The Bhrama Vihàras are the four divine healing emotions. Also referred to as four immeasurable virtues, sublime states or attitudes. They are Buddha’s primary heart teachings and connect deeply to our desire for true happiness. The brahma vihàras are emotions to cultivate and live by and are natural human capacities. Everyone has the potential to develop these higher emotions so they become the natural dwelling place of the heart.
Metta: Loving-kindness / goodwill
Mudita: Appreciative joy
The four emotions offer positive responses that a spiritually mature person would display towards others and can be summarised by the concept of emotional intelligence. For instance, one relates to friendly people with love, to those in distress with compassion, to the successful with vicarious joy and to unpleasant people with equanimity. Practicing the four emotions requires strength and courage to develop. They are powerful tools for resolving conflict, promoting healing and creating social harmony. Established bhrama viharas are profound as they enable one to keep love at the forefront in all social encounters, no matter how challenging. One can offer the face of friendliness and kindness in all social interactions. The power of the bhrama viharas comes from the intention to love and motivates one’s actions in the world. “Loving-kindness teaches one how to maintain a healthy goodwill for those who are hostile, to have a balanced compassion for those encountering tragic suffering, to experience a stress-free joy when celebrating others, and to feel an equanimous love for those we cannot help” - Insight Meditation Center.
Of the four virtues, metta (goodwill) is the most fundamental. Metta can be directed to self and to others. Put simply it is a soft affection, “gentle friendliness” and care. Metta is knowing that others just want to be happy and cultivating a heart that cares for the wellbeing of others. It is a unifying quality. For example, seeing a puppy can evoke metta.
The practice of karuna (compassion) is applying loving-kindness and empathy when one feels suffering. It is having an open heart that cares for everyone and being present for the pain we all experience. For example, seeing a puppy get hurt may evoke karuna.
Applying mudita (empathic joy) is what metta feels when it encounters happiness. It is opening the heart in response to happiness and feeling joy when they feel joy. Mudita is a quality of sharing in joy, recognising the impermanence of joy and really rejoicing in the experience while it is present. For example, seeing a puppy playing around may evoke mudita. Mudita is the antidote to jealousy and envy.
Upekkha (equanimity) acts as an aid to support the other three emotions as a balanced state of mind. It is the practice of remaining stable in the midst of everything and brings about acceptance and patience with others. With upekkha practice, one recognises that the happiness and suffering of another person is dependent upon the person’s actions. All beings are in charge of their own karma. Upekkha makes one’s goodwill more focused and effective. It keeps one stable when opening the heart. For example, seeing a puppy over eager to catch a ball and then deflated when he cannot catch it, may evoke upekkha as one can love the puppy with the stability that keeps one from becoming elated or distressed by its ups and downs. Remember that everyone is doing the best they can this time around so focus on their good points - Law of Attraction.
In developing the brahma vihàras one will benefit from the inner goodness they bring, and those who are the recipients of love benefit as well.
Cultivating the brahma vihàras will fill one with richness of inner wealth.