This is Post 25 in the ‘Meditation Guidance’ series. Summaries of the other articles in this series can be found by clicking here.
While there is much more that could be said about the brahmavihāra of Sympathetic Joy and the Southern Quadrant of the mandala, we need now to move clockwise round the mandala to the Western Quadrant, to the function of Feeling (the samjñā skandha of Buddhist tradition), and to the brahmavihāra of Loving Kindness, or mettā (Pali), or maitrī (Sanskrit). Although in general I like to use Sanskrit, the classical language of Indian spiritual discourse, and the language of the magnificent but no longer existing tradition of Indian Mahayana Buddhism, I prefer, out of habit, to use the more familiar Pali word mettā, for Loving Kindness, rather than equivalent Sanskrit word maitrī (pronounced ‘my-tree’).
Even those who are unfamiliar with the four brahmavihāras as a mandala map of Consciousness, such as I have been presenting, may well have heard of mettā, which is the most well-known of the four. And some will perhaps be familiar with a form of the popular Buddhist meditation practice called the mettā bhāvanā, or ‘Cultivation of the Loving Kindness’. Because of this, I have already written one post about mettā (here) in my introduction to the brahmavihāras at the beginning of this ‘Meditation Guidance’ series.
In that previous post, I explained that mettā is most frequently presented in a way that does not clearly distinguish it from karuṇā (Compassion), muditā (Sympathetic Joy), and fails to acknowledge the important connection between mettā and upekṣā (Equanimity). Because I believe so strongly that a deeper understanding the whole mandala of the brahmavihāras constitutes such a powerful framework for self-enquiry and meditation, I would like now to return to the themes of that previous post.
Distinguishing Feeling from Sensation
In order to fully understand and distinguish the nature of mettā, we need first to understand that function of psychological cognition that we call Feeling, and in order to understand Feeling, it is extremely important for us to make a clear distinction between Feeling and Sensation – something that not all psychological models achieve. Indeed these two words are unfortunately often used interchangeably in English and other languages – and this causes much confusion. The distinction I make between the perceptual sensing function of Sensation and evaluative and discriminative function of Feeling follows both Carl Jung and the Buddhist tradition. I also draw on Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication model and various others who have also recognised and described this universal four-fold pattern, which I have some sometimes called the Mandala of Love, or more simply, ‘the mandala’.