Posts Tagged ‘metta’

The divine abodes

Monday, August 15th, 2011

I’m wondering whether Patanjali came before or after Buddha. It strikes me from time to time that there is a strong connection between Buddhism and The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

Section 1.33 of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is an interesting case in point.

By generating and cultivating the intent and deep feelings (bhavanatas) of friendliness and loving kindness (maitri), love and compassion (karuna), happiness (mudita), equanimity (upeksanam) and sympathetic joyfulness (sukha) in [all] conditions and events (visayanam) whether it be potentially joyful (sukha) or painful (dukha), auspicious (punya-apunya) or not, a sweet grace arises that establishes a clarity of the heartmind (citta-prasadanam).

In one blissful swoop, Patanjali establishes the four brahmaviharas (divine abodes). How they got their name is interesting. The story goes that Buddha was asked about how to be reborn in the heavenly (brahma) realms. His response, in short, was to cultivate loving-kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity.

Now, I’m not a Sanskrit scholar of any kind of merit, but I find it interesting that Patanjali has chosen the work upeksanam, when I would have expected samatA, but what do I know. Upeksa is Pali for equanimity, but my understanding of Upeksana in Sanskrit is that it has a sense of neglect. What I think this indicates, and it runs contrary to some of the teachings I’ve had over the years in terms of when Patanjali existed, is that Patanjali was refering to Buddha’s teaching, otherwise he’d have chosen a more neutral Sanskrit work.

What’s also interesting is this reference to four cultivations. Mostly we’re used to mettabhavana (the cultivation of loving kindness). And I do like the Dalia Lama’s view that his religion is loving kindess. But there are three more cultivations:- karuna, mudita and upeksa.

In a separate discussion Buddha did offer a practice, known as mettabhavana, which as far as I can tell has its origins in the Karaniya Metta Sutta.

This is to be done by one skilled in aims
who wants to break through to the state of peace:
Be capable, upright, & straightforward,
easy to instruct, gentle, & not conceited,
content & easy to support,
with few duties, living lightly,
with peaceful faculties, masterful,
modest, & no greed for supporters.

Do not do the slightest thing
that the wise would later censure.

Think: Happy, at rest,
may all beings be happy at heart.
Whatever beings there may be,
weak or strong, without exception,
long, large,
middling, short,
subtle, blatant,
seen & unseen,
near & far,
born & seeking birth:
May all beings be happy at heart.

Let no one deceive another
or despise anyone anywhere,
or through anger or irritation
wish for another to suffer.

As a mother would risk her life
to protect her child, her only child,
even so should one cultivate a limitless heart
with regard to all beings.
With good will for the entire cosmos,
cultivate a limitless heart:
Above, below, & all around,
unobstructed, without enmity or hate.
Whether standing, walking,
sitting, or lying down,
as long as one is alert,
one should be resolved on this mindfulness.
This is called a sublime abiding
here & now.

Not taken with views,
but virtuous & consummate in vision,
having subdued desire for sensual pleasures,
one never again
will lie in the womb.

What if we were to take the same approach for the other three bhavanas? And that’s what I’ve done with my metta bhavana practice, borrowing from Tara Brach. May I experience the joy of being alive, may I be filled with loving kindness, may I express compassion towards all beings. Or something like this. And of course the usual metta bhavana practice extends this from onesself through to all beings. And there’s the equanimity part.

However you look at it, the four brahmaviharas lead to a divine abode in this life. After all Samsara is Nirvana and Nirvana is Samsara.

Email This Post Email This Post

The End of Karma

Monday, August 6th, 2007

The faith of Buddhism is that we can end pain and suffering. Or as it’s called in Prakrit, dukka. What’s curious about life is that there are particular situations that seem to be triggers for dukka. And I think in the western world, at least, they are money and relationships with perhaps a third thrown in there, at least as we grow older – death. Or perhaps these three are my own constellation.

Then you look over your own life and see various patterns, karmic patterns perhaps. I suffered for twenty years from an obsessive compulsive disorder, triggered by an incredibly small incident. Was that karma? Are we rooting out more than the contents of a mind that has been conditioned in this life?

And then you do your best in a work situation, only to be caught in politics that have nothing to do with you. Yet on some level you feel this is of your own doing. Is that cogitations of an infantile mind believing itself to be more powerful than it is or a real insight into a karmic situation?

There is no doubt that we want to impose some kind of order onto what might otherwise seem to be a random life. Is the end of karma the beginning of the acceptance of randomness.

At the same time it does seem that we are beginning to anchor in a watchfulness, an ever present awareness. It is clear to me that dukka is caused by my own mind. I am awake to the extent that I realise this at least intellectually and awake enough to be doing something about it.

Is our faith that we can end the pain and suffering caused by our own minds? For the ever-present-awareness it strikes me that there is no death and certainly no physical nor mental pain.

But is there something else going on other than our own liberation? I think so and I think that it is the end of separation. A Tibetan once wrote that there is only one sin and that is the sin of separation. If that is true, and I tend to believe it is, then unity is surely the present goal. Surely that means dealing with not only our own karma but others’ karma as well because they are inextricably linked. Or perhaps that others’ karma is our karma. And that’s the root of compassion isn’t it. Don’t you think?

There is no doubt that there is group karma. If our greed, which has now cycled into global warming, continues to develop then we will have major global calamities on our hands. Group karma. Those of us who have modified our greed and our consumption patterns will be deeply involved in the consequences. I don’t believe for a second there will be some especial 144,000 secretly sequestered. We will suffer together.

And so we come back to the thought that we become enlightened not just for ourselves but for all beings. And the root of that enlightenment is compassion. Subhuti who was the other party in the Diamond Sutra, one of Zen’s foundation scriptures, before this enlightening discussion with buddha had developed his root in Metta – loving kindness.

Dhyana and Metta. It seems to be the only way through this cycle of karma that the world faces, that we the speaking monkeys have brought. Are we up to stopping this looming cycle of pain and suffering before it’s too late.

Email This Post Email This Post

Lessons from the Sopranos

Sunday, June 17th, 2007

Everyday I practise letting go using a forgiveness meditation followed by Metta. It comes from the Insight Meditation Community of Washington. I’ve probably mentioned this before.

Anyway, the Sopranos are a very interesting lesson in not letting go, in not forgiving. It’s curious all the stuff you keep finding that you haven’t let go of.

I was reading some paper I found online the other day which mentioned that Hui Neng’s initial stanza, you know the there is no bodhi tree nor stand of a mirror bright one. The author suggested that the I wipe my mind hour by hour was necessary to establish Hui Neng’s response.

I agree. I haven’t yet established emptiness. So there is a wiping required.

Email This Post Email This Post