Author Topic: What about Brahmavihara?  (Read 9380 times)

Paul

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What about Brahmavihara?
« on: October 16, 2007, 08:54:47 AM »
I guess that its not surprising, given the name of this site that we talk more about Vipassana than Brahmavihara  ;D.  I was taught to balance Vipassana practice with Brahmavihara, but in all honesty my efforts in Brahmavihara were half-hearted, I saw them a bit like the discussions we had to get through at sunday school before we were allowed to eat the cakes.  Following a recommendation I'm just finishing the book Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzburg, and I realise now that I hadn't fully understood the Brahmavihara practices (through lack of attention more than poor instruction) and having now practiced the Brahmavihara as intensely as my life allows, I'm completely bowled over by them, and find them more insightful than I ever imagined before.  Do you practice Brahmavihara as much as Vipassana?  Do you find it insightful? 

Matthew

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Re: What about Brahmavihara?
« Reply #1 on: October 16, 2007, 05:32:06 PM »
For those unfamiliar with the term, the Bramaivihara, or "Four Immeasurables" are:

  • Metta/Maitri: loving-kindness towards all; the hope that a person will be well; loving kindness is "the wish that all sentient beings, without any exception, be happy."
  • Karuna: compassion; the hope that a person's sufferings will diminish; compassion is the "wish for all sentient beings to be free from suffering."
  • Mudita: altruistic joy in the accomplishments of a person, oneself or other; sympathetic joy, "is the wholesome attitude of rejoicing in the happiness and virtues of all sentient beings."
  • Upekkha/Upeksha: equanimity, or learning to accept both loss and gain, praise and blame, success and failure with detachment, equally, for oneself and for others; equanimity means "not to distinguish between friend, enemy or stranger, but regard every sentient being as equal. It is a clear-minded tranquil state of mind - not being overpowered by delusions, mental dullness or agitation.

from Wikipedia.com

Paul,

My personal take on the Four Immeasurables is that they are an intimate part of the path. They feed and are fed by one's own meditation practice equally.

That is to say in the first place that one's practice is practice and the Four Immeasurables are a reflection of the quality of that practice in terms of off-the-cushion change. But also that in promoting the attitudes they embody in one's life one will enjoy a less troubled and more peaceful mind and environment and thus place oneself in a position to get the most out of one's on-the-cushion time.

I try to practice them. I sometimes fail, but then I am merely a student of Buddhism and not a Buddha. My aspiration is to comprehend and embody them fully as part of my path as a meditator. To place this in context my training under Tibetain teachers does place great value on these qualities and also on conscious thought and reflection of such matters as another form of meditation - rather than only relying on Shamatha (calm-abiding) and Vipassana (insight) meditation.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
« Last Edit: October 16, 2007, 08:18:50 PM by The Irreverent Buddhist »
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Juan

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Re: What about Brahmavihara?
« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2007, 07:32:47 PM »
On a personal perspective I feel that the more I practice Vipassana and Anapana, the more I am able to truly love myself and the others, and I guess that's what Brahmavihara is all about. Don't know the reasons why, but I LOVE the results!

Paul

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Re: What about Brahmavihara?
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2007, 10:08:12 AM »
TIB do you mean that you practice them in the same was as mindfulness - as an off-the-cushion extention to your Vipassana practise - or do you actually do on-the-cushion Bramaivihara practise?  I do on-the-cushion Bramaivihara practice and find it invaluable.  Then again I'm well aware that there are endless paths up to the summit of enlightnment!   

Juan, its excellent that you experience the Brahmaviharas as perhaps a side-effect of Vipassana!  I'm really pleased for you  ;D  I think also that some of us (like me) might have more of a need to practise the Bramaiviharas than others for whom they are more innate. 

Paul

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Re: What about Brahmavihara?
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2007, 10:21:14 AM »
By the way, if anyone wants to understand more about Brahmavihara and their value I can fully recommend Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzberg, its really excellent. 

I just had a great opportunity to practice Brahmavihara too, a colleague just told me she got a pay rise this year whearas I got nothing......now that's going to take some doing  :)

Flipasso

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Re: What about Brahmavihara?
« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2007, 09:53:08 PM »
My practice of vipassana as taught me that Brahmavihara practice is very important.
Being more aware of myself I find that I often exhale hatred to other human beings unconsciously. I would like this to stop but probably I'll have to find the causes of that hatred first.
I read somewhere that you shouldn't practice Metta Bhavana without practicing vipassana. My experience tells me this is so because you could be thinking about the person and instead of cultivating Loving-Kindness you could be cultivating worse feelings.
BTW: Did you ever experienced not having someone you like to cultivate metta to? It's not that I don't have people I like it's just that sometimes it's hard to remember why you like them.

mettajoey

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Re: What about Brahmavihara?
« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2007, 11:13:22 PM »
BTW: Did you ever experienced not having someone you like to cultivate metta to? It's not that I don't have people I like it's just that sometimes it's hard to remember why you like them.

Sounds like some perfectionist tendencies to me, not that I'd know anything about that...  ;D
What works best for me is to remember why I value a person and not dwell on the negatives - especially since we all have
our share.  Focus on the positive aspirations of an individual and that positive energy. 
It is so important to use right speech with ourselves as much as anyone else.  It's something I am working hard to cultivate.
In that mindset, we see the struggle and value of the people around us.  Truly without their support most of us would likely
be dead by now.  Daily we should attempt to add our shoulder to the load and then our own load is lessened.
Nice Halloween costume, by the way... ;D
« Last Edit: November 02, 2007, 11:15:16 PM by silentflute »
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Matthew

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Re: What about Brahmavihara?
« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2007, 11:37:53 PM »
both on and off the cushion. As an object of meditation, as something to cultivate in meditation, and as somewhere one arrives when you are at the point of embodying them by maintaining awareness off the cushion.

:)
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Paul

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Re: What about Brahmavihara?
« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2007, 07:40:07 AM »
Flipasso, in your metta practise its not so important whether you like or dislike someone anyway.  A common method is to send metta to a benefactor, friend, neutral person and enemy or difficult person, not someone who you lie or dislike, if you see what I mean, so in this way we get away from the recursive thinking process.  Maybe it would be worth doing some compassion meditation too?  I say that because compassion meditation focuses more on how we're all the same underneath, just everyone has their own personal history and karma leading then to act in a way that might not be acceptable to you.  You don't have to approve of the way they act, but in seeing that all they want too is happiness, but their lives have lead them down a path where they act in a way that makes you dislike them.  The question of liking or disliking then starts melting away, leaving a lot of peace in its place!

An interesting anecdote about compassion - a few years back the WHO set up a conference near Tibet to try to advise Tibetans on how to deal with the effects of torture.  The western psychologists explained the typical after effects - feelings of anger and frustration, feelings of worthlessness, fear, mental problems etc.  The Dalai Lama replied that these effects were not in general experienced by Tibetans, because those who had been tortured often managed to have compassion for their torturers, or if they couldn't do that they could put their terrible experiences into some kind of reasoned context in seeing their experiences as the effects of karma and the purification of passed acts.

 

Matthew

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Re: What about Brahmavihara?
« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2007, 03:10:18 PM »
Then again I'm well aware that there are endless paths up to the summit of enlightnment!


There is no path
There is no summit
There is no enlightenment
There is no loss
There is no gain
There just is you sitting

;)
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Paul

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Re: What about Brahmavihara?
« Reply #10 on: November 03, 2007, 06:38:48 PM »
Spooky Matthew!  I spent today mindfully walking and sitting alone in the mountains (on your recommendation!)  After a few hours of really just being here and now, I started getting the feeling that in everyday life I read far too much into everything, and I seek something that is already here, in me, in all of us, here and now.  Paying attention is enough.  Impermanence says I might see things differently tomorrow, but at the moment it really feels like here and now is all there is and all we could ever need.  It fits in with what you said  :)

Flipasso

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Re: What about Brahmavihara?
« Reply #11 on: November 05, 2007, 09:05:36 PM »
Both your post here and the one on the dreaming thread seem to carry the info that you're going throw a mystical waking up experience!
=) That's nice!
What would you say is behind these experiences?

Paul

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Re: What about Brahmavihara?
« Reply #12 on: November 05, 2007, 10:28:12 PM »
Thank you Flipasso  :)  I think its because this weekend I had 2 days alone, without talking to anyone, without having to go work or look after the kids or something like that and that's the first time I've had such peace and silence since I started meditating.  I also kept away from home as much as possible (home is a place of craving, at least it is for me).  Just observing the emptiness made some things seem very clear, and I guess the extended period of mindfulness this allowed carried over into my dream.  Self retreat is really interesting, I'd imagine that the emptiness could get awesome after a few days...I'm looking forward to a longer one!

Matthew

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Re: What about Brahmavihara?
« Reply #13 on: November 16, 2007, 01:40:57 PM »
Spooky Matthew!  I spent today mindfully walking and sitting alone in the mountains (on your recommendation!)  After a few hours of really just being here and now, I started getting the feeling that in everyday life I read far too much into everything, and I seek something that is already here, in me, in all of us, here and now.  Paying attention is enough.  Impermanence says I might see things differently tomorrow, but at the moment it really feels like here and now is all there is and all we could ever need.  It fits in with what you said  :)

Paul,

You can learn all you want about the Dhamma. Being a meditator means walking the path. There really is only now. Glad you made time and the practice was fruitful.

:)

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
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thedublab

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Re: What about Brahmavihara?
« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2008, 11:09:24 PM »
I'm most familiar with meditating on loving-kindness, but hadn't heard of other meditations on the Brahmavihara until reading this thread. I've always thought of compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity as actions, with loving-kindness as the intention behind them.

I'm curious: how have you gone about cultivating the more active aspects of the Brahmavihara "on the cushion"?

With metta,
Dave

Stefan

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Re: What about Brahmavihara?
« Reply #15 on: March 14, 2008, 07:01:04 AM »
As I do "Goenkaji's Vipassana", I'm not familiar with a "Brahmavihara-Practice". But from what I gathered it seems to be pretty much the same as the "Metta-Meditation" we Goenklings do at the end of every sitting. First Anapana, then Vipassana and then Metta. We sit in some sort of total relaxation and peace and send "good wishes" of all kinds around the world - sometimes to "all", sometimes to special persons that come to our mind, sometimes to persons who need it (a suffering friend, maybe, or also George W. Bush, who seems to need Metta desperately without knowing it ... ;D ). Important are not the words, but the inner intention we raise and try to keep up. This is very tricky as you can't force yourself to be friendly and full of loving kindness. However, after one hour of Vipassana-Meditation it is much easier to enter this state than practicing Metta/ Bhakti/ Brahmavihara/ Love "off-the-cushion" only (for example if that damn bastard in the car in front of you doesn't move on although the lights are green and you're in a hurry) - therefore the meditation is also a perfect training for daily-life-usage (to be friendly to the bastard in his car) ...

 Goenka gave us some words to use during Metta-meditation:

May  all  beings  share  my  peace ..
.. may  all  beings  share  my  harmony ..
.. may  beings  share  my  merit ..
.. may  all  beings  share  my  dhamma .. dhamma .. dhamma ..

May  all  beings  be  happy .. be  peacefull .. be  liberated ..

I  pardon .. I  pardon .. I  pardon ..
.. all  those  who  might  have  hurt  or  harmed  me ..
.. knowingly  or  unknowingly ..
.. consciously  or  unconsciously ..
.. by  their  deeds  of  body .. speech  or  mind ..

I  seek  pardon .. seek  pardon .. seek  pardon ..
.. from  all  those  whom  I  might  have  hurt  or  harmed ..
.. knowingly  or  unknowingly ..
.. intentionaly  or  unintentionally ..
.. by  my  deeds  of  body .. speech  or  mind ..

All  are  my  friends ..
.. none  is  my  enemy ..
.. all  are  my  friends ..
.. none  is  my  enemy ..
.. may  all  share  my  peace ..
.. may  all  share  my  harmony ..
.. may  all  share  my  merit ..
.. may  all  share  my  dhamma .. dhamma .. dhamma ..

May  all  be  happy ..
.. be  peacefull ..
.. be  liberated .. liberated .. liberated ..

Bhavatu  sabba  mangalan ..
.. bhavatu  sabba  mangalan ..
.. bhavatuuuuu  saaaabbaa  maaaangaalaaan ..

(I copied them from a post by Pamojjam).

Very good words to use, but I'm sure that you also can use your own words, as long as it's not merely reciting some words - of course it's the inner state you try to enter that counts.

I'm curious too: Is this similar to a "Brahmavihara-Meditation" or are there other aspects that are missed in this "Metta-Meditation"?

Metta to all, Stefan
« Last Edit: March 14, 2008, 07:07:54 AM by stefan »
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Matthew

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Re: What about Brahmavihara?
« Reply #16 on: March 14, 2008, 09:48:58 AM »
Very good words to use, but I'm sure that you also can use your own words, as long as it's not merely reciting some words - of course it's the inner state you try to enter that counts.

Yes it is the inner state that counts. By undertaking these meditations progressively, moving from those you love (easy) to those you hate or have a strong dislike for (difficult) you progressively encounter your own habituated reactions and loosen their grip.

Try generating Metta for the most evil bastard you can think of in the whole of human history. It's hard but worth it. "Why is it worth it?", you may ask. It is worth doing this because even the most evil bastard you can imagine was born pristine and became a bastard because of the circumstances he encountered: dehuminising children is what creates dehumanised adults, incapable of true emotion, love, joy - even for themselves.

I'm curious too: Is this similar to a "Brahmavihara-Meditation" or are there other aspects that are missed in this "Metta-Meditation"?

It seems to be missing "equanimity" and "altruistic joy" directly, though there in some of the sentiments expressed. It is based on the Brahmavihara I think - but a simpler rendition, perhaps.

The one thing to realise for sure is that what these meditations do to you is the important thing and not to fall into "magic thinking" that sending metta means metta gets received.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
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thedublab

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Re: What about Brahmavihara?
« Reply #17 on: March 14, 2008, 11:33:03 AM »
@Stefan: Many thanks, and yes, your metta-meditation is pretty much the same as to what I practice under the Theravada tradition. I like the wording of Goenka's recitation — very peaceful.

So, is/would your approach to cultivating the other Brahmaviharas (compassion, sympathetic joy) on-the-cushion follow a similar "structure", i.e. calling to mind other people and reflecting on reducing their suffering, or sharing in their good fortunes?

How about equanimity? That's a tough one for me. It's easier, at least in theory ;) , to treat thoughts with equanimity during meditation, but how to cultivate it for other people? It has a different energy to apathy, for sure, but it's often a fine line for me and I would welcome any suggestions for a practice that would help me understand and set them apart from one another a little better.

With metta,
Dave
« Last Edit: March 14, 2008, 11:34:47 AM by thedublab »

Stefan

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Re: What about Brahmavihara?
« Reply #18 on: March 14, 2008, 02:08:47 PM »
It seems to be missing "equanimity" and "altruistic joy" directly, though there in some of the sentiments expressed ....

So, is/would your approach to cultivating the other Brahmaviharas (compassion, sympathetic joy) on-the-cushion follow a similar "structure", i.e. calling to mind other people and reflecting on reducing their suffering, or sharing in their good fortunes?

Equanimity is one of the core components of Vipassana (at least in Goenka's teaching). When you practice one hour of Vipassana, then you gathered enough equanimity to really do Metta meditation. No equanimity, no Metta ... only magic words and wishful thinking then.
I'm not quite sure what you mean with "altruistic joy" or "sympathetic joy", but in the normal translation it seems to me that it is a neccessary part of Metta. Or better: it is included as an essential part in the Vipassana- and Metta-Meditation as taught by Goenkaji.

The one thing to realise for sure is that what these meditations do to you is the important thing and not to fall into "magic thinking" that sending metta means metta gets received.

In the experience of many (and also mine) both is true. It is important what it does to you - but this can also turn out to be what you call "magic thinking" ("karmic-high-score-hunting"). It is also important what it does to others - but of course you have to do it with a non-invading intention. That is where altruism is essential.

How about equanimity? That's a tough one for me. It's easier, at least in theory ;) , to treat thoughts with equanimity during meditation, but how to cultivate it for other people?

This I didn't quite understand. (You are rather new in this forum so I will give you a warning regarding my english ... it's not sooo good really ... ;) )  In my understanding you can't cultivate equanimity for others, or for thoughts, or for anything really. You can train equanimity per se and then it will be available when needed. But perhaps I got your question wrong?

Metta to you, Stefan
« Last Edit: March 17, 2008, 07:27:26 PM by stefan »
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thedublab

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Re: What about Brahmavihara?
« Reply #19 on: March 16, 2008, 05:29:40 PM »
Stefan, your English is great :) (Mein Deutscher, nicht soviel.) I enjoy reading your posts and am learning a lot from them.

From what you describe, it sounds like Goenka's teaching of metta-meditation includes such factors as compassion, joy, and equanimity as part of the practice. That approach makes a lot of sense to me — all the factors certainly belong together. The Brahmavihara recognizes these interconnections too. However, I've been taught to meditate on metta on its own, separate from these other factors, but then to practice everything in daily life. Maybe I've been approaching it wrong?

At the beginning of this thread, Paul mentioned additional meditation practices for compassion, joy, and equanimity. I hadn't heard of this before and I got a little excited :D That's where my question comes from, and I apologize for any confusion. It sounds like I should track down a copy of the Sharon Salzberg book recommended by Paul and learn some more. Or go Goenka-style ;)

My question on equanimity is also related to Paul's comments, where I understood him to be suggesting an equanimity-meditation. Again, this was new to me.

With metta,
Dave
« Last Edit: March 16, 2008, 05:39:18 PM by thedublab »

Stefan

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Re: What about Brahmavihara?
« Reply #20 on: March 17, 2008, 07:46:59 PM »
Heij Dave, when I entered this forum I was very  confused by the different Vipassana styles practiced and referred to.
But now, I am still confused about it  ???.
From what I understand your approach is not wrong, but different. And on a further level it may prove not to be different at all ...   
Paul did another form of Vipassana and refers to meditation exercises I never did (so far). These exercises weren't mentioned by Goenka, but in my experience they are implicit in the three exercises we Goenklings do as a practice.
It is like the question: what is right, snowboarding or skiing? Answer: It is right what fits you - as long as you manage to go down the slope without breaking your leg ...

Metta (compassion, joy, and equanimity included!), Stefan

PS to all: If there's an extra exercise on how to stay equanimous and loving when facing an evil slob ... I'd be too curious to learn more about it!
« Last Edit: March 17, 2008, 07:48:04 PM by stefan »
anicca

Stefan

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Re: What about Brahmavihara?
« Reply #21 on: March 17, 2008, 08:18:55 PM »
Edit ... I just saw the Brahmavihara topic has been discussed already in the thread "Re: Meditation - some basics for beginners" started by Paul.  :)
anicca

thedublab

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Re: What about Brahmavihara?
« Reply #22 on: March 17, 2008, 11:14:31 PM »
Many thanks, Stefan! I found these posts very helpful. And my local secondhand bookstore has a copy of the Sharon Salzberg book. But not for long  ;)

With metta,
Dave
« Last Edit: March 17, 2008, 11:23:17 PM by thedublab »