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FOUR DIVINE ABODES (BRAHMA VIHARAS) IN THERAVADA BUDDHISM

In the Maha Rahulovada sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya, the Buddha has instructed Venerable Rahula, His son, to meditate on the four brahma viharas in order to get rid of the negative qualities of ill-will, cruelty, discontentment and irritation.

“Cultivate the meditation of loving kindness. For when you cultivate the meditation of loving kindness, ill-will will be abandoned”

“Cultivate the meditation of compassion. For when you cultivate the meditation of compassion, cruelty will be abandoned”

“Cultivate the meditation of sympathetic joy. For when you cultivate the meditation of sympathetic joy, discontentment will be abandoned”

“Develop the meditation of equanimity. For when you cultivate the meditation of equanimity, irritation will be abandoned” (4)

 

THE EIGHT WORLDLY CONDITIONS: ASHTA LOKA DHAMMA IN THERAVADA BUDDHISM

In the Pathama lokadhamma sutta of the Anguttara Nikaya (collection of the Buddha’s numerical discourses), the Buddha has described eight such worldly conditions or vicissitudes which are: gain, loss, fame, disgrace, praise, blame, pleasure and pain.

“Labho, alabho ayaso yaso ca,

  Ninda pasaṃsa ca sukhaṃ ca dukkhaṃ.”

An Arahant who has totally eradicated the mental defilements will be unshaken by any of the eight worldly conditions. A Non-Returner who has eradicated the two fetters of desire for sensual pleasures (kama raga) and aversion (patigha) may also not react to the eight worldly conditions. However, the Stream Enterer and the Once Returner who still possess those two fetters will react to the worldly conditions with craving or aversion though less than ordinary world beings.

Only Lord Buddha is capable of accurately saying which formal meditation suits each person according to their temperament (gati). Even Venerable Arahant Sariputta was unable to do it. Yash, everything I told you is just a suggestion that may not apply to you.

 

EXPERIENCE IN PREVIOUS LIVES, MAY AFFECT MEDITATION PRACTICE IN THIS LIFE

Dhammapada contains 423 verses said by the Buddha in different contexts. Most of the verses have been taken from the discourses of the Buddha. It has been noted that more than two thirds of the verses are taken from the discourses contained in the two collections of the Buddha’s discourses known as the Samyutta Nikāya and Anguttara Nikāya. The 423 verses are divided into 26 chapters or vaggas each with a particular heading. The twentieth chapter is named “Magga vagga” meaning the chapter on “The path”, which contains 17 verses said by the Buddha. The back ground story of the 285th verse, which is the thirteenth verse of the Magga vagga is about a monk who was unable to progress while meditating on loathsomeness, but was able to progress by meditating on a pleasant lotus flower.

Background story of verse 285

At one time, the Buddha was staying at the Jetavana monastery in Sāvatti which was donated to the Buddha by the chief benefactor named Anāthapindika.

A handsome young man who was the son of a goldsmith was ordained as a monk by Venerable Sāriputta, the chief disciple of the Buddha. Venerable Sāriputta instructed the young monk to meditate on the loathsomeness of the dead body. Having received meditation instruction from Venerable Sāriputta, the young monk went away to reside and meditate in a forest. There, he started meditating on the loathsomeness of the dead body as instructed by his teacher, but made very little progress in meditation. He had to return to his teacher on two occasions to receive further instructions on how to meditate, but still made very little progress.

As the young monk was not making any progress in meditation in spite of the repeated instructions he was given, Venerable Sāriputta decided to take him to the Buddha. So, one day Venerable Sāriputta took the young monk to the Buddha and reported the young monk’s inability to progress in his meditation in spite of the repeated instructions given to him. The Buddha knew that the young monk was the son of a goldsmith in this life and through His supernormal vision saw that the young monk had been born in the family of goldsmiths during his past five hundred births. The Buddha decided to change the object of meditation and instead of meditating on loathsomeness, he was instructed to meditate on pleasantness. The Buddha, through the Buddha’s supernormal power, created a beautiful lotus flower as big as a cart wheel and asked the young monk to stick it on the mound of sand just outside the Jetavana monastery and meditate by focusing on the lotus flower. The young monk began meditating by concentrating on the beautiful lotus flower and was able to develop concentration of the mind by getting rid of the mental hindrances. His mind was filled with rapture (pīti), and gradually progressed through the first mental absorption (Jhāna) up to the fourth mental absorption.

The Buddha saw him from the Buddha’s perfumed chamber and through the Buddha’s supernormal power, made the beautiful lotus flower wither away instantly. When the young monk witnessed the beautiful lotus flower wither and change it’s colour, he realised the impermanent nature of the lotus flower as well as impermanence inherent in all things and living beings. He soon came to the realisation of the impermanence (anicca), un-satisfactoriness (dukkha) and not-self (anatta) nature of all conditioned things. At that very moment, the Buddha sent forth the Buddha’s radiance and appeared as if in person to the young monk. The Buddha instructed him to get rid of craving (tanhā) and recited the following verse which is recorded as the 285th verse of the Dhammapada.

Ucchinda sinehaṁ attano,

  kumudam sāradikaṁ va pāninā,

  santimaggameva brūhaya,

  Nibbānaṁ sugatena desitaṁ.”

“Sever the love of self,

  Like an autumn lotus with the hand,

  Develop fully the path to peace and,

  Nibbāna expounded by the Buddha.”

It is recorded that at the end of this short discourse by the Buddha, the young monk eradicated all his mental defilements and gained enlightenment as an Arahant.

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