We have all been affected by recent global events from Paris to Beirut, it has all been a bit overwhelming. You may be finding yourself feeling a range of emotions… anger, sadness, confusion, suffering, frustration, etc.
Last night, my teacher, Sifu Gardner, spoke eloquently from his heart about having compassion for all sentient beings. Everything is interconnected and we are all affected by recent events. Sifu also happens to known as Lama Thupten Rinpoche, who is the resident teacher of Urgyen Samten Ling Gonpa (Tibetan Buddhist Temple) in downtown, Salt Lake City. [An article was written earlier this year about him in The Salt Lake Tribune]
I bring this up because with Sifu wearing as many hats as he does, we (his disciples and students) are blessed to receive insights from a man with varied experiences, sharing wisdom from many different perspectives.
He spoke last night about The Four Immeasurables, also known as the Brahma Viharas, which are found in one brief and beautiful prayer:
May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes,
May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes,
May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss without suffering.
May all sentient beings be in equanimity, free of bias, attachment and anger.
1) LOVING KINDNESS
The definition of love in Buddhism is wanting others to be happy. This love is unconditional and it requires a lot of courage and acceptance (including self-acceptance). This kind of LOVE is different than what most of us term the word “love,” which usually includes attachment and conditions. I “love” you because you make me feel good. I “love” you as long as you do things I approve of. I “love” you because you’re mine, my child, my friend, etc. On the other hand, loving kindness, the love we’re generating on the Dharma path is unconditional. We simply want others to have happiness and the causes of happiness without any strings attached, without any expectations of what these people will do for us, or how good they’ll make us feel.
2) COMPASSION — wanting others to be free from suffering. It is said that to generate genuine compassion, one needs to realise that oneself is suffering, that an end to suffering is possible, and that other beings similarly want to be free from suffering.
In regard with the recent tragic events, Sifu reminded us that we must have compassion for ALL sentient beings. Those who perpetuated the acts of violence, the innocently injured, and all those who died. Please understand, that does mean “condoning” what happened, but being angry, and frustrated does no good for anyone. WE cannot de-humanize those who perpetuated the act. The act itself was de-humanizing, but they are still human. AND, they are suffering.
3) SYMPATHETIC JOY — being happy with someone’s fortune/happiness. Can you honesty say to yourself that you are happy when someone you work with gets that promotion you were hoping to get? Or, when your neighbor down the street wins the lottery? When we rejoice in others’ progress, one can actually share in their positive karma. [We are not happy for them, in hopes of getting something in return, we remain unattached.]
4) EQUANIMITY — in Buddhism means to have a clear-minded tranquil state of mind—not being overpowered by delusions, mental dullness or agitation. For example, with equanimity we do not distinguish between friend, enemy or stranger, but regard every sentient being as equal. Equanimity is an unselfish, de-tached state of mind, which also prevents one from doing negative actions.
I share these Four Immeasurables to remind us that we are all connected, we are all human, we are all suffering in some way. The way to begin to alleviate the suffering begins with compassion. We were reminded last night to begin to have compassion first, with those in your life [begin where it’s easy]. Compassion for your children, your partner, friends, neighbors. Then begin to radiate your compassion outwards, to the guy who cuts you off on the freeway, the annoying co-worker, the person begging for money on the side of the street. Keep reaching and radiating compassion to ALL sentient beings.
Sifu also reminded us, that those who perpetuated the attacks are suffering, and will continue to suffer in the future. By the way of Karma = cause + effect. In other words; whatever you do intentionally to others, a similar thing will happen to yourself in the future. When we cause others to suffer, we suffer ourselves, causing happiness to others will result in happiness for oneself. [Which would you rather choose?]
Another way to build compassion from within is reciting the Chenrezig mantra “OM MANI PADME HUNG,” Say it out loud and begin to create that energetic charge out into the world.
Remember, wherever you find yourself—practice compassion.
Note: Descriptions of the Four Immeasurables are excerpted from the website: A View On Buddhism