The brahma-viharas, also called the Four Immeasurables, are part of Buddhist spiritual practice.  Meditation practice on the brahma-viharas is intended to inform one’s outlook and in fact one’s actions in the world.

The brahma-viharas are metta, karuna, mudita, and upekkha.

I’ve written about metta (lovingkindness) before.  It is a conscious recognition of everyone’s desire to be happy, and a conscious sending out of lovingkindness and goodwill to oneself, to one’s friends, to one’s benefactors, to one’s enemies, and to everyone.  Everyone.

Karuna is compassion.  Meditating and acting to end others’ suffering.  It follows from metta.  This is an easy practice for bleeding-heart me, and I try to approach every aspect of my life from a perspective of compassion.

Mudita means “sympathetic joy.”  Taking genuine joy in the happiness of others, with no envy, no bitterness, no thoughts of deserving or not deserving, no comparing of the measure of someone’s joy to what may be lacking in our own lives.  This one is not so easy.  It’s a deep acceptance that life is not a zero-sum game, that someone else’s happiness doesn’t actually tip some cosmic scale into unhappiness for me, that happiness can beget happiness.

Upekkha is equanimity.  Meeting one’s whole life with acceptance.  Feeling pleasure and joy without trying to hold on to them; feeling sorrow and anger without trying to push them away.  Accepting that nothing is permanent and welcoming everything life brings.  Everything.

Metta, karuna, mudita, upekkha….this seems to me like the right way to live.  It’s a beautiful practice, and in fact the brahma-viharas are one of the aspects of Buddhism I admire the most.  I am working on living the brahma-viharas in every aspect of my life.

My sister-in-law is pregnant again.  My brother did not want another baby, but one is coming.

Metta, karuna, mudita, upekkha….I need them all.


8 responses to “brahma-viharas

  1. Oh boy. Yeah, meditation and deep breathing sound like they’d be very important right about now.
    Sorry about the crappy news. Not sure why some people can bring unwanted children into the world so easily, and others have to work so damn hard.

  2. yeah, sometimes i feel like i am being accosted constantly by pregnant women who i am sure would make mediocre mothers (while i, of course, would be a fantastic parent). i have to say, though, metta and karuna seem a little more attainable than the other two, though i suppose part of the point is that you work towards them, not that you necessarily attain them.

  3. Maybe your brother will give you their second child? (kidding)

  4. Thanks for sharing. And sorry for the news… this is hard in so many ways, especially if they aren’t / your brother isn’t even happy about it.

  5. I really love this post and I have thinking about it since I read it and don’t know quite how to respond. I am intrigued by these concepts, any reading you would recomend?
    And sorry about the new (unwanted) babe in the family, blech.

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