heart into a refuge of calm, focused awareness.
Source: Used with permission from the Brahma Vihara Foundation. http://www.brahmaviharas.org/)