This is Post 12 in the ‘Meditation Guidance’ series. Summaries of the other articles in this series can be found here.
Consciousness is like the space we move through – it is easy to go through life completely unaware of it. And even though it is always there when we look for it, its nature can be difficult to grasp. If we are setting out to systematically familiarise ourselves with the ultimate nature of mind, the four brahmavihāras provide us with an extremely good, and relatively simple framework for engaging in this exploration – one that highlights the inherently ethical and relational nature of Consciousness. They also offer us four very attractive and relatively easy ways of moving out of ordinary egoic consciousness into states of alignment and healing.
The Four Mahabrahmavihāras
In Mahayana Buddhist tradition, reflection on the brahmavihāras brought a development to the early Buddhist approach to that teaching, which is of enormous practical and philosophical significance for those who wish to use the brahmavihāras as a framework for meditation and self-inquiry, and I would like to share it here.
Essentially, the understanding arose that it is helpful to see each one of the brahmavihāras as having both a personal, egoic and conditional aspect, and a transpersonal, or archetypal, or unconditional aspect – even though these two aspects can never be completely separated. The implication was that the most effective way to connect with the brahmavihāras is by opening ourselves to the transpersonal aspect of each one – and allowing the energies of each one to flow through us.
For example mettā, or Loving-Kindness came to be seen as a reflection, in personal felt experience, of mahamettā, or Great Loving-Kindness, which is unconditional, archetypal and transpersonal – an aspect of the field of Consciousness in which we rest. Each of the personally experienced brahmavihāras has a corresponding archetypal source in Consciousness – a mahabrahmavihāra. Continue reading