The Power of the Brahmaviharas

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christopher:::
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The Power of the Brahmaviharas

Post by christopher::: » Sun Jan 19, 2014 9:14 am

Hi all. :hello:

It's been awhile since i stopped by. Want to thank everyone here for all the great discussions and explanations about the Dhamma. I learned so much here! Today i was talking with a Japanese friend, we were discussing the Japanese word En 縁 which means natural relationship or karma, a healthy connection that brings things together, from people to particles in the Universe. Anyway, the conversation got over to mudita and then the brahmaviharas, and that brought me back here to read some old threads and check back with Ben's quote from 2009, which has been very helpful these past 5 years...

"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

My sense is the brahmaviharas could be the most important teachings of Buddhism, for the rest of the world, meaning they are not "Buddhist" ideas, they are truths about what creates happiness in human lives that transcend race, nationality and religion. As a teacher I feel they are absolutely essential in education and parenting, especially for young children.

What are your thoughts on the brahmaviharas, how important are they?

~Christopher
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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Mkoll
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Re: The Power of the Brahmaviharas

Post by Mkoll » Sun Jan 19, 2014 9:33 am

christopher::: wrote:My sense is the brahmaviharas could be the most important teachings of Buddhism, for the rest of the world, meaning they are not "Buddhist" ideas, they are truths about what creates happiness in human lives that transcend race, nationality and religion. As a teacher I feel they are absolutely essential in education and parenting, especially for young children.
Hi Christopher,

I agree with you. They are the most important teachings of the Buddha in regards to social behavior. I think it would be for the benefit of many to emphasize the brahmaviharas when talking about the Dhamma to newcomers rather than talking about the three marks of existence, the five aggregates, or other similar "hard to grasp" aspects of the Dhamma.

I'm glad you feel that way as a teacher!

:anjali:
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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christopher:::
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Re: The Power of the Brahmaviharas

Post by christopher::: » Sun Jan 19, 2014 9:46 am

Hi Mkoll.

Yes, I think so… The brahmaviharas seem to be "common ground" and many people (nonBuddhists) I've talked with are interested about what Buddha had to say on this topic. Even those who are not interested are usually happy (even impressed) when we put these into practice successfully. They really do help to "transform" social situations.

This summary by Nyanaponika Thera is very good, imo.
The Four Sublime States: Contemplations on Love, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy and Equanimity

"Four sublime states of mind have been taught by the Buddha:

Love or Loving-kindness (metta)
Compassion (karuna)
Sympathetic Joy (mudita)
Equanimity (upekkha)

In Pali, the language of the Buddhist scriptures, these four are known under the name of Brahma-vihara. This term may be rendered by: excellent, lofty or sublime states of mind; or alternatively, by: Brahma-like, god-like or divine abodes.

These four attitudes are said to be excellent or sublime because they are the right or ideal way of conduct towards living beings (sattesu samma patipatti). They provide, in fact, the answer to all situations arising from social contact. They are the great removers of tension, the great peace-makers in social conflict, and the great healers of wounds suffered in the struggle of existence. They level social barriers, build harmonious communities, awaken slumbering magnanimity long forgotten, revive joy and hope long abandoned, and promote human brotherhood against the forces of egotism.

The Brahma-viharas are incompatible with a hating state of mind, and in that they are akin to Brahma, the divine but transient ruler of the higher heavens in the traditional Buddhist picture of the universe. In contrast to many other conceptions of deities, East and West, who by their own devotees are said to show anger, wrath, jealousy and "righteous indignation," Brahma is free from hate; and one who assiduously develops these four sublime states, by conduct and meditation, is said to become an equal of Brahma (brahma-samo). If they become the dominant influence in his mind, he will be reborn in congenial worlds, the realms of Brahma. Therefore, these states of mind are called God-like, Brahma-like.

They are called abodes (vihara) because they should become the mind's constant dwelling-places where we feel "at home"; they should not remain merely places of rare and short visits, soon forgotten. In other words, our minds should become thoroughly saturated by them. They should become our inseparable companions, and we should be mindful of them in all our common activities. As the Metta Sutta, the Song of Loving-kindness, says:

When standing, walking, sitting, lying down,
Whenever he feels free of tiredness
Let him establish well this mindfulness -
This, it is said, is the Divine Abode.

These four - love , compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity - are also known as the boundless states (appamanna), because, in their perfection and their true nature, they should not be narrowed by any limitation as to the range of beings towards whom they are extended. They should be non-exclusive and impartial, not bound by selective preferences or prejudices. A mind that has attained to that boundlessness of the Brahma-viharas will not harbor any national, racial, religious or class hatred…"

http://www.vipassana.com/meditation/fou ... states.php
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

SarathW
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Re: The Power of the Brahmaviharas

Post by SarathW » Sun Jan 19, 2014 10:32 pm

Hi Christopher,
Welcome back.
I agree that Brahamaviharas are the most important teaching in Buddhism for the worldlings.
The way I understand, this is the shortest way to attain third Jhana factor Pithi.
Bhahamviharas are practiced by higher beings such as Brahama.
Anyone wishing to go beyond Brahama should understand the Anatta and should keep their objective as attaining Nirvana.
:)
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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christopher:::
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Re: The Power of the Brahmaviharas

Post by christopher::: » Tue Jan 21, 2014 2:29 am

Hi Sarath, thank you.

Do you think Western Buddhists understand their importance enough? I find a lot of Western Buddhists get very serious about meditation practice and "attainment" of enlightenment or personal liberation. These are important but I feel to really reduce suffering in the world, the brahmaviharas have more widespread application. It like Dharma 101, which could really help to heal and transform our world if given great emphasis. Everyone on the planet is ready for Dharma 101, needs Dharma 101, whereas very few feel drawn to more serious or "advanced" practice.

There is also a danger with "advanced" practice people sometimes forget the importance of the basics. Balance is needed.

I dunno.. just thinking aloud.
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

SarathW
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Re: The Power of the Brahmaviharas

Post by SarathW » Tue Jan 21, 2014 2:53 am

Hi Christopher
I think western Buddhist (though they are few) have a better knowledge about Buddhism than the eastern Buddhist.
The reason being they have better resources.
Dhamma is studied in eastern monks in Pali so the Dhamma is the domain of monks.
Average person even do not understand the meaning of five precepts!
I acquired my Dhamma knowledge thanks to English translations.
Though I was born to a Buddhist parents, I acquired the knowledge I have only recently by reading internet materials!
:reading:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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christopher:::
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Re: The Power of the Brahmaviharas

Post by christopher::: » Tue Jan 21, 2014 8:22 am

Yes, good point Sarath…

I live and teach in Japan. A few weeks ago I mentioned the 8 fold path to a group of older students (ages 55 to 70) and they didn't know what I was talking about. They had to all take out their electronic dictionaries, and even then when they spoke the words in Japanese most did not recall what they were exactly. I mentioned 4 noble truths, not a clue there either…

:shrug:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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suriyopama
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Re: The Power of the Brahmaviharas

Post by suriyopama » Fri Jan 24, 2014 7:03 am

SarathW wrote:Hi Christopher
I think western Buddhist (though they are few) have a better knowledge about Buddhism than the eastern Buddhist.
The reason being they have better resources.
Dhamma is studied in eastern monks in Pali so the Dhamma is the domain of monks.
Average person even do not understand the meaning of five precepts!
I acquired my Dhamma knowledge thanks to English translations.
Though I was born to a Buddhist parents, I acquired the knowledge I have only recently by reading internet materials!
:reading:
I do not entirely agree. There are uncountable Dhamama treasures in Thai Language. There are many good teachers beyond famous names like Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, Maha Bua or Ajahn Lee, many of them still alive, who are not known at all in the west.

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Re: The Power of the Brahmaviharas

Post by christopher::: » Mon May 19, 2014 12:41 pm

suriyopama wrote: I do not entirely agree. There are uncountable Dhamama treasures in Thai Language. There are many good teachers beyond famous names like Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, Maha Bua or Ajahn Lee, many of them still alive, who are not known at all in the west.
Hi. Sorry about not returning for awhile...

Indeed, my Thai friends seem to be much more knowledgeable about the Dhamma than Japanese, Koreans and Chinese. It seems to be more a part of the culture, perhaps because so many have spent time training? I have a Thai friend here who's married with 4 kids, but he spent over 6 years in a monastery in Thailand, during his teens. He said a lot of parents send their sons especially if they seem to be getting into trouble. That would *never* happen in Japan or Korea. A teenager has to be studying for college entrance exams!!!

Then after that its college and job, only the sons of priests get training in Buddhism. I think its similar in Korea, and in China the testing and pressure to achieve is absolute madness...
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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Re: The Power of the Brahmaviharas

Post by 2pennyworth » Mon May 19, 2014 3:42 pm

SarathW wrote:Hi Christopher,
Welcome back.
I agree that Brahamaviharas are the most important teaching in Buddhism for the worldlings.
The way I understand, this is the shortest way to attain third Jhana factor Pithi.
Bhahamviharas are practiced by higher beings such as Brahama.
Anyone wishing to go beyond Brahama should understand the Anatta and should keep their objective as attaining Nirvana.
:)
The wholesome (good karma) overcomes the unwholesome (negative karma). Practicing Metta and the Brahamaviharas effectively contributes to and "nourishes" the factors of awakening; eventually allowing dispassion and equanimity, as we see causal arisings as impersonal--anatta--through wisdom. As is my understanding.

... But isn't metta and morality, etc. also both the first and last training?
christopher::: wrote: There is also a danger with "advanced" practice people sometimes forget the importance of the basics. Balance is needed.
There's a very interesting Zen koan of the fox which is relevant to this, I think:-
The koan tells the story of a monk who, after denying that an enlightened person falls into cause and effect, was turned into a wild fox for five hundred lifetimes. He appears to Zen Master Baizhang (Wade-Giles: Pai-chang; Japanese: Hyakujō) and demands a "turning word," a phrase intended to prompt one to realization, to be freed from his animal form.

After Baizhang tells him not to ignore cause and effect, the monk confirms that he has been released from his wild fox body and asks to be given a monk's funeral rites. Later, when Baizhang's disciple Huangbo (Wade-Giles: Huang-po; Japanese: Ōbaku) asks what would have happened had the monk not denied cause and effect, Baizhang tells Huangbo to come close so he can answer him. Huangbo steps forward and slaps Baizhang, ostensibly in the awareness that Baizhang had intended to strike him. Baizhang laughs approvingly and compares Huangbo to the Indian monk and Zen patriarch Bodhidharma.

Tanahashi gives the following rendering of the koan:

Every time Baizhang, Zen Master Dahui, gave a dharma talk, a certain old man would come to listen. He usually left after the talk, but one day he remained. Baizhang asked, "Who is there?"

The man said, "I am not actually a human being. I lived and taught on this mountain at the time of Kashyapa Buddha. One day a student asked me, 'Does a person who practices with great devotion still fall into cause and effect?' I said to him, 'No, such a person doesn't.' Because I said this I was reborn as a wild fox for five hundred lifetimes. Reverend master, please say a turning word for me and free me from this wild fox body." Then he asked Baizhang, "Does a person who practices with great devotion still fall into cause and effect?"

Baizhang said, "Don't ignore cause and effect."

Immediately the man had great realization. Bowing, he said, "I am now liberated from the body of a wild fox. I will stay in the mountain behind the monastery. Master, could you perform the usual services for a deceased monk for me?"

Baizhang asked the head of the monks' hall to inform the assembly that funeral services for a monk would be held after the midday meal. The monks asked one another, "What's going on? Everyone is well; there is no one sick in the Nirvana Hall." After their meal, Baizhang led the assembly to a large rock behind the monastery and showed them a dead fox at the rock's base. Following the customary procedure, they cremated the body.

That evening during his lecture in the dharma hall Baizhang talked about what had happened that day. Huangbo asked him, "A teacher of old gave a wrong answer and became a wild fox for five hundred lifetimes. What if he hadn't given a wrong answer?"

Baizhang said, "Come closer and I will tell you." Huangbo went closer and slapped Baizhang's face. Laughing, Baizhang clapped his hands and said, "I thought it was only barbarians who had unusual beards. But you too have an unusual beard!"

Wumen's commentary and poem
Shibayama gives the following translation of Wumen's commentary and verse:

"Not falling into causation." Why was he turned into a fox? "Not ignoring causation." Why was he released from the fox body? If you have an eye to see through this, then you will know that the former head of the monastery did enjoy his five hundred happy blessed lives as a fox.

Not falling, not ignoring:

Odd and even are on one die.
Not ignoring, not falling:
Hundreds and thousands of regrets!
:smile:
Matt
“We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. Yet our opinions have no permanence; like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away.” ~ Chuang Tzu

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Mkoll
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Re: The Power of the Brahmaviharas

Post by Mkoll » Mon May 19, 2014 7:31 pm

christopher::: wrote:Indeed, my Thai friends seem to be much more knowledgeable about the Dhamma than Japanese, Koreans and Chinese.
Also, they study the Mahayana suttas rather than the Theravada ones. The Mahayana suttas I've read are very abstract and I think harder to remember than the Theravada ones.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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christopher:::
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Re: The Power of the Brahmaviharas

Post by christopher::: » Sun Jun 29, 2014 1:51 am

Mkoll wrote:
christopher::: wrote:Indeed, my Thai friends seem to be much more knowledgeable about the Dhamma than Japanese, Koreans and Chinese.
Also, they study the Mahayana suttas rather than the Theravada ones. The Mahayana suttas I've read are very abstract and I think harder to remember than the Theravada ones.
True. Thanks.
2pennyworth wrote:
SarathW wrote:Hi Christopher,
Welcome back.
I agree that Brahamaviharas are the most important teaching in Buddhism for the worldlings.
The way I understand, this is the shortest way to attain third Jhana factor Pithi.
Bhahamviharas are practiced by higher beings such as Brahama.
Anyone wishing to go beyond Brahama should understand the Anatta and should keep their objective as attaining Nirvana.
:)
The wholesome (good karma) overcomes the unwholesome (negative karma). Practicing Metta and the Brahamaviharas effectively contributes to and "nourishes" the factors of awakening; eventually allowing dispassion and equanimity, as we see causal arisings as impersonal--anatta--through wisdom. As is my understanding.

... But isn't metta and morality, etc. also both the first and last training?

Matt
:thumbsup:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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