Developing the Brahma Viharas

Ajahn Dtun

Developing the Brahma Viharas

We have all come together here to keep precepts, to develop meditation and to cultivate wisdom in our hearts. This intention is something very hard to find in the minds of people in this present day. When we have mindfulness and wisdom, we can see the harm there is in acting in unskillful ways and doing things which transgress the precepts. In keeping the five precepts, always maintaining them in one’s daily life, one will come to see the benefit of the precepts. Within the heart of each person there has to be a moral conscience, along with a fear and dread of the consequences of one’s unwholesome actions. The maintaining of the five precepts is considered as being a quality of a consummate human being. People who do not keep the five precepts can be considered as not being truly human, since the least humans can do is to keep these precepts.

When we have this sense of moral conscience and a dread of the consequences of our actions, it truly elevates our minds – it is like having the mind of a devata, or a celestial being. And when we wish to further develop and cultivate our minds, we should then practice the Brahma Vihāras, or the four sublime states, nurturing them in our hearts: firstly, having mettā or loving kindness; secondly, karunā or compassion; thirdly, muditā or sympathetic joy; fourthly, upekkhā or equanimity. All these are the states of mind or properties of a Brahma.

In our daily life, as we experience things, we can develop and cultivate these qualities of loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity, as appropriate to the situation. These are the qualities that nourish the heart, bringing about continual peace, happiness, coolness and tranquility. This peacefulness and happiness will create the conditions for one to have the mindfulness and wisdom to clearly see the suffering in one’s own life, and therefore look for the way and the practice that will enable one to let go of this suffering.

Therefore in observing the five precepts (the main quality of a human being), having this moral conscience and dread of the consequences of our bad actions (the property of a celestial being) and having these four Bramha Vihāras, (the state of mind of a Brahma god), all of these qualities when they are combined with our practice of developing sīla, samādhi and pañña (virtue, concentration and wisdom) will help us in developing correct view. As a consequence, when one dies, one’s heart will not drop into a lower, unfortunate realm. There will only be continuous growth and development taking place in one’s mind. Happiness and benefit will arise, as a result, both in this present life as well as in one’s future lives.

Therefore I ask all of you to have the confidence to go about performing virtuous deeds.

This reflection by Ajahn Dtun is from the book, This Is the Path, pp. 9-11.