5200Brahmaviharas also an exercise in discernment (Thanissaro)
- Nov 23, 2013"Ajaan Lee describes the brahmaviharas as food for your precepts. And that's how the Buddha presents them as well. There's a passage where he talks about reflecting on the fact that you've made mistakes in the past. You've broken the precepts, harmed other people. The proper attitude to have toward that, he says, is to realize that you can't go back and undo the mistake, and sitting there stewing about it is not going to help, either. So you resolve that you're not going to repeat the mistake. You're going to exercise restraint in the future.
Then, to strengthen that resolve, you develop the brahmaviharas: unlimited goodwill, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity. This helps to ensure that you're going to stick with that resolve to exercise restraint, because if you really feel goodwill for other people, you're not going to harm them. If you feel goodwill for them, then when you see them suffering, you want to help. That's compassion. If you see that they're already happy, you want them to continue being happy. That's empathetic joy. If you realize that there's nothing you can do to help them or the situation that you yourself are encountering, then the kindest thing is to develop equanimity toward the things you can't change, which frees you to focus on the things you can. So goodwill underlies all four of the brahmaviharas. It's the essential one. It helps you maintain your precepts. It helps develop concentration.
The Buddha also talks about the levels of jhana you can attain by developing goodwill and the other brahmaviharas. And if you do it right, it's also an exercise in discernment. You can't just sit there beaming out nice thoughts and think that that's going to take care of the problem. If, when you get up from meditation, you see that somebody has done something outrageous, then if you haven't really thought the matter through your immediate reaction will be to get upset again.
Here it's important to understand that goodwill doesn't mean that you're going to like people. You simply don't want them to meet with harm. You want them to meet with true happiness. You've got to learn how to develop that attitude in a proper way. That means both understanding the principle of karma, and also understanding how you fabricate feelings in the mind so that they really are genuine. This is where the brahmavihara practice leads to discernment.
Part of the discernment also lies in the exercise of equanimity, realizing when it's appropriate to develop equanimity as an act of kindness to yourself and to others as opposed to when you focus more directly on the other brahmaviharas."
From: The Brahmaviharas on the Path by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
For Free Distribution, as a gift of Dhamma, from Access to Insight and Thanissaro Bhikkhu
With metta / Antony.
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