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The Four Immeasurables
by Ven Sangye Khadro
May all sentient beings abide in equanimity, free of bias, attachment and anger
Equanimity is an attitude that involves having equal respect and concern for every being regardless of where they stand in relation to us. In this prayer, we wish all beings to develop the state of equanimity. Practically speaking, however, we must start by developing it ourselves. This involves gradually overcoming the three attitudes that run counter to it: possessive-attachment, uncaring indifference, and anger and ill will. One of the best ways to overcome possessive-attachment to loved ones is to meditate on impermanence. Everything changes, nothing lasts. One day death will separate us from the people we love. Separation could occur even before that if one of us is posted overseas or if we quarrel and come to hate each other. The more attached we are the more pain and stress we will suffer at this separation. Therefore it is wise to give up attachment. But that doesnít mean giving up love! We can love people without being attached to them by living with the awareness of our inevitable separation. We can appreciate and care for them now and at the same time be ready to say goodbye to them when the time comes. To overcome uncaring indifference towards strangers, those who are neither friends nor enemies, we can reflect on the same meditations that are used to develop immeasurable love, such as thinking about the kindness of others. We can think, "Without others, I would have no food, clothes, shelter or public services. Without others, I could not develop ethics, generosity, patience and the other positive qualities necessary for spiritual growth. Without others, my life would be empty and meaningless."
It is also good to reflect that a stranger may not always be a stranger. When a person we donít know comes to our aid or rescues us from danger, he or she becomes a lifelong friend.
To overcome anger and ill will towards enemies (an enemy is somebody who hurts us or who we donít like), we can reflect on the possible causes and conditions of the harm they give us. "Have I done anything to provoke him? Could it be some flaw in my personality he doesnít like? Perhaps I harmed him in a previous life and heís simply repaying that harm? Maybe his mind is under the control of delusions and he canít help but act this way. That happens to me too, so I should understand what itís like. He must be suffering a lot and heíll suffer more in the future from the negative karma heís creating." Thinking this way, we can generate compassion and patient acceptance towards enemies. Another way to develop equanimity is to remind ourselves that our present relationships will not last forever. From one life to the next, a friend can become an enemy, an enemy can become a friend, a stranger can go either way. Even in this present life our relationships can turn 180 degrees! This happens because our minds are possessed by self-centred attachment, anger and indifference rather than equanimity. Realizing this encourages us to generate the strong wish for ourselves and all beings to abide in equanimity.