Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Measurable Four Immeasurables: Wishing Happiness, One Being at a Time

A popular Tibetan Buddhist prayer is the Four Immeasurables. There are many variations on this, short and long. The one I have memorized goes:
May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May they be free from suffering and from the causes of suffering.
May all being abide forever in bliss,
And may they reside in equanimity, harboring neither attachment nor aversion,
Believing in the equality of all.
I recite this as part of my prayers before the beginning of every meditation session, and recite it to myself throughout the day.

I've never used this prayer as the subject of its own meditation, however. Roger Walsh's Essential Spirituality has an idea for doing just that. Walsh offers a very condensed form of the Four Immeasurables - "May all beings be happy, joyful, loving, and peaceful." Rather than start with the universal, however, Walsh suggests starting by saying, "May I be happy, joyful, loving and peaceful." Then gradually extend this to relatives, friends, co-workers, acquaintances - eventually out to people you regard as your enemies, people who have wronged you. The advice, as usual, is not to repress or ignore any non-loving emotions that may arise as a result, but to let them work through you so you can gradually move past them.

I tried this a little this am while cleaning the house, and found it quite an engaging practice. I enumerated my entire family before moving on to colleagues and friends, and then on to people with whom I've had conflict in the past. I found it both relaxing and liberating.

I'm not going to replace my daily shamatha with this, but I may add 15 minutes of this practice to my daily schedule. I have a two-day retreat coming up near the end of May - this seems like a wonderful practice to perform for an hour or so. I'm sure that if I add celebrities and politicians into the mix, I can keep this sucker doing for a good long while!

Comments:
That's great that you recite this through out the day. What a great way to stay grounded and engaged in the matters that are top priority in life.

The part that speaks most to me is the rejection of aversion as well as attachment. Sometimes my aversion to things is harder for me to rid then attachment. I get disgusted too much with too many things.

I seek to right the ship from that tilt.

Thanks for sharing this. :)
 
Glad you found it useful!
 
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