This is Post 37 in the ‘Meditation Guidance’ series.
The overall framework for the articles in this ‘Meditation Guidance’ series has been provided by the mandala of the four brahmavihāras: Equanimity (upekshā), Appreciative Joy (muditā), Loving Kindness (mettā), and Compassion (karunā). In order to make these four ‘attitudes of Consciousness’ more accessible, and in order to help people recognise them in their experience, I have, in recent articles, been exploring to the Four Qualia – a formulation of my own, which I have found to be very useful.
The qualia are difficult-to-define, difficult-to-describe, difficult-to-account-for experiences, and there a four of them that together provide a helpful experiential framework for meditation practice: Embodiment; Being; Uncaused Happiness; and Life Energy. Deepening into our experience of resting as Consciousness using this ‘Four Qualia’ formulation as our guide, is essentially an easier, more modest, and more experiential way of approaching the sublime brahmavihāras.
In the next article in this series, I shall be presenting some more detailed reflections on each of the Four Qualia and their corresponding brahmavihāras, for those wishing to experiment with them in their meditation practice, but first, in this article, I would like to reflect on the importance of these practices, and also on why, given their great value, they appear to have been relatively neglected.
Why are the brahmavihāras not better known?
The brahmavihāras are literally the vihāras or ‘dwelling places’ of the great four-faced creator god Brahma – they are the states in which Brahma was believed to abide. Importantly the word vihāra does not denote a permanent home, but a lodging or retreat, like the accommodation for travellers to rest overnight while on a pilgrimage. So the term immediately suggests a staged form of meditation, in which the practitioner moves systematically through a series of four stages corresponding to the brahmavihāras, in order perhaps to achieve a fifth stage, the state of balance, wholeness and internal energetic coherence that Indian tradition calls samadhi. We are being invited, in the brahmavihāras meditation-cycle, to ‘rest’ for a period of time in each vihāra – to rest and find refreshment and renewal in our true nature, both in our meditation practice, and on the journey of life. Continue reading