The Four Sublime States

- through Francois Leclercq

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A good meditation teacher can direct a disciple to contemplate one of the four sublime states as an antidote to balance unwholesome and harmful states such as anger, hatred, greed, passion or lust, which cause distraction in the worldly states.

In a booklet of the same name, The Four Sublime States(Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1994, Wheel Series 6) Venerable Nyanaponika Maha Thera explains that the Buddha taught the four sublime states, also known as the four immeasurables, which are:

1. Kindness of heart (put)
2. Benevolence (Karuna)
3. Sympathetic joy (mudite)
4. Equanimity (upekkha)

These states are said to be sublime because they are the morally right way to behave towards other living beings. They represent the right way to react in all situations of external contact.

To quote Ven. Nyanaponika: “They are the great dissipators of tension, the great peacemakers in social conflicts and the great healers of the wounds suffered in the struggle of existence. They break down social barriers, build harmonious communities, reawaken dormant magnanimity long forgotten, rekindle long-abandoned joy and hope, and promote human brotherhood against the forces of selfishness. (Access to Insight)

These four sublime states, when fully developed, are incompatible with their opposites. You can feel one or the other, but you can't feel both at the same time. Meditation on these sublime states excludes their opposites. As they become dominant in the mind, worldly contacts can no longer access them.

These sublime states may sometimes be only temporary places, visited on rare and infrequent occasions, or, as we develop, they may become more frequent abodes or places of long-term habitation. "Long-term abiding" means that the mind is saturated with love, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity, and we can abide in this state for a long time before emerging from it. How long we can stay depends on certain conditions and our skill in long-term practice.

"In all positions", Ven. Nyanaponika tells us, “walking, standing, sitting or lying down. . . let him establish mindfulness of sublime states of love, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity in which their perfections are limitless because they cannot be limited in scope but are infinitely extended. They are inclusive and impartial and cannot be bound by personal preferences and biases. A mind that has reached such an unlimited state will harbor no national, racial, religious or class hatred. (Access to Insight)

It is a wonderful thing that the four foundations of mindfulness and the four sublime states can be practiced simultaneously, for one who is subject to loss of mindfulness due to anger, hatred, envy or lust is constantly distracted in its concentration.

As a calming alternative to breath meditation, one can consciously begin to practice loving kindness, for example, which will serve to cool one's mind and help ease dormant harmful states still functioning in one's consciousness. The two forms of practice can be complementary to each other to help us free ourselves from troubling attachments to the six senses. Such simultaneous practice can help us balance the balance of energy in our mind on a plane between mundane and sublime states.

Instead of constantly beating yourself up – blaming and scolding yourself for inattentiveness in breath meditation – you can turn away, temporarily, from this particular form of frustration and mental distraction, and instead practice mindful meditation. loving-kindness as an antidote to self-imposed shame and blame. It also works well with a focus on compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. There is more than one form of meditation and over time you should try them all to see which are most beneficial to your practice and development.

To quote Ven. Nyanaponika again, in a more specific context:

Generally speaking, such a meditative practice will have two supreme effects: first, it will cause the four qualities to penetrate into the heart, so that they become spontaneous attitudes, not so easily reversed; secondly, it will bring out and ensure their unlimited extension, the deployment of their encompassing range.

“In fact, the detailed instructions given in the Buddhist scriptures for the practice of these four meditations are clearly intended to gradually unfold the limitlessness of sublime states. They systematically break down all barriers restricting their application to particular individuals or places.

(Access to Insight)

In the case of loving-kindness, for example, one begins with loving-kindness to oneself, thinking or saying, "May I be well and happy." . . and so on, then extending the same sense of benevolence to those close to us, to those neutral to us, and finally to all living beings throughout the world.

Here are some quotes from the Buddha's discourses:

“Here, monks, a disciple dwells omnipresent in one direction, with his heart filled with loving kindness. . . compassion . . . sympathetic joy. . . equanimity; likewise the second, third and fourth directions; so up down, around; he dwells everywhere in the world and equally with his heart filled with loving-kindness, abundant, grown great, without measure, free from enmity and free from distress.

(Access to Insight)

Here another quote:

“To love without the desire to possess, knowing well in the ultimate sense that there is neither possession nor possessor: this is the highest love.

“Love without thinking and without speaking of 'I', knowing very well that this so-called 'I' is only an illusion'

“Love embraces all beings, small, large, far and near, whether on earth, in water or in the air.

"Love but not the sensual fire that burns and burns and tortures, that inflicts more wounds than it heals, igniting now, extinguishing the next moment, leaving behind more coldness and loneliness than before. »

(Access to Insight)

The highest manifestation of love is “to show the world the path leading to the end of suffering, the path indicated, traversed and realized to perfection by Him, the Exalted, the Buddha”. (Access to Insight)

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Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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