Brahma-viharas, some easier/harder for you?

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Brahma-viharas, some easier/harder for you?

Postby Tex » Fri Jan 29, 2010 1:36 am

Most of us, it seems, come to Buddhism with a certain amount of life experience that's already helped to influence us or shape us, for better or worse. So, it's reasonable that certain aspects of the brahma-viharas (metta/loving kindness, karuna/compassion, mudita/sympathetic joy, upekkha/equanimity) might come more easily to some of us, while others might require more conscious effort to develop.

But we know that all four are essential and in many ways support and enrich each other.

For my own example, loving-kindness and compassion come very easily to me, while sympathetic joy is a bit harder. I was raised as an only child, so I never experienced that "brotherly love" where you really want someone else to succeed as much as you do yourself. I suspect that type of experience at such a young age would help someone understand mudita more easily later in life as a Buddhist, just as having some hardships at a young age would make it easier later in life to feel karuna for others' hardships. Even with upekkha, which I think most of us have to really work at, I'm sure some people are more "naturally" adept at it given the life experience they bring with them when they start Buddhist practice.

Any thoughts here? Any parts of the brahma-viharas that are easier or harder for you? If so, how do you focus on or practice the harder parts to try to bring them up to speed with the ones that come easier to you?
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Re: Brahma-viharas, some easier/harder for you?

Postby zavk » Fri Jan 29, 2010 1:43 am

I too find sympathetic joy the hardest. This becomes obvious to me whenever I see other people (in a similar position as me) achieving success. I often experience feelings of envy, if not jealousy.

I haven't actually tried to work specifically on mudita as such. I find that by working on metta alone, it helps to boost the others.... Metta, for me, seems to clear the ground for the others.
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Re: Brahma-viharas, some easier/harder for you?

Postby Mukunda » Fri Jan 29, 2010 2:26 am

I think the challenge in practice of the Brahmavihara is real understanding. If one truly understands and practices any one of them, it is impossible to not practice the rest. But our conditioning gives us mistaken ideas about what kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity are. Case in point: I (and many other Buddhists I've observed) at one time mistakenly associated detachment with equanimity, leading me to be pretty uncaring. And how common is it for Buddhists to refrain from using strong language to prevent someone from harming them self or others, because we think metta or karuna prevents us from saying anything that might upset someone? The only solution I can see is to keep on practicing, accepting that sometimes I get it spot on, and others I fail spectacularly, but I always learn in the process.
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Re: Brahma-viharas, some easier/harder for you?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Jan 29, 2010 3:43 am

Greetings,

Apologies for turning the question on its head a little, but I find it easier to live with the brahma-viharas than to live without them. Living without them is hard.

Knowing this, and in the interests of my own well-being, I live in accordance with them and try to pull myself up very quickly if I lapse into bad habits. To live contrary to the Brahma-viharas is suffering and this reality can be observed in the present moment.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Brahma-viharas, some easier/harder for you?

Postby Guy » Fri Jan 29, 2010 7:38 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Apologies for turning the question on its head a little, but I find it easier to live with the brahma-viharas than to live without them. Living without them is hard.

Knowing this, and in the interests of my own well-being, I live in accordance with them and try to pull myself up very quickly if I lapse into bad habits. To live contrary to the Brahma-viharas is suffering and this reality can be observed in the present moment.

Metta,
Retro. :)


Well said. :smile:
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

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Re: Brahma-viharas, some easier/harder for you?

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Jan 29, 2010 8:50 am

I find each of them a challenge. None of them conform to any natural characteristic that I have to any degree, my own tendency is to be judgemental and dismissive, so hard work then, but greatly effective and essential and fruitful.
Last edited by Sanghamitta on Fri Jan 29, 2010 5:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Brahma-viharas, some easier/harder for you?

Postby christopher::: » Fri Jan 29, 2010 9:40 am

When i lived unmarried and alone in the countryside it was much easier to cultivate upekkha then now, living with my family in a large city. On the other hand opportunities for expressing metta, karuna and mudita seem to have increased, since my day is filled with human interactions. Being a father, especially, has provided a wonderful practice opportunity.

I'm very aware though how hard it has been to cultivate tranquility, as compared to periods in the past. It's something i definitely have to give more attention to...

:anjali:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Brahma-viharas, some easier/harder for you?

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Jan 29, 2010 10:29 am

being a very violent person in the not so distant past, Take your pick!

but I would say Equanimity is the hardest, simply because it is the one which doesn't arise without practice, the others arise when I meet friends, see someone hurt or they win something, so can be used as a practice, but equanimity needs cultivated more than the others formally.
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Re: Brahma-viharas, some easier/harder for you?

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Jan 29, 2010 10:41 am

I think thats true. Its not one that is developed or recognised as desirable in western culture, where we are strongly encouraged to be partisan and emotionally attached.
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Re: Brahma-viharas, some easier/harder for you?

Postby Prasadachitta » Fri Jan 29, 2010 4:51 pm

I concur with retro.
+...

Generally sympathetic joy is not as spontaneous as kindness and compassion for me. Not that I am acutely jealous but i just tend to not acknowledge or recognize when others are shining with positive qualities. It is part of my practice to cultivate more attention to the positive qualities of others.


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Re: Brahma-viharas, some easier/harder for you?

Postby christopher::: » Sat Jan 30, 2010 8:38 am

Concerning upekkha (equanimity), would some of you like to share the practices that have been most helpful for you?

Also, does anyone have thoughts about how upekkha differs from passaddhi? Buddha mentioned both upekkha and passaddhi as essential factors of awakening.

Why didn't he group them together?

:anjali:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Brahma-viharas, some easier/harder for you?

Postby Reductor » Sat Jan 30, 2010 9:02 am

christopher::: wrote:Concerning upekkha (equanimity), would some of you like to share the practices that have been most helpful for you?


Cultivate the first three well.

Then reflect often on how Kamma operates in your own life. Understand that well. Investigate that. As you better understand just what kamma is and its role in your life, you will easily extend that same understanding to others. When you know how kamma brings you suffering, and brings joy, and that these principals are universal to all beings, you will have fewer limits on who you will give help to.

That`s my thought on it.


Also, does anyone have thoughts about how upekkha differs from passaddhi? Buddha mentioned both upekkha and passaddhi as essential factors of awakening.

Why didn't he group them together?

:anjali:


Because they`re different.

Passaddhi is often rendered as tranquility, as in `it is unmoving` or `still`: like water in an undisturbed glass. In the case of the 7 factors it means the making of the body and mind still, calm, like water in a said glass.

Upekkha is a perceptive mode where an object or event is striped of the normal values of `good` and `bad` (which were based on perceived self interest) and is instead seen in terms of its actual qualities. That is the same meaning it has in relation to the four abodes. We apply the other three mental states fairly to all beings, regardless of how that relates to our own perceived self interest. It can also mean that we ourselves do not go up and down in happiness based on the fortunes of others. Basically it amounts to being imperturbable in the face of any event, but willing to help whenever the opportunity presents itself regardless of the being the is to receive such help.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Brahma-viharas, some easier/harder for you?

Postby christopher::: » Mon Mar 08, 2010 7:22 am

thereductor wrote:

Passaddhi is often rendered as tranquility, as in `it is unmoving` or `still`: like water in an undisturbed glass. In the case of the 7 factors it means the making of the body and mind still, calm, like water in a said glass.

Upekkha is a perceptive mode where an object or event is striped of the normal values of `good` and `bad` (which were based on perceived self interest) and is instead seen in terms of its actual qualities. That is the same meaning it has in relation to the four abodes. We apply the other three mental states fairly to all beings, regardless of how that relates to our own perceived self interest. It can also mean that we ourselves do not go up and down in happiness based on the fortunes of others. Basically it amounts to being imperturbable in the face of any event, but willing to help whenever the opportunity presents itself regardless of the being the is to receive such help.


The first time i read the above, these sounded so similar but reading through a second time the differences are clearer. Very nice.

Thanks so much for your explanation.

:smile:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Brahma-viharas, some easier/harder for you?

Postby Reductor » Mon Mar 08, 2010 8:02 am

christopher::: wrote:Thanks so much for your explanation.

:smile:


You're welcome. :)

Is it my imagination, or is has this thread been bumped a couple of times?
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Brahma-viharas, some easier/harder for you?

Postby christopher::: » Mon Mar 08, 2010 8:12 am

Yes, and i'm in part responsible for that. It does seem like an important topic.

:anjali:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Brahma-viharas, some easier/harder for you?

Postby Reductor » Mon Mar 08, 2010 7:42 pm

christopher::: wrote:Yes, and i'm in part responsible for that. It does seem like an important topic.

:anjali:


It is, certainly.

And in that vein, I would like to ask everyone a question: how often is it that you cultivate one (or all four) divine abodes as a standalone activity (ie, not a preparation for anapanasati)?

I don't develop them standalone as often as I should. Perhaps once a week, but it is always an enjoyable activity.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Brahma-viharas, some easier/harder for you?

Postby christopher::: » Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:57 pm

thereductor wrote:
And in that vein, I would like to ask everyone a question: how often is it that you cultivate one (or all four) divine abodes as a standalone activity (ie, not a preparation for anapanasati)?

I don't develop them standalone as often as I should. Perhaps once a week, but it is always an enjoyable activity.


I'm not sure what you mean in terms of "stand alone." Of the four brahmaviharas only upekkha do i try to cultivate intentionally on its own. The other three i view as social actions and mind states, kind of the "nectar" of daily life. Ben said it brilliantly. It's in our day-to-day human relationships that we are offered the best opportunity to put these into practice.

"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."


Because they're totally inter-related, the practice and development of each makes it easier to practice the others. Every day, in all human interactions, we have this opportunity.

:anjali:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Brahma-viharas, some easier/harder for you?

Postby Reductor » Tue Mar 09, 2010 5:46 am

christopher::: wrote:
thereductor wrote:
And in that vein, I would like to ask everyone a question: how often is it that you cultivate one (or all four) divine abodes as a standalone activity (ie, not a preparation for anapanasati)?

I don't develop them standalone as often as I should. Perhaps once a week, but it is always an enjoyable activity.


I'm not sure what you mean in terms of "stand alone."


.....

Because they're totally inter-related, the practice and development of each makes it easier to practice the others. Every day, in all human interactions, we have this opportunity.

:anjali:


Do you use any of them as an object of meditation in and of themselves? That is my question. Sorry for being unclear.

In life you want to be loving, compassionate and joyous... even in the face of unpleasant people, but often those things can feel a little difficult due to various circumstances.

One answer is to cultivate each as a mental 'abode'... they can then arise more easily in daily life, because of practice. There are various ways of doing this, one is to think of a particular person whose memory arouses the automatic emotion (loving kindness, compassion, etc), then focus on that feeling, spreading it out into the various directions.

This is only one way of doing it. Often this kind of activity is done as a prelude to breath meditation. I was wondering who on DW habitually meditated on the abodes, other than as a preparatory action.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Brahma-viharas, some easier/harder for you?

Postby christopher::: » Fri Mar 12, 2010 1:40 am

thereductor wrote:
Do you use any of them as an object of meditation in and of themselves? That is my question. Sorry for being unclear.

In life you want to be loving, compassionate and joyous... even in the face of unpleasant people, but often those things can feel a little difficult due to various circumstances.

One answer is to cultivate each as a mental 'abode'... they can then arise more easily in daily life, because of practice. There are various ways of doing this, one is to think of a particular person whose memory arouses the automatic emotion (loving kindness, compassion, etc), then focus on that feeling, spreading it out into the various directions.

This is only one way of doing it. Often this kind of activity is done as a prelude to breath meditation. I was wondering who on DW habitually meditated on the abodes, other than as a preparatory action.


Hi thereductor,

I think that's an excellent approach, but no, i rarely focus on the abodes in this way. As a teacher, husband and father there just seem to be endless opportunities to practice and cultivate metta, mudita and karuna throughout the day. But i'll try to be more mindful about this. It's possible that i am so busy attempting to make practical use of these factors that i've neglected to focus on them individually, when i should.

If so it would be like a cook who uses a set of knives daily but fails to sharpen them.

:anjali:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Brahma-viharas, some easier/harder for you?

Postby christopher::: » Fri Jan 07, 2011 3:22 pm

retrofuturist wrote:
I find it easier to live with the brahma-viharas than to live without them. Living without them is hard.

Knowing this, and in the interests of my own well-being, I live in accordance with them and try to pull myself up very quickly if I lapse into bad habits. To live contrary to the Brahma-viharas is suffering and this reality can be observed in the present moment.


Metta,
Retro. :)


Rereading this discussion, Retro's words jumped out for me. So true!

:group:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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