Thanks for the responses friends.
In this sutta the Buddha advises that the practice of metta and other brahmaviharas should be taken from the first to the fourth jhana. Specificaly, it recomends practicing equanimity from the first to the 4th jhana, proving that the Visudhimagga is wrong.http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka
The Visuddhimagga says the same, in fact, you just found a Sutta that is in accordance with the VisuddhiMagga here.
Then you should train yourself thus: 'Good-will (1), as my awareness-release, will be developed, pursued, [...]
"When this concentration is thus developed, thus well-developed by you, you should then train yourself thus: 'Compassion (2), as my awareness-release... Appreciation (3), as my awareness-release... Equanimity (4), as my awareness-release, will be developed, pursued, handed the reins and taken as a basis, given a grounding, steadied, consolidated, & well-undertaken.'
What's really interesting here is: mindfulness of the body and of feelings (part of the foundations of mindfulness) come after the Brahma Viharas. The Sequence in the suttas as signalised by "When .... is thus developed, then
" indicate that the order is not random. Both the VisuddhiMagga and this Sutta refer to the Brahma Viharas in a sequential order, where you first practice good-will untill you reach the higher jhanas, then compassion, then appreciation, then equanimity.
Furthermore, In the most systematised way the Buddha taught the entire path, which is found in the Mahaparinibbana sutta, of the 37 things to develop to attain enlightenment, there is only direct mentioning of one brahmavihara: equanimity. Aditionaly, development of each brahmavihara leads to rebirth among the brahmas, and equanimity leads to rebirth among the highest brahmas.
I agree here. Of the four BrahmaViharas, only Upekkha / Equanimity is a link to awakening (sambojjhanga).
So there is still no clear reason for me, why Metta comes first and why there is this sequence. Metta is the best for merit making, but it's not a sambojjhanga.
I don't think the Brahma Viharas are intended to be practiced in order any more than the Eightfold Path is. I think the idea is to develop all parts simultaneously, as much as one is able. But I've been wrong before.
That may be right for a less-formal training of the Brahma Viharas, where it depends much on the situation what is most skillful to develop. However, it stands in contrast with the non-random order given like in the Sankhitta Sutta (and a few other Suttas) and the Visuddhi Magga. Even if one wants to see the Visuddhi Magga as perhaps not the best orientation, i'm still left with Suttas suggesting an order I don't understand.
I don't know. This is all very confusing.
Cittasanto wrote:One possibility is that we need to gladden the mind before balancing it.
but the reverse could be true also.
Believe it or not, that was helpful.
I'm not sure yet, but I'll investigate further. It is possible that Metta, Karuna and Mudita prepare the mind for Upekkha. So Upekkha would be the most important, but the others need to be trained before that. Considering how easy it is to drop from equanimity into indifference, taking out all anger with Metta, Karuna and Mudita before going for Upekkha would be a very skillful approach. Hm.