6: Meditation on Brahma Viharas

Karuna, Metta, Upekka and Mudita are four kinds of Brahma Viharas or heavenly abodes (or states of mind). Essence of any one of them cannot be grasped without knowing the other three Brahma Viharas.

Karuna: Karuna is compassion for all people and beings who are less gifted than us and are suffering. It helps us reduce our pride and greed.

Mudita: Mudita is Sympathetic joy or feeling joy in prosperity and happiness of others. This emotion is developed for people or beings better gifted than us. It helps us reduce our jealously.

Upekka: Upekka is Equanimity. It is, treating all people and all beings equal and accept others as they are. It helps us reduce our indifference.

Metta: Metta is love for all beings. We usually love only those we are related and like. But Metta is loving all beings without any conditions whether they are rich or poor, good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, ill & diseased or healthy, whether we know them or not, whether they are humans or animals or other beings. It helps us reduce our hate and anger.

Most of our emotions love, hate, anger, sympathy, etc are for our personal need/greed or towards those we know or love. But these Brahma Viharas are emotions that are noble and encompass all beings and are non-selfish.
These help us overcome greed, anger, hate, possessiveness and jealously.  But these emotions or states of mind are uncommon in most of us. Hence they need to be consciously developed.

Metta meditation is a common practice in Buddhist meditation. You can practice meditation on these Brahma Viharas. Here is the instructions you can follow to develop these Brahma Viharas:

Begin by sitting comfortably in traditional meditation posture – legs folded, back straight and head lightly balanced on the shoulder. Those uncomfortable can sit on chair with feets flat on the floor.

Close your eyes, take a deep breath.  Observe each part of your body slowly from head to toe.  As you observe each part relax the part relieving any tension on that part.

Then mentally repeat these statements to develop Brahma Viharas:

  1. May I have
    • good health (to do all my tasks, support my family, help society and care all beings),
    • wealth (and all resources including money to meet my needs, my family needs and provide for the needy),
    • love & respect (for myself, from all relatives, friends and all people I know),
    • success (in all things I do and intend to do for myself, for my family and at my profession) and
    • mindfulness (and awareness of all actions, speech & thoughts at all time whether I am alone or with my family or at my profession)
  2. May my family including my spouse, children, parents, in-laws & brothers & sisters have good health… wealth… love… success… and mindfulness.
  3. May my neighbors, friends, colleagues and all people I know have good health… wealth… love… success… and mindfulness.
  4. May all human being from my community, my country, my neighboring countries and all other countries on this earth have good health… wealth… love… success… and mindfulness.
  5. May all beings visible and invisible, on ground and water and air, on earth and everywhere in this universe have good health… wealth… love… success… and mindfulness.

Now slowly bring your body to normal state observing it from toe to head and open your eyes.

This is a combined meditation to develop all the Brahma Viharas. You can change the instructions to develop each Brahma Viharas separately.

This meditation is also in tune with recent science behind brain entrainment, neurolinguistic programming, etc.

Health, wealth, love, success and mindfulness in these instructions are again associated with our five fingers. They are also different aspects of our life we must care for.

  1. Health is associated with little finger which is weaker finger.
  2. Wealth is associated with ring finger having our diamond/gold ring.
  3. Love is associated with middle finger. If you have already read the rest of the book “Attaining Nirvana”, then you are now ready to assign this finger a better and respectful meaning it deserves.
  4. Success is associated with index finger which is also associated with destiny.
  5. Mindfulness is associated with thumb. It was associated with drink/intoxicatants in thumbs-up position and loss of awareness. It reminds us to remain always mindful.

The five groups of people in the meditation are also mapped to the fingers, so you do not lose direction in the meditation.

  1. Little finger denotes you.
  2. (Engagement)Ring finger denotes your relatives.
  3. Middle finger (assigning it better meaning again) denotes all the people you know and love.
  4. Index finger denoting all human beings.
  5. Thumb (we assigned it to mara observing all world systems and not letting the Cycle of Samsara to stop) denoting all other beings.

5: The Practice Chart

Noble Eight Fold Path in Buddhism mapped on hand
Noble Eight Fold Path

The aim of this chart is to be aware of our deeds/karma as it is being done. In our daily life we are not aware whether what we have done is good or bad karma. With the help of this chart we can see all the karma that we have done after it has been done, like taking intoxicant, speaking lies, etc. After practicing it for some time, we will be at least aware of our actions  as they are being done. Awareness that we should change is important before we can change ourselves.

For practicing this figure is represented on the left palm, so that we can easily make markings on it with our right hand.(Left handed people can use this figure on right hand.).For attaining Nirvana, Buddha taught the Eight Fold Path, which is as under:

  • Sila: 1) Right Speech 2) Right Action 3) Right Livelihood
  • Samadhi: 4) Right Effort 5) Right Awareness 6) Right Meditation
  • Panna: 7) Right Thought 8) Right Understanding

With the help of the figure we can follow Sila and Samadhi aspects of attaining Nirvana. While Panna is left for the Second part of this Book, which will complete all aspects of attaining Nirvana.

The representations are as follows (Kindly re-read the details of each representation in previous chapters. Also see the figure as you read the rest of this chapter) :

The five fingers represent the five precepts or panchsheel (Ch.3).

  1. The little finger (weaker finger): Represents – and reminds us from abstaining from killing or harming living beings.
  2. The Ring finger (With costly ring on it): Represents – and reminds us from abstaining from stealing or taking what is not given.
  3. The (notorious) Middle finger: Represents – and reminds us from abstaining from sexual misconduct.
  4. The index finger (we use to ask someone to be quiet): Represents – and reminds us from abstaining from speaking lies, or speaking ill of others.
  5. The thumb (Representing drink in Thumbs Up position): Represents – and reminds us from abstaining from taking any intoxicants that affects the normal functioning of our mind.

Three other precepts not represented are followed by monks (We should try these in addition to above precepts at least once in a week or fasting days.)

  1. Abstaining from listening to music and other entertainment which affects our presence of mind.
  2. Abstaining from taking high and cushioned seat which makes us lethargic.
  3. Eating once a day but not after sunset, to maintain control on our greed.

The three  phalanges of each finger represent Morality (Sila) in action, speech and thought. As karma or intentional actions (discussed in next Part of this Book) are performed in thought, speech and action, the five precepts are divided and represented into three by the phalanges. This is so that we do not neglect or give less importance to karma performed in either thought, speech or action. Also as it is very difficult to change our source of livelihood if it has already been chosen or we had no choice, it becomes important that we follow the precepts in thought, speech and action so we have control of our mind and make our livelihood better. Those who have yet to choose their livelihood should choose it wisely as it affects our whole life, our minds and our practice.

The outer part of the palm connected to the fingers is used to mark our awareness or mindfulness in daily life. The marks are made from outside to inside. The markings are done like hour mark on a clock. For each hour that we are aware we make a mark indicating we were aware at that time of the day.  Also as we cannot properly represent a 24hr clock, we represent the marks with arrows pointing outwards as day for that hour and the same arrow pointing inwards as night and the mark having arrows at both ends as being aware for that hour both during day and night.

The circle in the center of palm shown in the figure is used to mark our meditation practice. A smaller circle is drawn for small period of meditation and large circle for longer period of meditation. Here again we draw another concentric circle for meditation done more than once during a day.

The long and bold arrows shown pointing from each finger towards center where we mark meditation is used to indicate the five hindrances that affect our meditation practice. These are

  1. Sloth & Torpor (Laziness): This line is drawn from the little finger – the weaker finger, which does very little work than the other fingers.
  2. Restlessness & Worry : This line is drawn from the ring finger, the diamond/golden ring in your finger giving you the cause for worry and restlessness.
  3. Sensual pleasure: This line is drawn from the middle finger, this is again the notorious middle finger associated with sensual pleasure.
  4. Ill-will: This line is drawn from the index finger, pointing to others, thinking evil of others.
  5. Skeptical doubt: This line is drawn from the thumb. The thumb in up direction says ‘go ahead’ and the same in down direction says ‘it sucks’.
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