All Our Practice Efforts, Directed to the Cessation of the Taints
Brahma Viharas – Divine Qualities of the Mind
When we are free from lust, ill-will & ignorance (rāga, dosa & moha), the natural qualities arise in the pure consciousness is characterized by the four brahma viharas, or the divine qualities of the mind.
Mettā (慈) is patient kindness. It’s an attitude of acceptance and patience with the way it is; an acceptance of the anger, resentment, aversion, and pettiness. We don’t like it or approve of it but we can accept it because we understand the kamma forces behind it. We can be kind to our enemies, kind towards people who are not very nice to us. And we will not do anything to harm them. We will not dwell in aversion towards them. Mettā offers a response based on kindness and patience, rather than one of habitual reactions to unpleasant experiences. It a response to the conditioned realm, a patient acceptance of everything whether good or bad. This means we are not blinding ourselves to the unsatisfactory nature(dukkha) of everything in this samsāra world, but we are just peacefully coexisting with them. We’re aware of the unpleasantness, the pain, the loathsomeness of some things, but we are not indulging in it. We stop from indulging by kindness, patience, simplicity, peacefully coexisting and not demanding that things be otherwise.
Karuṇā (悲) is compassion. It’s the response to the suffering of all living beings in this samsāra world. Compassion motivates a desire to help to alleviate afflictions and unfairness and injustices that exist. Compassion is grounded on the understanding that although humans bear fundamental virtues, we are also tainted by unwholesome qualities of lust, ill-will & ignorance (rāga, dosa & moha). And all living beings in this samsāra world are harassed by pain, fear, sorrow, and other forms of dukkha. Only when we have fully understanding and experience of our own sufferings, can we have effective compassion for others. Compassion includes feelings of forgiveness and blessing, and have the ability to induce subjective happiness, optimism, wisdom, curiosity, agreeableness, and extroversion.
Muditā (喜) is joy. It is the spontaneous response to the goodness and beauty of humans and the world we live in. Although humans are tainted by unwholesome qualities of lust, ill-will & ignorance (rāga, dosa & moha), we also have fundamental virtues: faith(saddhā), courage (or fortitude, viriya), determination (hope, chanda), self-restraint(temperance), kindness and compassion (charity, mettā and karuṇā), prudence and justice(fair and just, upekkhā), wisdom (differentiating knowledge, vimamsā). When somebody does something good or some noble action, heroic effort or self-sacrifice, a sense of muditā arises. We see beautiful things in nature, in the universe, and in art as well. When we look at flowers, we experience a joyful feeling, and that’s muditā. Muditā is opposite to bitterness and meanness at heart. We’re rejoicing in or glad at the beauty in the things around us. We don’t envy them their beauty and there shall be no greed. To rejoice in these things doesn’t mean that we get carried away with them. The experience of joy no longer occurs if we indulge in beauty and try to grasp it, or if we hold on to the experience of joy and try to have it all the time. Muditā is the sense of joy and appreciation and gratitude for the beauties and the lovely things of life and in other people. Truth, beauty and goodness delight us, in them we find joy.
Upekkhā (舍) is equanimity and balance. We know this samsāra world is imperfect and unsatisfactory. It’s always complicated and difficult to find the right way to do the right thing without certain cost or hurt to some part. That’s why we always proceed with prudence and justice in mind. We try to be fair and just when dealing with people. Upekkhā is associated with wisdom to be able to know when it’s time to do something and when there is nothing that can be done. This can prevent from compassion fatigue. Upekkhā is an art to find and preserve equanimity in the midst of conflict with the guidance and source of inspiration of wisdom. Balance is maintained between the inner spiritual state and one’s external life with the knowledge of how kamma works behind. Upekkhā is a state of composure and emotional balance in the face of the fluctuations of worldly fortune. It is evenness of mind, unshakeable freedom of mind, a state of inner equipoise that cannot be upset by gain and loss, praise and blame, honor and dishonor, pleasure and pain.
“Then, Kālāmas, that noble disciple – devoid of covetousness, devoid of ill will, unconfused, clearly comprehending, ever mindful – dwells pervading one quarter with a mind imbued with loving-kindness, likewise the second quarter, the third and the fourth. Thus above, below, across and everywhere, and to all as to himself, he dwells pervading the entire world with a mind imbued with loving-kindness, vast, exalted, measureless, without hostility and without ill will.
“He dwells pervading one quarter with a mind imbued with compassion … with altruistic joy … with equanimity, likewise the second quarter, the third and the fourth. Thus above, below, across and everywhere, and to all as to himself, he dwells pervading the entire world with a mind imbued with equanimity, vast, exalted, measureless, without hostility and without ill will.
“When, Kālāmas, this noble disciple has thus made his mind free of enmity, free of ill will, uncorrupted and pure, he has won four assurances in this very life.
“The first assurance he has won is this: ‘If there is another world, and if good and bad deeds bear fruit and yield results, it is possible that with the breakup of the body, after death, I shall arise in a good destination, in a heavenly world.’
“The second assurance he has won is this: ‘If there is no other world, and if good and bad deeds do not bear fruit and yield results, still right here, in this very life, I live happily, free of enmity and ill will.
“The third assurance he has won is this: ‘Suppose evil befalls the evil-doer. Then, as I do not intend evil for anyone, how can suffering afflict me, one who does no evil deed?’
“The fourth assurance he has won is this: ‘Suppose evil does not befall the evil-doer. Then right here I see myself purified in both respects.’
“When, Kālāmas, this noble disciple has thus made his mind free of enmity, free of ill will, uncorrupted and pure, he has won these four assurances in this very life.” [Kalamas Sutta (AN-3.65)]