True love is made of four elements: loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. In Sanskrit, these are maitri (also known as metta), karuna, mudita, and upeksha, also known as the Brahmaviharas.
If your love contains these elements, it will be healing and transforming, and it will have the element of holiness in it. True love has the power to heal and transform any situation and bring deep meaning to our lives. — Thich Nhat Hanh (from How to Live #BK558)
The Brahmaviharas, or what Thich Nhat Hanh calls the Four Elements of True Love are known by different names across the various Buddhist schools and traditions such as “four boundless qualities,” “four immeasurables,” “four divine abodes,” “four virtues,” and the “four highest emotions”.
According to German Buddhist nun, Ayya Khema, “Loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity are the four highest emotions, the only ones worth having.”
Anne Klein of Dawn Mountain Center said that “With practice—lots of practice!—of the four boundless states, our effort resolves into ease, the self-other divide resolves into wholeness, and ideas resolve into direct experience.” In an article at Tricycle.org, she went on to say, “we also gain access to the wisdom of our real nature.”
Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezig, Tib.) is the bodhisattva of great compassion. Her four arms represent the four immeasurables.
Because these heart-opening exercises are so fundamental to Buddhist practice of any kind, we wanted to take a few weeks to focus on each of the Four Immeasurables. Please feel free to follow along, and to share your comments below.