Chapter Ten
Types of Meditation Practice
 
 
 
 

BUDDHIST MEDITATION is a living tradition with a very long and fertile history. The principles of samatha and vipassana have been developed through an enormous variety of meditation practices, all of which can lead, eventually, to insight and Enlightenment.
 
the five basic methods
 
The Five Basic Methods are a traditional set of meditations, each one an antidote to one of the five principal obstructions to Enlightenment. These five mental `poisons', as they are called, are distraction, hatred, craving, conceit, and ignorance.
 
No doubt you can recognize most of these from your own practice. Distraction is an obstruction which can be overcome by developing concentration in the
Mindfulness of Breathing meditation. The energy we invest in hatred may be transformed into loving-kindness through the Metta Bhavana (and the other Brahma-vihara Bhavana practices to be described shortly). The other three poisons are best tackled through insight meditation: craving is displaced by inner peace and freedom through the Contemplation of Impermanence, our tendency towards conceit is transformed into clarity regarding the nature of selfhood through another vipassana method known as the Six Element Practice, and spiritual ignorance is transformed, through the Contemplation of Conditionality, into wisdom and compassion.
 















Freedom








Compassion


Mental Poison

Transformed intoMeditation MethodMeditation Type

Distraction

ConcentrationMindfulness Of BreathingSamatha
HatredLoveMetta-BhavanaSamatha
CravingInner PeaceContemplation Of ImpermanenceVipassana
ConceitClarity regarding nature of selfSix Element PracticeVipassana
IgnoranceWisdomContemplation Of ConditionalityVipassana

THE FIVE POISONS COUNTERACTED BY THE FIVE BASIC PRACTICES

 
All Buddhist meditation practices can be traced back to one or more of these five principles. We shall be going into the nature of each of these practices in turn. Later we'll explore three further examples: visualization, just sitting meditation, and walking meditation.
 
samatha
 
1          mindfulness of breathing
 
The Mindfulness of Breathing and the Metta Bhavana practices, the fundamental samatha meditations, were introduced at the beginning of the book.
 
2          metta bhavana and the four brahma-viharas
 
However, considerably more can be said about
Metta Bhavana. On the basis of the loving-kindness that may be developed through Metta Bhavana, we can develop three further positive emotions. These are compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity.
 
The four meditation practices connected with these qualities are known as the Brahma-viharas. The word means `the dwelling-places of Brahma', or `the Sublime Abodes'. The Four Brahma-viharas are:
 
(a) The Development of love - Metta Bhavana
(b) The Development of compassion - Karuna Bhavana
(c) The Development of sympathetic joy - Mudita Bhavana
(d) The Development of equanimity - Upekkha Bhavana
 
difficulties with words
 
It's usually the case that translations of specialized Buddhist terms rarely convey the full meaning of the original. There are usually no direct equivalents for these terms. Metta is particularly hard to translate - it is a pity that the obvious English word, `love', may include emotions like sexual desire, greed, or sentimentality. The word `love' rarely conveys simple regard for someone's welfare and happiness. We use the word in many contexts - we love people, clothing, food, ideas - so that our `love' for another person can sometimes be no different from our `love' for a fashionable item of clothing, or from the way we `love' some favourite food. Moreover, our `love' for another person may be confused with sexual desire, neurotic craving, and fear of loneliness. Since the meaning of the word metta is free from these problems (see the definition below) it seems best to leave it untranslated in the hope that it will eventually pass into the language.
 
So long as we steer clear of the English word `pity', which can sound patronizing, there is no problem translating karuna with the more familiar `compassion', which seems a very good word for it. But there is no direct translation for mudita, which can only be rendered into English through a compound like `sympathetic joy' and then explained. For upekkha, too, we have no word - the only one available, `equanimity', can easily suggest a cool, neutral attitude rather than anything truly positive.
 
near and far enemies
 
Since their names do not give us much idea of how to practise them, we'll need to reflect closely on each of these Brahma-viharas. As we explore the practices, try to evoke each quality in your mind and compare it to your experience in life. Then practise the meditations themselves when you have an opportunity.
 
You may be able to evoke each quality in experience by contrasting it with its `enemy’ - that is, its opposite. Each quality has, traditionally, both a `near enemy' and a `far enemy'. The near enemy is a negative quality which we tend to mistake for the true quality, as when we mistake pity for compassion. The far enemy is the more obvious negative opposite of the Brahma-vihara: the far enemy of compassion, for example, is cruelty.
 
As we go through each of the Brahma-vihara meditations, we'll begin by outlining each particular quality. Then we'll go over the practical details of each meditation practice (except the Metta Bhavana - we've already covered that), and finally explore the special qualities of the Brahma-vihara by contrasting it with its `enemies'.
 
(a) metta
the quality of metta
 
The quality of metta is a heartfelt concern for another person's happiness: we just want someone to be happy. And we want them to be happy on their own terms - we don't assume that we necessarily know what they need in order to be happy. We ourselves have no vested interest in their happiness - we simply want them to be happy, whether we personally get something out of it or not. Metta shows in our care about someone's welfare, and kindness in our relations with them.
 
the metta bhavana meditation
 
There is an explanation of the stages of the Metta Bhavana in Chapter Two.
 
the far enemy of metta - hatred
 
Hatred, the desire to harm another person, is - fairly obviously - the far enemy of metta. We can view the metta practice as a way of overcoming the tendency towards hatred.
 
Hatred is a fault that each of us has to varying degrees. Broadly speaking, hatred arises when our desires are frustrated. Since other people frequently get in the way of our achieving our desires, we are often tempted to indulge in it. In each of us there is usually some residue of unconscious resentment, irritation, and anger - all of which are forms of hatred - which can build up until we find some unfortunate person on whom we can `unload' our feelings. But this residue very much affects our happiness; hatred is a very painful, and damaging, emotion.
 
reflect on the benefits of metta
 
If we are prone to the different forms of hatred, it might be more helpful to reflect on the benefits of kindness and friendliness, rather than the disadvantages of hatred. Traditionally, the development of metta has these benefits:
53
 
(1) Good sleep - we fall asleep and wake up happily, and don't have nightmares!
(2) Love and appreciation from other living beings.
(3) Protection from violence.
(4) Swift concentration of mind.
(5) Good looks!
(6) At death, freedom from confusion.
(7) If there is no attainment of insight in this lifetime, rebirth in a happy state of existence.
 
the near enemy of metta - sentimental attachment
 
The near enemy of metta - that is, the emotion we are in danger of mistakenly interpreting as genuine friendliness - is sentimental attachment or pema. Pema is an emotional attachment to another person, our craving of some kind of experience from them.
 
This attachment may be very subtle or very obvious. It can range from a slight tendency to sentimentalize or idealize someone to strong sexual desire. It's quite easy to confuse pema with metta: it is common for people to consider that they are experiencing purely altruistic feelings towards someone, when in fact they simply `fancy' them.
 
An example of the same kind of misunderstanding can occur on the part of parents towards their children - genuine desire for the child's well-being may be mixed with ideas that he or she must grow up according to the parent's own personal wants. This confusion is not restricted to parents - it is an attitude that can form in the mind of any more experienced person with regard to a less experienced person. And from the opposite point of view, examples of pema can arise in our relationships with older people - we can regard them, unknowingly, as being like a father or mother, and perhaps have expectations that they will protect or look after us.
 
Growing out of need-based attachment
 
However, don't become over-concerned about your metta being `adulterated' with pema. Remember that the idea is to mature emotionally, rather than get rid of `sins'. Think mostly in terms of developing the positive quality of metta - whilst being aware of the likelihood that pema still remains in your attitude somewhere. Your development of Metta Bhavana will inevitably have elements of attachment mixed in with it. But as with unrefined gold, such elements may be `panned out' through regularly cultivating the quality of metta, until just the real thing remains.
 
But the process cannot be hurried. Emotional refinement is essentially a matter of growing up - growing out of your need-based response to others, growing towards the spontaneous desire to give and to help. Such growing up requires insight into the essentially frustrating nature of need-based attachments. This insight cannot be hurried, because need-based attachments are generally very strong! All the Brahma-viharas, especially the Upekkha Bhavana, can help to develop this maturing insight.
 
(b) karuna - compassion
 
The fundamental Brahma-vihara quality is metta - the desire for another's happiness. Each of the other Brahma-viharas is basically metta too - it’s the same emotion arising in response to differently `testing' situations.
 
For example karuna (compassion) is a `metta-full' response towards anyone who is suffering. It is more than just friendliness. If we are feeling generally friendly towards all, but then perceive that someone is suffering, we'll feel that a deeper response is required of us. We'll no longer be happy simply to remain with that friendly, open, generous response - positive though it is. Nor can we be content just to be aware of their suffering. We'll want to do something to help. If we truly desire the happiness of someone who is suffering we will appreciate their position and we'll want to relieve their suffering if we can.
 
The conflict between our awareness of their unhappiness and our desire for their happiness gives birth to a new emotion - the emotion of compassion. Compassion is the desire to relieve the suffering of another person so that they may be happy.
 
the karuna bhavana meditation
 
There are seven stages to the Karuna Bhavana.
 
(1) The practice begins with the development of metta. This can be done either by practising the first or the last stage of the Metta Bhavana meditation, or - if you want a stronger basis than that would give you - by going, perhaps more briefly, through all the stages.
 
(2) Once you have established a feeling of metta, call to mind someone who is suffering. This person could be someone you know, or perhaps someone you have heard about. Perhaps their circumstances are miserable - or maybe they are suffering through illness or have acted in an unskilful way which is bound to
bring them unhappiness.
 
It is not necessary to choose someone who is suffering in an extreme way. Remember that the object of the exercise is for you effectively to develop a positive emotion. Watch out for despondency.
 
It's worth stressing that in the Karuna Bhavana you do not try to develop compassion! - at least, not directly. Don't assume that you know what compassion is. Remember that the basic emotion is metta. So just as in the Metta Bhavana, simply try to develop loving kindness towards the person. Your awareness of the person should include the fact that they are suffering - their suffering shouldn't be the only thing that you see in them. This broader awareness will help to transform that basic attitude of friendliness into compassion.
 
(3), (4), (5)The progression of stages in the rest of the meditation is similar to the Metta Bhavana. Now develop loving kindness towards a good friend, neutral person, and enemy in turn, with awareness of their suffering.
 
(6) Finally `break the barriers' by imagining all five persons together - yourself, the suffering person, your good friend, neutral person, and enemy - and develop this loving kindness equally towards each one, with awareness of their suffering.
 
(7) Then radiate that equality of positive emotion throughout the entire universe.
 









1. Develop metta towards yourself
2. Develop metta towards a suffering person, creating compassion
3. Develop compassion towards a good friend
4. Develop compassion towards a neutral person
5. Develop compassion towards an 'enemy'
6.(i) Develop equal compassion towards all four persons
(ii) Extend compassion towards all beings throughout the universe

SUMMARY OF STAGES OF KARUNA-BHAVANA (MEDITATION ON COMPASSION)

 
 
Compassion is, on the whole, a more demanding emotion than metta. Generally, people seem to find the sufferings of others - even very slight degrees of suffering - very difficult to handle. We may tend to associate suffering with failure. We may not like to admit that such failure can happen. Sometimes even to acknowledge that someone suffers can feel as though we are letting them down. `Oh, he's OK - there's nothing wrong with him, leave him alone, let him get on with his own life,' we may say, and dismiss the matter from our mind. But this way of thinking may, in some cases, become a way of justifying, to ourselves, a neglect of the needs of others.
 
This kind of conflict is just one of the `tests' to which the suffering of others continually subjects us. Whether it is just some momentary feeling that someone is experiencing, or a major tragedy, our awareness of their suffering may pose a problem for us. We may tend to hide from the intensity of knowing that people are all around us, all suffering in different ways. This is where the near enemies may start showing themselves.
 
the far enemy of compassion - cruelty
 
Sometimes people try, perhaps unconsciously, to avoid getting involved with other people's suffering. This may lead to cruelty. Cruelty means showing indifference to suffering. (It can also mean actually inflicting it, or taking pleasure in inflicting it.)
 
When the forces of circumstance give us power over those we dislike, we may need to make a conscious effort not to exploit them in this way. Often what we don't like about someone, or feel uncomfortable with, is also a source of suffering for them. But we may not notice this at all, especially if we naively tend to think of ourselves as a `nice person'. We need to make conscious efforts to acknowledge our dislikes, and see that another person does actually suffer.
 
Cruelty is the `far enemy' of compassion. Clearly such a response is to be avoided, and if possible we should also avoid the pressures which spark it off. But we should recognize that our own discomfort with the suffering of others can sometimes make us capable of cruelty.
 
the near enemies of compassion
 
It is difficult to find any kind of solution to the dilemma of human suffering. However, if we are going to be true to our aspirations of personal growth, we need to seek some resolution, at least in our own hearts. The Brahma-vihara meditations are a very good medium for this kind of seeking.
 
In our own day-to-day experience of these conflicts, we may recognize compassion's two `near enemies', sentimental pity and horrified anxiety, which are examined below. It is possible to mistake these emotions for compassion, or at least regard them as something vaguely positive. But, in fact, they can have very negative effects. They both stem, in different ways, from our fear of the feelings aroused in ourselves by the suffering person's situation. Perceiving another person's suffering is often painful and confusing. We are often unable to respond warmly and open-heartedly to them because we get preoccupied by our own discomfort.
 
sentimental pity
 
Sentimental pity arises when we shy away from the discomfort and try to cover it up by `feeling sorry for' the suffering person. We are so confused or afraid that we feel we cannot try to understand or engage with them. Yet we think of this response as positive.
 
If it is not recognized as an unskilful reaction, sentimental pity easily becomes the basis for `explaining away' the person's suffering, and may often be subtly combined with contempt and condescension. People often say things like `Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that ' but it isn't genuine. They don't really care, even though they may think they do.
 
We sometimes express sympathy and sorrow for a suffering person, and think we are genuinely being compassionate; but inside we feel afraid or confused. We don't really want to address their actual needs. An indication of this is when our communication with a suffering person seems unreal and out of touch. We haven't seen what is really required - and we aren't really interested in finding out what it is. What we are most interested in (though we don't see it ourselves) is getting out of that situation, because it frightens and confuses us. Whether their suffering is great or small, the suffering person will certainly detect this.
 
The characteristic of true compassion is that we take the trouble actually to get involved with the person concerned. A possible outcome of sentimental pity is coldness and even, eventually, cruelty.
 
horrified anxiety
 
`Horrified anxiety' is another counterfeit form of compassion. This arises in a somewhat different way. We allow ourselves to experience the uncomfortable feeling that the person's suffering arouses in us. The problem is that we become so affected by it that we lose our perspective on them. Again, we don't really see them at all. We allow ourselves to become so affected by their suffering - or what we see as their suffering - that we stiffen and panic, and so are unable to be of any actual use (though we may busy ourselves in all kinds of `helpful' ways). Since we are feeling something that is apparently concerned with them, we may tell ourselves that this is a kind of compassion.
 
fear of feeling
 
Both of these near enemies can be illustrated by imagining how you might feel if you meet a friend who has recently experienced a terrible tragedy. Perhaps they have lost a child in a traffic accident. The knowledge that such a dreadful thing could happen is very painful indeed to you, too, but how to respond to them? (That is, to the degree that you have a choice.)
 
You may simply not want to feel the shock of your own response, and fall into the trap of sentimental pity. Your mouth says, `What a terrible thing to happen,' but you can't really relate to your friend in a personal way. Later you may say to someone else, `poor old so-and-so, it's such a shame’ - but you still don't allow yourself to feel anything. Or you may make a great outward fuss of it all - but still not really connect with your friend and their needs. Both reactions are based on a fear of feeling.
 
An example of horrified anxiety could be that you yourself become depressed on account of the tragedy, out of ersatz compassion - again, this is of no use at all to your friend, who probably just needs to see that you care, that you at least want to understand, and that you wish them well.
 
This is, perhaps, an extreme example; the principles apply much more broadly. Since suffering is everywhere, you will find less demanding tests of your attitudes towards others cropping up continually. You may see subtler versions of these near enemies influencing you in all your relations to others.
 
Just as was the case with pema, simply be mindful of the possibility of these near enemies without worrying overmuch about them. There will almost always be a component of one or another near enemy - or both - in your responses to people. They will be there in your meditation too. Whenever you recognize one or the other of these, see it as an opportunity to change. In the case of pity, recognize the need to acknowledge and engage with your actual feelings about someone's suffering. In the case of horror, recognize the anxiety in your mind and see how it prevents you from really sympathizing or being of any use. In meditation, it is simpler and more direct - you can more easily recognize your feelings and work to transform them.
 
(c) mudita -  sympathetic joy
 
Compared to karuna, sympathetic joy (mudita) represents a very different kind of emotional `test'. If we are in a positive emotional state and encounter a happy person - perhaps someone happier or more fortunate than we are - the natural, healthy response is one of mudita. Mudita is a feeling of joy and gladness in the happiness and well-being of others.
 
There is a similar Buddhist practice called `rejoicing in merits' in which we applaud the good qualities of other people. Here we don't just inwardly acknowledge, but actually express, how very generous and kind (or whatever) we find that person to be. Just try telling someone you know how much you appreciate them. You may be surprised by the effect it has on you (and them!).
 
the mudita bhavana meditation
 
(1) In the same way as before, begin the practice by developing loving-kindness.
 
(2) Then direct that loving-kindness towards someone whom you think of as being particularly happy and joyful - perhaps they are enjoying good fortune; perhaps they are just happy a lot of the time. Or maybe they are particularly happy at the moment. So inwardly congratulate them on their good fortune and genuinely wish that their happiness continues for a long time. The initial feeling of metta will eventually be transformed into a sympathetic, appreciative joy for them.
 
(3) (4), (5)Then develop this feeling in turn towards a good friend, a neutral person, and an enemy, this time dwelling particularly on their good qualities and their happiness.
 
(6) Then comes the stage of `breaking the barriers': equalize the feeling of sympathetic joy between yourself, the happy person, good friend, neutral person, and enemy. This means that you rejoice in your own merits and appreciate your own good qualities in just the same way that you appreciate those of others.
 
(7) Then, as with the other Brahma-viharas, radiate the emotion outwards towards the whole universe of sentient beings.
 









1. Develop metta towards yourself
2. Develop metta towards a happy person, creating sympathetic joy  
3. Develop sympathetic joy towards a good friend
4. Develop sympathetic joy towards a neutral person
5. Develop sympathetic joy towards an 'enemy'
6.(i) Develop equal sympathetic joy towards all four persons
(ii) Extend sympathetic joy towards all beings throughout the universe

SUMMARY OF STAGES OF MUDITA-BHAVANA (MEDITATION ON SYMPATHETIC JOY)

 
the far enemy of mudita - resentment or envy
 
The opposite, or `far enemy', of mudita is resentment or envy, though very often it is not so `far away' as some of the other far enemies! We can probably recognize that someone else's happiness is something to rejoice in - rationally, we can see that it's a good thing. But inside we can feel very resentful about it! Sometimes our own lack of self-esteem can make us feel inferior and unworthy - especially if we feel our `inferiority' in contrast to their `superiority'. So a good way to work with this emotion of resentment - from our subjective point of view - is to see its basis in feelings of inferiority, and then try to dissolve that basis by appreciating our own merits in this meditation.
 
the near enemy of mudita - vicarious enjoyment
 
The near enemy of mudita, which we can mistake for a genuine appreciation, is a sentimental kind of satisfaction in someone's happiness: we indulge in a kind of vicarious enjoyment of it, and on that basis think to ourselves that we really appreciate them.
 
This works in a completely different way from resentment. When we are resentful, we really don't want to acknowledge the happiness of the other person at all. With vicarious satisfaction, we welcome their happiness, but inside we are still avoiding any real connection with the person. We may go `over the top' in our admiration, in an almost idolizing sort of way. But we have no real awareness of them, or even interest in them as they actually are. What we are really after is a certain kind of satisfaction that we get from our idea of their happiness. It's easy to see how this can be mistaken for genuine appreciation. To counteract both resentment and sentimental satisfaction, we need to pay closer attention to the person themselves, to try to appreciate what their experience of happiness and good fortune is really like.
 
(d) upekkha - equanimity
 
All the Brahma-viharas combine together in the Upekkha Bhavana meditation - whatever work has been done with metta, karuna, and mudita provides a foundation for this more complete practice.
 
So this is a good time to remind ourselves that we are talking about a set of meditation practices, as well as a series of positive emotions. We may, for example, wonder what relation these practices bear to the higher states of consciousness and insight.
 
Tradition
54 says that a meditator may gain access to a considerably higher level of consciousness through this Brahma-vihara as compared to the other three. Metta, Karuna, and Mudita Bhavana are each said to give access only to the third dhyana but no further, whereas Upekkha Bhavana can open the door to all the rest - to the fourth dhyana, as well as the `formless' dhyanas which arise on the basis of the fourth dhyana.
 
This makes a partial link with that special dhyana factor, arising only in the fourth dhyana, which is also called upekkha. But upekkha as a Brahma-vihara is different from the dhyana factor of upekkha. It is more powerful. The dhyana factor of upekkha is a product of whatever meditation practice we happen to be doing, experienced in terms of our own, personal, psychic integration; the Brahma-vihara of upekkha arises because we are meditating specifically on the other-regarding quality of equanimity. The other-regarding quality has inspirational qualities that make it, potentially, far stronger.
 
the upekkha bhavana meditation
 
(1) Once again, start by developing metta.
(2) Then choose a neutral person. Consider, and try to engage emotionally with, their suffering and their joy.
 
At the same time, bear in mind that they themselves have created their situation. This is a form of vipassana reflection: try to respond to their conditionedness with metta.
 
As you engage with them in this way, you may develop a quality of patient understanding which is the beginning of equanimity.
 
(3, 4) Then choose a good friend, then an enemy, and work with them in the same way, trying to deepen the sense of equanimity.
 
(5) Then `break the barriers' by applying equanimity equally to each person, including yourself, and then
 
(6) take that out to all living beings, everywhere, regardless of what sort of person they are or how they may see you.
 
This raises the sense of equanimity to a universal level: developing upekkha can synthesize our experience of the three other Brahma-viharas to the highest possible degree. It can become all of them interacting without any bias or partiality - with equal love, equal compassion, and equal joy in the joy of others.
 








1. Develop metta towards yourself
2. Reflecting upon their suffering, their joy, and their conditionality, develop metta towards a neutral person, creating equanimity
3. Develop equanimity towards a good friend
4. Develop equanimity towards an 'enemy'
5. (i) Develop equal equanimity towards each person including ourselves
(ii) Develop equanimity towards all beings throughout the universe

SUMMARY OF STAGES OF UPEKKHA-BHAVANA (MEDITATION ON EQUANIMITY)

 
 
the near and far enemies of upekkha - neutrality and indifference
 
As well as being a more universal emotion than the other three, upekkha is at the same time more subtle. This subtlety is illustrated by its near and far enemies. Superficially, at least, the near and far enemies appear to be very similar to one another.
 
The near enemy, which we could perhaps mistake for upekkha itself, is neutrality - a lukewarm, apathetic lack of interest. The far enemy of equanimity is a cold, hardened, fixed indifference.
 
The distinction is between a passive and an active indifference. Clearly, the far enemy of cold indifference is in total opposition to the all-embracing insightful love that is the full manifestation of upekkha. But in the case of the near enemy, our feelings about a certain person are so weak - we are neither attracted nor repulsed by them - that it seems pointless to take any interest in them at all. Sometimes, if we are rather out of touch emotionally, this may appear to represent a positive, disinterested regard for someone.
 
No doubt this is why the neutral person is the first other person that we contemplate in this practice. We choose a neutral person because we have little or no feeling for them. It's a subtle relationship - but subtle though it may be, our relationship or non-relationship to the neutral person may actually be as challenging a test of our emotional maturity as is our relationship to the suffering person in the Karuna Bhavana, or the happy person in the Mudita Bhavana.
 
As is the case with near enemies like pity or sentimental enjoyment, we are in fact refusing to really experience this person. We cannot be bothered to engage with them - we find them at best neutral and at worst boring and uninteresting. This is, of course, our prejudice: such a feeling about another human being inevitably has something, at least, to do with our own psychological make up.
 
By providing a medium through which we can work with our response to `neutral' people, all the Brahma-viharas allow us to extend ourselves far beyond the present limitations of our imagination. The Upekkha Bhavana enables us to do so at a higher level than the other Brahma-viharas, since it is supported by them.
 
It should by now be clear why Upekkha Bhavana cannot be effectively practised unless some preparatory work has been done with the other Brahma-viharas. Metta is fundamental, but some experience of both Karuna and Mudita Bhavana is also definitely required. It is necessary for us to have experience in exercising our appreciation of the suffering of others and enjoyment, which is what these two practices do. This will teach us more about empathizing with others, and we shall be better able to imagine something of how the person that we find uninteresting might feel.
 
 

At the moment, when we are happy ourselves we feel that that
is enough, and if other people are unhappy it is not our problem.
When we are unhappy, we just want to get rid of whatever we find unpleasant
as soon as possible - we neither remember nor care that others might
be unhappy too. This is all delusion. Instead, put others in your
place, and put yourself in their place. This is called `exchanging
yourself with others'.
 
Even if for the moment we cannot actually help anyone
in an external way, we should meditate on love and compassion constantly
over the months and years until compassion is knit inseparably into
the very fabric of our mind.
55

 
Dilgo Khyentse Rimpoche
 

Through the upekkha meditation we may see how upekkha is not different from karuna or mudita or metta, though it takes each quality to the highest, most universal level.
 
The Mahayana Buddhist tradition
56 greatly emphasizes a practice called `exchanging oneself with others'. To be aware of the `enemy' of indifference in us (whether active or passive) is extremely useful, since most of the people we come into contact with are `neutral'. Gaining knowledge of our own indifference will help us to engage more fully with feeling, to work with subtler shades of pleasure and pain, and appreciate subtler emotional responses in all our dealings with people.
 
Essentially, upekkha is the development of equality of positive emotion towards all living beings. This doesn't just mean `equal' positivity (which perhaps could be rather a lukewarm affair), but love which is equally strongly felt towards all. This is the highest possible degree of positivity. Equanimity is a very rich, highly developed emotion which can only arise in its fullness when metta, karuna, and mudita have already been cultivated.
 
Karuna and Mudita Bhavana help us to free ourselves from attachments and aversions. These negative emotions keep us preoccupied with our own subjective needs, and cut us off from any real interest in others. If we are to be truly non-discriminating in our love for others, we must have this particular kind of emotional freedom - we cannot remain dependent on the pleasures they can give us, or averse to the pain they may cause. As we have seen, karuna and mudita arise out of fundamental metta, the `no strings' desire for the happiness of others: karuna being our metta-full response to pain, mudita our metta-full response to pleasure.
 
Upekkha, however, is different in that it does not see others in terms of either pleasure or pain. The attitude of upekkha includes compassion towards the fact that everyone suffers, and gladness in the fact that everyone can be happy. So it recapitulates, at its own level, the Karuna and Mudita Bhavana. But in addition, this attitude involves the realization that the suffering and joy that all living beings experience arises from self-imposed conditioning - that we all inherit the effects of our previous actions on our present mental states.
 
Thus upekkha is an extremely positive emotion combined with a powerful element of insight. An understanding of the universality of action and consequence necessarily gives birth to equanimity, since we see that everyone, even if they are not immediately responsible, must take ultimate responsibility for their own happiness. In accepting the way things actually are, we can realize a new kind of connectedness between ourselves and others, and a new kind of patience and kindness, which we could call metta at a higher level.
 
a traditional extension for the final stage of brahma-vihara meditations
 
We have already seen that at the end of all the Brahma-viharas comes the final `consummation' stage of radiation (known in Pali as pharana). If the practice is going well - certainly if you are getting into access concentration or dhyana - it is worth spending longer on this stage. In fact, if the previous stages are well developed, you could occasionally go through them more quickly and concentrate mainly on the conclusion.
 
If you do so, it may help to have a more thorough method of practising radiation. In Chapter Two we outlined the usual method, in which you include ever-widening circles of beings in your metta, moving from everyone meditating in the same room out to all living beings in the universe.
 
Some traditional methods are more systematic. One of these is to divide every imaginable type of being into various categories, and then direct positive emotion towards each in turn. The quantity of living beings in the universe can be bewilderingly vast (especially if you take a traditional Buddhist perspective!) so perhaps dividing them into categories may help you to get more of an imaginative grasp. These categories may be used in a flexible manner - the ones that are given, as you'll see, overlap quite a bit.
 
The categories are (1) all females (human or otherwise); (2) all males (human or otherwise); (3) all enlightened beings; (4) all unenlightened beings; (5) all gods; (6) all human beings; (7) all living beings in states of suffering.
 
The `ten directions' of space are divided and meditated upon in turn for each of these categories. With ourselves at the centre, we radiate metta towards the four cardinal points, the four intermediate points, the zenith, and the nadir. So we imagine, for example, all females in the north, in the south, etc. And also, in each category, in each direction, four phrases of metta-aspiration are then applied. We wish that (1) they may be free from enmity, (2) they may be free from hatred, (3) they may be free from suffering, and (4) they may remain happy in the future.
 
Each combination of metta-aspiration, category of person, and direction of space is called an appana - a multi-faceted `object' of concentration which, when focused upon sufficiently intensely, is a potential entry point into dhyana. One such appana would go like this (not just in words of course, but in imagination): `May all the women in the east be free from enmity.' Others could be `May all the women in the east be free from hatred,’ - then `May they all be free from suffering,' then `May they all keep themselves happy!' Try to imagine the actual existence of all these people, at this moment, aware of their direction in relation to the place you are sitting. In the next round you could consider the men in the same way, and so on.
 
After each direction has been completed, you can come back to developing metta (or karuna, or whatever) for yourself, in order to ground your awareness before continuing. If you follow this method strictly, all the combinations of beings, aspirational phrases, and directions add up to 280 appanas - twenty-eight in each of the ten directions - which will, of course, take a long time to go through! But if your meditation is going well (certainly if each appana actually takes you into dhyana) you will feel like meditating for a long time, and to do so is certainly very beneficial. So long as you are happy in meditation you should extend the time you spend sitting as much as you can: when you are getting easily into dhyana your body starts adjusting so that you may be able - on a good day, perhaps on a retreat - to sit for some hours. In fact this particular method provides a good way of employing the extra energy that one often finds when meditation starts going well.
 
I have included this as an illustration of how much one can elaborate and embroider certain meditation practices. Feel free to simplify or adapt this method however you like: you could choose fewer types of people, or limit yourself to just four cardinal points, for example. The important thing is to keep the imagination alive and working.
 







females
males
enlightened beings
unenlightened beings
gods
unhappy beings
humans
 


East
South-East
South 
South-West 
West 
North-West 
North 
North-East 
Zenith
Nadir


 
 
 
enmity   
hatred 
suffering  
 
…and stay happy!
May all the in this direction  be free from
     

 RADIATING (FINAL STAGE OF BRAHMA-VIHARA MEDITATIONS)[1]

 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 


[1] Vajirañana, Buddhist Meditation