Four Kinds of Bramavihàra

  • Ashin Adiccavamsa
    State Pariyattisasana University
    (S.P.S University)
  • photo for aritcle copy
    Ashin Adiccavamsa (S.P.S University)

The meaning of Bramavihàra
The word ‘Bramavihàra’ consists of two words: ‘Brama’ meaning ‘Sublime or noble’ and ‘Vihàra’ meaning ‘Living or State’. Therefore, it can be translated as ‘Sublime State or Noble Living’. The another meaning of ‘Bramavihàra’ is ‘Living the same as ‘Bramà’. It is because the one endowed with ‘Bramavihàra’ lives with pure mind just as Brama(The Higher Celestial Beings). Bramavihàra is also translated as ‘Sublime Abode, Holy Dwelling and Divine Abiding’ by some scholars. All these are , indeed, the nearest translations of ‘Bramavihàra’. There is no equivalent for ‘Bramavihàra’ in English. In Mahàgovinda Sutta, ‘Bramavihàra’ is mentioned as ‘Bramacariya’ meaning ‘Noble Practice’. In Abhidhamma, it is also termed as Appamannà(Illimitables). It is because there is no limit or barrier and should be extended towards all beings without exception. Bramavihàra are of four kinds: Mettà, Karunà, Mudità and Upekkhà.
Mettà, mostly known in English as ‘Loving-kindness’, is anger less Mental State(Adosacetasika) which is caused together with a wish for the welfare of all living beings. Wishing for the genuine welfare of all living beings is the nature of Mettà just as a mother wishes for the welfare of her child. The cessation of Byàpàda(Ill Will) is the completeness of Mettà. Love between man and woman is the cessation of Mettà. Lust(Ràga) is the near enemy of Mettà. The far enemy is ill will(Byàpàda). ‘Good Will, Loving-Kindness, Benevolence, and Universal Love’ are suggested as the best and the nearest rendering for the Pàli term Mettà. There is no proper equivalent for Mettà.
The characteristic of Mettà is welfare-promotion. Welfare-preferring is the function of Mettà. The removal of hatred is the manifestation of Mettà. Seeing the beings positively is the proximate cause of Metta. The way of contemplating Mettà is as follows:
Sabbe Sattà Bhavantu Sukhitattà- May all beings be happy and healthy. It can be contemplated mentally, verbally and bodily.
Karunà is merely Compassion Mental State(Karunàcetasika). It can be rendered as ‘Compassion’ in English. Just as a mother wish her child to recover from illness, wishing to be free from suffering of beings is the nature of Karunà. The opposite of Karunà is Vihimsà(Dosa-Anger). Vihimsà has the nature of cruelty whereas Karunà has the nature of wishing to be free from suffering. A feeling very similar with Karunà usually occurs on seeing and hearing of having troubles of one’s relatives and neighbours. It is not real Karunà. It is merely Domanasa (unpleasant feeling or mentally painful feeling). The near enemy of Karunà is home-life grief(gehasitadomanassa). The far enemy of Karunà is cruelty(Vihimsà).
Getting rid of suffering is the characteristic of Karunà. Not bearing other’s suffering is the function of Karunà. Non-cruelty is the manifestation of Karunà. Seeing helpless person is proximate cause of Karunà. The way of contemplating Karunà is as follows:
Sabbe Sattà Dukkhà Muccantu- May all living beings be free from suffering. It can also be contemplate mentally, verbally, and bodily.
Mudità is a kind of Mental State(cetasika) called ‘Sympathetic Joy(Mudità)’. It can be rendered as ‘Sympathetic Joy or Altruistic Joy’ in English. It is also rendered as ‘Appreciative Joy or Unselfish Joy’ by some scholars. Wishing not to lose one’s present properties and wishing to last long of one’s properties is the nature of Mudità just as a mother wishes her child to last long in young age. Mudità is a cause to eradicate one’s boredom(Arati). The cessation of boredom (Arati) is the perfection of Mudità. However, rejoicing the progress and success of one’s neighbours and relatives is not real Mudità. It is only Lobhamûla soma nassa sahagata citta(A kind of consciousness with pleasure rooted in Attachment) caused by Pîti(Dilight). The near enemy of Mudità is home-life joy (Gehasita-somanassa). The far enemy is boredom(Arati).
Gladness is the characteristic of Mudità. No jealousness of one’s progress and success is the function of Mudità. Cessation of aversion is manifestation of Mudità. Seeing being’s success is proximate cause of Mudità. The way of contemplating Mudità is as follows:
Sabbe Sattà Yattàladdhasampattito- May all beings be able to retain their wealth and prosperity which they acquired, without diminution, and be happy as before.
Upekkhà is merely Tatramajjatattàcetasika(Equanimity). It is also the balance state of mind amidst all vicissitudes such as praise and blame, pain and happiness, gain and loss, repute and disrepute. Having the balanced mind onto all beings who can complete the action without the help of other is the nature of Upekkhà, just as a mother has a balanced mind on her child who can complete the action without the help of others. The cessation of love and hatred is the completeness of Upekkhà. The near enemy of Upekkhà is home-life bogus wit (gehasita annanupekkhà). The far enemy is lust and resentment (Ràga and Patigha). Neutrality is the characteristic of Upekkhà. Equality is the function of Upekkhà. Quieting of hatred or resentment is manifestation of Upekkhà. Seeing beings as Kammic (Kamma caused) is proximate cause of Upekkhà. The way of contemplating Upekkhà is as follows: Sabbe Sattà Kammasakà- All living being have only kamma as their own property’.
The benefits of Contemplating Bramavihàra
Happiness in Insight Meditation(Vipassanàsukha), Richness in life (Bavasampatti), and immediately getting happiness in living present life (Ditthadhammasukha-vihàra) can be gained by contemplating of Bramavihàra. Furthermore, the following benefits can also be gained:
1. Pleasant sleeping,
2. Pleasant waking,
3. No bad dream,
4. Loved by human,
5. Loved by celestial beings,
6. Safefuarding by celestial beings,
7. Protecting from fire, poison, and weapon,
8. Getting concentrated easily,
9. Clear complexion,
10. Peaceful dying,
11. Reaching into Higher Celestial Realm(Bramaloka) after death.
These four kinds of Bramvihàra should always be contemplated because it can destroy anger(Dosa), cruelty(Vihimsà), jealousy(Issà), and Lust (Ràga) and Aversion (Patigha). Anger (Dosa) is powerful destructive vice in man. It is also the opposite of Mettà. Cruelty(Vihimsa) is another vice that is responsible for many horrors and atrocities prevalent in the world. It is the opposite of Karuna, too. Jealousy (Issa) is another vice that poisons one’s life. It is also the opposite of Mudità. Lust (Ràga) and Aversion (Patigha) are the enemies of Upekkha. Indeed, Bramavihàras tend to elevate man. They make man sublime in this life. They can transform man into superman. Everybody can contemplate these Bramavihàra. If all try to contemplate them, irrespective of creed, colour, race or sex, the earth can be transformed into paradise where all can live in perfect peace.

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