Brahma-Vihara or Heavenly Abodes

In worship last Sunday, I talked about equanimity,  one of the 4 Brahma-Vihara in the Buddhist tradition. Several questions after the service made me think that more than one person would appreciate having the list. Here it is, with descriptions of each, from American Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzberg.

Brahma-Vihara is Pali (original language of the Buddha) meaning “heavenly abode” or “best home.” The Buddha taught that practicing these four qualities leads to the “liberation of the heart which is love.” The Brahma-Viharas are:

Metta (lovingkindness) translates both as friendship and also gentle, as in a gentle rain that falls indiscriminately upon everything. Metta practice is a steady, unconditional sense of connection that touches all beings without exception, including ourselves. The Buddha first taught it as an antidote to fear.

Compassion is our caring human response to suffering.  A compassionate heart is non-judgmental and recognizes all suffering—our own and that of others—as deserving of tenderness.

Sympathetic Joy is the realization that others’ happiness is inseparable from our own. We rejoice in the joy of others and are not threatened by another’s success.

Equanimity is the spacious stillness of mind that provides the ground for the boundless nature of the other three qualities. This radiant calm enables us to ride the waves of our experience without getting lost in our reactions.

The service was on this year’s theme of “Who is our Neighbor?” and focused on this month’s Unitarian Universalist Association Principle that says that we affirm and promote acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.

This week’s audio recording includes the 3 reflections that made up the service, as well as the meditation on equanimity between reflections 1 & 2. The 3 reflections are Equanimity Just as You Are (on acceptance), and Not Done Yet (on encouragement to spiritual growth.) You can listen to the recording by clicking on the March 3 entry (Reflections on Equanimity) here.

I wish you well in your practice of these 4 lovely qualities!

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