Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Brahma Viharas: A Metaphor

The Brahma Viharas, or "divine abodes" that are the natural outgrowths of vipassana practice are Loving Kindness, Compassion, Appreciative Joy, and Equanimity. These qualities were discussed a bit in my 6/12/10 blog.

A teacher named DeaJa Napier has a beautiful way of describing these qualities by using the metaphor of a mother and her child. I am indebted to Eileen McClintock for passing this useful teaching along to me.

Loving Kindness (metta) relates to the mother and the newborn child. It is a sweetness of connection that is without conditions - a nurturing, attentive love.

Compassion (karuna) shows the mother and child when the child is ill or not being cute and sweet. When Loving Kindness meets suffering, there is compassion, and the child is suffering for some reason. Still, the mother is staying present with the same kind of affection as with metta when things are not pleasant.

Appreciative Joy (mudita) occurs for the mother when the child experiences joy in life that is separate from her. The mother can appreciate the joy of the child without envy.

Equanimity (upekka) relates to the child growing up and leaving home to be on his or her own.


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