The heart qualities of loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity are known as the Brahma Viharas, or “Divine Abodes,” in the teachings of Buddhism.
The first of these heart qualities, loving-kindness or “Metta,” might be referred to as the “the force of unstoppable friendliness.” It is a loving energy and intention of goodwill that sustains itself independent of the circumstances or responses of others. The remaining three Brahma Viharas extend from this powerful love. When loving-kindness encounters suffering and is not dragged down into pity or hate, compassion can naturally arise. When loving-kindness experiences joy in others and does not react with envy or overzealousness, we can respond with appreciation. And when loving-kindness faces the ups and downs of life and remains steady and caring, that’s an expression of equanimity.
The Brahma Viharas are sometimes referred to as “Sublime Attitudes.” This translation points to an important facet of these heart qualities – the intention with which we approach our lives. Our attitudes arise not only in response to conditions and stimuli, but also through practice. By practicing these “Sublime Attitudes,” we develop them as natural qualities of the heart that are available in the moments of our lives in which they are needed.
Although the teachings of the Bramha Viharas focus primarily on our developing unselfish goodwill in our relationships with others, we can also practice these heart qualities in relation to ourselves. The traditional practice of Metta invites us to include not only others, but ourselves in the circle of love and goodwill. Extending this intention to the remaining three Divine Abodes, we can draw inspiration from programs that have been developed around Mindful Self-Compassion, Awakening Joy, and Cultivating Equanimity.
If you are interested in exploring these heart practices more deeply, please join me in my upcoming course Cultivating Kindness, Compassion, Joy, and Equanimity, starting November 28, 2023 for 4 Tuesdays from 6:30-7:45pm PT. We will weave together Dharma teachings with discoveries in modern psychology and neuroscience to cultivate and experience these heart qualities in our everyday lives – within ourselves, our relationships, and our communities.
|JD Lloyd is a long-time member of the InsightLA Meditation Community, where he completed four years of dedicated Dharma study programs and received training to facilitate mindfulness classes. He completed additional training to conduct courses in Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC), and he has also received specialized education in chaplaincy support, contemplative caregiving, and trauma-sensitive mindfulness…READ MORE|