The brahmaviharas are a means of uplifting the mind, for brightening and bringing it joy. However, if the practice causes confusion, then something is wrong in the practice. You have to review it and look for the reason. This is where investigation comes in.
The “near enemies” and “far enemies” are terms to aid you when reviewing your practice. They are guidelines to reflect back on the mind. The Buddha instructs us to examine our minds to see the real nature of the qualities and feelings. For instance, is it loving-kindness or affection? This questioning is fundamental in the Buddha’s teaching. It can be so skilful and useful to keep using the reflective capacity of the mind to penetrate and understand how the mind works. He gives us the basis for investigation—the Four Noble Truths are one skilful investigative tool.
Whichever practice one is cultivating (developing mindfulness, the brahmaviharas, or any other meditation), ask, “Is there suffering or freedom from suffering that results from my practice? How does it work for me?” That is always the bottom line in the Buddha’s teaching. “Am I happier, or am I experiencing suffering? Is my mind clearer or more confused? Is it peaceful or agitated?” These are the guidelines.
All of these qualities (the brahmaviharas, dana, and so forth) are thus important tools of investigation in reflecting and understanding what remains to be done in the task of purifying the mind. This teaching of the brahmaviharas was something the Buddha taught everyone, regardless of societal divisions.
The success of this practice depends on how you direct your mind, how you experience and engage with the world, on your ability to assess the benefit or the lack of benefit of this practice and then make use of it for yourself.
Don’t wait for these qualities to develop on their own. You have to investigate your practice, recognize the results that you experience, and then take whatever remedial measures are necessary. This practice empowers us to change and develop ourselves.
I would encourage you all to take these brahmaviharas and experiment with, learn from, and delight in them.
This reflection by Luang Por Pasanno is from the book, Broad View, Boundless Heart, (pdf) p. 22, 23.