Showing posts from January, 2012


Okay, the topic of this week’s post was “supposed” to be loving-kindness – the last of the four sublime abodes to be addressed in this series. Regular readers will note that during the course of my exploration of the other three (compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity) I also delved into their respective near enemies (pity, comparison, and indifference). And so it was that I fully intended to eventually address attachment, the near enemy of loving-kindness (Kornfield, 1993). As I sat down to start writing, however, I immediately realized that attachment really deserves top billing here – if only by virtue of it being one of the most misunderstood of all Buddhist concepts. I’ve actually spoken with people who have “tried to get into Buddhism but just couldn’t get past the whole non-attachment thing.” Apparently non-attachment, for many, means living a passionless existence – devoid of romantic love, deep caring, pleasure, and commitment. So, please bear with me; I’ll be getting t…


The third of the brahma-viharas, or “Four Sublime Abodes”, that I’ll be taking up here is upeksha, a Sanskrit word that is usually translated as equanimity (Sangharakshita, 1980, p. 144; Schuhmacher & Woerner, 1994, p. 394), but which might also be translated as evenmindedness (Conze, 1964, p. 315), impartiality (Conze, 1967, p. 302) or equipoise (Yoshida, 1994, p. 70). Generally speaking, upeksha (upekkha in Pali) is a state wherein the mind is in equilibrium, having transcended all distinctions – suffering and joy alike (Schuhmacher & Woerner, 1994, p. 394). We will be well-served, however, by digging just a little deeper into some of the more specific uses of the word.

Conze (1967) discusses aspects of upeksha ranging from those transient states fortuitously experienced throughout the course of our days, or perhaps more routinely by the adept in the course of deep meditation, to those enduring traits of the buddhas and arhats. With respect to the former, upeksha can refer …

Sympathetic Joy

Hello again! I apologize for the delay in getting this post online. As I stated in a comment following my previous post, the holidays, a meditation retreat, and a persistent (albeit minor) respiratory ailment all combined to knock my writing routine off track. All is well, however; I hope it is so with all of you.
The previous post introduced those states of mind that comprise the brahma-viharas, the “Four Sublime Abodes” of compassion, equanimity, sympathetic joy, and loving-kindness (Sangharakshita, 1980). According to Schuhmacher and Woerner (1994), these are the states of mind that should be cultivated in order to aid in the liberation of others. Recall, however, that each of these states of mind – these “sublime attitudes”, as Thanissaro (2011) referred to them – has a near enemy or imposter, which, while appearing in the guise of spiritual advancement, is merely a more base karmic tendency dressed up in its Sunday finest. And so we have pity masquerading as compassion (the near…

The Four Sublime Abodes (and the Enemies Close at Hand)

Compassion, equanimity, sympathetic joy, loving-kindness – these states of mind are sometimes referred to as the brahma-viharas – the “Four Sublime Abodes” (Sangharakshita, 1980, p. 141). Literally translated, brahma-vihara refers to “divine states of dwelling” (Schuhmacher & Woerner, 1994, 46) or the “dwelling place of brahmas” (Thanissaro, 2011), reflecting the belief that the cultivation of these properties will bring rebirth in the higher heavenly realm of the Brahmas. Figuratively speaking, however, the brahma-viharas are those “sublime attitudes” (Thanissaro, 2011) or “the four immeasurables” that the bodhisattva must cultivate in order to aid in the liberation of others (Schuhmacher & Woerner, 1994, 46).

Funny thing, though, whenever we strive to cultivate something that we’re not already intimate with, we tend to look for evidence of its fruition in places where it might not yet exist – like when we cover a handful of seeds with carefully prepared soil and then look a…