“To make things as easy as possible to understand, we can summarize the four boundless qualities in the single phrase ‘a kind heart.’ Just train yourself to have a kind heart always and in all situations” – Patrul Rinpoche
Patrul Rinpoche is speaking on the brahmavihara. The four qualities which are infinite in scope, and limitless in their depth and applicability. They are also referred to as the four immeasurables, and the four “abodes of Brahma” (Brahma is a God in the Hindu pantheon). They are:
Empathetic Joy (mudita)
Now more than ever - intentional cultivation of these qualities seems necessary. As Orson Welles puts it - this is a time of future shock.
“Future shock is a sickness which comes from too much change in too short a time. It’s the feeling that nothing is permanent anymore”
Stay well informed, stay up to date - but how much of what you consume can be converted into action? Where is the line between being informed and being compulsive? If you dwell on stress, if you ruminate on things over which you have no control, if you consume a constant stream of panic and negativity - then of course you’ll feel anxious and ill. This is law. As Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman simply states:
“Nature can’t be fooled”
We need to ensure that we stand fast at the gateway of our mind.
“Your worst enemy cannot harm you. As much as your own thoughts unguarded” - Sakyamuni Buddha
This doesn’t mean don’t read the news, it means having a kind heart and taking care of yourself. Metta and Karuna are a soothing balm for the mind. We practice them via an expansion and extension of our most primal emotions. The bond between child and guardian. In the Sakya Lamdre lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, you generate loving-kindness by deeply reflecting on the fact that at one point - you were helpless. You had to rely on the love of your guardians to teach you to walk, talk, and act. Not only that, but they gifted you a body which you can now control with ease, but needed immense help with it at first. You reflect on this until you feel it in your chest. This isn’t an abstract game you play - but really conjure up images, thoughts, feelings and visceral examples.
Then, importantly, you apply this loving-kindness to yourself.
Talk to yourself as you would a child. Say thank you to yourself for all the work you do. When was the last time you said ‘I love you’ - to yourself? You take this emotive energy and expand it to your family. Thank, wish-well, and think kindly towards your family members. You then expand and extend this energy to your friends, enemies, animals, and then to all beings. This is why it’s immeasurable - you can be lovingly kind to everyone and everything.
Read the news, be safe, and cultivate the boundless qualities of a kind heart. And maybe, just maybe - take the advice of legendary American blues singer John Lee Hooker.
“I don’t think about time. You’re here when you’re here. I think about today, staying in tune”
Don’t let the world put you out of tune.
It is as it is.