Tag: Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Well-worn Words: The Brahma-viharas

I’ve found that the hardest Buddhist concepts to understand are those which predate Buddhism in one way or another. One of these is the Buddha’s teaching on the four Brahma-viharas: metta, karuna, mudita, and upekkha.

In the Pali suttas they are almost always mentioned as a set without additional descriptions, such that it is hard to know where each begins and ends.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s article Head and Heart Together: Bringing Wisdom to the Brahma-viharas does a really great job of explaining the Brahma-viharas and their interrelationships in a way this hapless practitioner can understand:

Of these four emotions, goodwill (metta) is the most fundamental. It’s the wish for true happiness, a wish you can direct to yourself or to others. […] The next two emotions in the list are essentially applications of goodwill. Compassion (karuna) is what goodwill feels when it encounters suffering: It wants the suffering to stop. Empathetic joy (mudita) is what goodwill feels when it encounters happiness: It wants the happiness to continue. Equanimity (upekkha) is a different emotion, in that it acts as an aid to and a check on the other three. When you encounter suffering that you can’t stop no matter how hard you try, you need equanimity to avoid creating additional suffering and to channel your energies to areas where you can be of help.

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Ariyasavaka

A while back, Bengali monksAshin Sopaka and I had some discussion about what the best English translation of ariyasavaka should be. We were each influenced by different experts. He preferred the translation “Noble Disciple,” while I preferred the translation “disciple of the Noble Ones.” It’s important to keep in mind that these translations are not mutually exclusive, but they are indeed different. Noble disciples comprise individuals who have achieved Noble attainments, while disciples of the Noble Ones have not necessarily reached that level. The latter translation is much broader than the first. As neither Ashin Sopaka nor I consider ourselves Pali authorities, the question was forwarded to the experts themselves…

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Noble Speech and Sarcasm

Tongue In CheekOn one of my posts from last week, I swung the spotlight over to¬†another post without realizing it was written tongue-in-cheek. The author complained: “I would have thought that my ‘tongue-in-cheek’ joking was fairly clear.” And this brought me back to something that I’ve been struggling with for months now: sarcasm/verbal irony.

I’ve been trying to avoid sarcastic comments and verbal irony, mostly because I’ve come to believe that these are essentially breaches of the fourth precept.

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