The Buddhist practice of the Four Immeasurables

Edited transcription of Pir Zia’s meditation January 2010, Suresnes

Turn within…Relax while maintaining vigilance…Notice the rhythm of the breath.

Breathe more deeply: the breath bathing the heart, washing away all residues…just as if you were to take the heart in your two hands and dip it into the cool brisk water of a mountain stream…so that the heart shimmers and springs awake.

One sees that one’s distraction and disorientation was a cover over the continually abiding presence of the heart and its action – and that this action is the emanation of loving kindness, tender feeling, hence the mind has perhaps interfered with or obstructed this flow, but the heart’s own motivation is simple, pure, undiscriminating like the light of the sun; it shines on everything, on all beings.

We use the words of the Buddha for each form of love:

1. Meta. We are sending out waves of meta, unconditional love, into the environment. Send out meta to all the beings before you in the garden, city, countryside. To all beings behind you. To all beings above you. To all beings beneath you. To the right. To the left. All are contained within your heart and your heart surges with the liquid substance of unconditional love. To express love is to bear witness, and in bearing witness one observes the condition of beings. And one recognizes that many beings are in pain.

2. Karuna. When love encounters pain it naturally becomes sympathy, empathy, compassion. This is what the Buddha called Karuna. There is in the world injury, illness, decay, sorrow, brokenness, the shattering of hopes. We live in the space of fragmentation and despair. When the heart awakens we cannot ignore these things. In this second movement of love one does not hold oneself aloof: resonate in sympathy, enter into the condition of all beings and share their suffering with compassion and goodwill. Every thought becomes a prayer for healing, but it is not merely the imposition of a wish that things should be different, but attending with direct presence, with vulnerable open communion with each and every being in its condition. The archetypal image of this consciousness is the image of Christ bearing the pain of the entire world. [Let compassion flow out in the 6 directions]

3. Mudita. But of course all is not suffering and despair. There is pleasure, laughter, celebration, fulfilment: the third Movement of Love: reach out sharing in the joy rising up from all across the world. This is what the Buddha calls Mudita. Then one reaches beyond the polarity of joy and pain…the waves of emotion rise and fall, conditions continuously change for all beings. [Let Mudita flow out in the 6 directions]

4. Upeka. Beyond all these fluctuations one discovers an abiding communion, abiding solidarity of all beings who represent life itself in its wholeness. One acknowledges all beings as each of them another manifestation of one’s own eternal nature. This is Upeka: the communion of life in its essence. [Let Upeka flow out in the 6 directions]

Sensing the breath flowing in and out of the body. Feel the hard ground under your feet. Return to our outer senses with the intention of retaining the atmosphere of the enlarged sense of the sphere of the heart. Open your eyes.