This is Post 10 in the ‘Meditation Guidance’ series. Summaries of the other articles in this series can be found here.
One of the Buddha’s respectful borrowings from the earlier spiritual traditions of ancient India, was the four brahmavihāras (Sanskrit). I regard this teaching as fundamental to our understanding of meditation, and I shall be devoting a long series of posts to exploring it. In my view, the four brahmavihāras are not only essential for understanding and practising meditation – they are essential for understanding life.
As a starting point we can say that the four brahmavihāras are very refined and positive mental-emotional states associated with the divine in Indian tradition. I hope to show, in the course of these articles, that it is important to think of the four brahmavihāras as more than this. They are better thought of as the characteristic mental-emotional attitudes of Consciousness, or qualities of Consciousness – ethical and relational attitudes, not merely mental states. Correctly conceptualised they constitute a universal moral compass that is inherent in Consciousness, and if they were correctly and widely understood in this way they could change the way humanity sees itself, and change the course of history. The importance of this particular ancient description of the divine cannot be overstated. The four brahmavihāras are probably one of the most refined expressions of the mandala archetype, and also one of the most perfect and most illuminating expressions of Jung’s four functions of Consciousness, in the whole of human history.
Brahma – An Archetypal Image of Consciousness
In Indian spiritual tradition, the Sanskrit word Brahman denotes the absolute divine, and the god Brahma is the deity who personifies that ultimate reality – and who occupies the highest place in cosmic order of the ancient Indian pantheon. He is held to be the creator of the universe in Hindu tradition, so he is very like the Judaeo-Christian Yahweh in that regard, but in other ways he is very different. Continue reading