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Meditation on the four immeasurables

Meditation on the four immeasurables

April 2001

Now we will do a short four immeasurable thoughts meditation. Again, it is very important to relax and be open. Then look into oneself and ask what are we really trying to accomplish, what do we really wish to achieve?

Every sentient being wishes to be happy and be free from suffering, to have sympathetic joy and to live in equanimity. In order to follow one's wish, we need the right instructions and right instructor. The right instructor is the Buddha, the person who journeyed this path and obtained the highest result of enlightenment for the sake of all other sentient beings. This result was not just possible for only Buddha. All of us, all mother sentient beings, have the potential to achieve this result.

Whether or not we are going to achieve this result is up to one's practice, one's connection, one's merit and one's wisdom. It is up to us. We do have the potential to achieve enlightenment like the Buddha himself. If something is achievable, why do we suffer or have difficulties from beginningless time until now? What causes the obstacles to stop us attaining Buddhahood?

The main cause is our selfish mind, our self-clinging. As long as we have self-clinging or a selfish mind, we create positive and negative thoughts and actions.

The things we most like, we regard as positive. We most desire them, to protect this desire, we do so many negative things. Alternatively, the things we don't like, we are always trying to avoid. Through this kind of discrimination, desire and anger arise. We think our desire is a cause of pleasure, we are always listening to our own desire, whatever it asks. We try our best to fulfil this desire, but no matter how much we work hard, there is no way we can fulfil our desire. The reality is that we are a slave to desire. Desire never gives us freedom to gain peace and happiness.

Why is it important to protect our mind from desire which causes all these difficulties? Even in simple examples, sometimes we're not happy with what we eat, where we live, not happy with what we wear, not happy with the people we meet. The reality is that the food we eat, the place we stay, the people we meet or clothes we wear are not going to make us happy or unhappy. It is our own mind, dissatisfaction mind, non-appreciation mind, that causes this unpleasantness, this unhappiness. To make us happy, we don't need to change the house, there is no need to change the food, no need to change that person, no need to change our clothes, and so on. What we have to change is our mind.

How can we change? When we ask ourselves, we realise that the Dharma is very important. Dharma explains how we can develop our mind, Dharma explains what to adopt and what to abandon. If we follow the right instruction of what the Buddha bestowed on us, we have a great opportunity to find happiness through the practice of loving kindness, we have the chance to be free from suffering through the practice of compassion, we have the chance to achieve bliss and joy through the practice of joyfulness. If we have a better understanding of all this, we realise that there are no good and bad external beings and that we can live in equanimity.

Without knowing all these things, we have friends that we become attached to, enemies that we become angry with. With our friends and enemies, there is great uncertainty. A friend is not always going to be friend. An enemy is not always going to be an enemy. Some of our friends cause us much pain and suffering, some enemies cause much happiness and peace in our mind. So the reality is that sometimes the enemy is better than a friend. But we treat friend and enemy differently. This is because we have the mind that distinguishes, the mind that categorises them as two persons. However, if we look at them both in a positive way, they are equal, there is no difference. However much your friend needs happiness, your enemy also wishes the same, to attain happiness.

Without understanding the equality of all beings, it is impossible to practise the Mahayana path. Mahayana means the great vehicle. In the Mahayana, we practise for the sake of ourselves and all sentient beings. In order to practise for all sentient beings, we must see all beings as equal. Otherwise, it is very hard to practise for one's enemy or disliked beings. Even if we do practise, there may arise more anger because our ordinary mind always wishes to defeat our enemy or disliked person. But when you look closely, who is the real enemy? Is it the external person or is it one's own anger mind? The outside enemy is actually very small, it may cause us small problems in this life. The outside enemy cannot follow us continuously, life after life, unlike our own anger mind which brings all the suffering from beginningless until now.

If we don't do anything with this internal enemy, it will follow us continuously in life after life, like a shadow. While we have this opportunity to be born in this human life and to meet this precious Dharma, we therefore have the power to change. This is the greatest opportunity to transform our mind from the negative to the positive, to reduce all defilement emotions and to increase positive thought, positive action and positive speech.

Therefore, it is so important to practise these four immeasurables. The reason we call it immeasurable is because the object of this meditation is sentient beings, and the number of beings is limitless - no one can count how many sentient beings exist in samsara. So when we practise on behalf of or for the benefit of all beings, our practice is of countless benefit, has enormous power. So whether one's practice is effective or powerful depends on how we think. If we do our practice for small reasons, for one's own problems, this small practice will bring only a small result. If we open up our heart and look and see that all sentient beings are the same, we will see that they are all trying to achieve the one goal, which is happiness and peace. Why then, we ask, is only me important, when the wish for peace and happiness is just as important for all beings? Therefore, one must practise for all beings. This we call the diamond heart, big heart. This brings one so much joy, so much happiness and is a much quicker method to achieve the result.

This is the reason the Dharma is like a key, it opens our heart. When we open our heart, we see that our heart and another's heart are not different. We only have a different container. Like a diamond, whether it is mined in Australia or another country, only the name is different, the actual diamonds are not different. Likewise, with human beings and non-human beings, our physical form is different but there is no difference between our hearts. So when we practise for all beings this brings so much joy and rejoicing. This is the true happiness in our life. Through this practice we can also attain the highest liberation or full enlightenment.

When we meditate on loving kindness, it is important to open our heart and welcome all sentient beings in and to contribute to helping all beings. Just imagine that oneself is like a rescuer and all sentient beings are sinking in the ocean. If we save one life, imagine how much joy this would bring to oneself and others. So, in this way, just imagine oneself is a rescuer, rescuing all beings from the samsaric ocean.

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