THE FOUR IMMEASURABLES
Compassion and love are not mere
luxuries. As the source both of inner and external peace, they are fundamental to the continued survival of our
Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama
Immeasurables—Loving-kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy, and Equanimity—are the sublime expressions of love:
the essential nature and radiance of the enlightened heart. They are also known as the Four Limitless Ones, The
Four Sublime States, and the Brahmaviharas or Divine Abodes.
These four qualities of true love are
said to be sublime, lofty, noble, and most excellent for they are the right and ideal way of relating with all
living beings. These sublime qualities of love provide the answer to all situations we may encounter in our
lives. They are the great removers of tension, the great peace-makers in social conflict, and the great healers
of wounds suffered in the struggle of existence. These noble qualities of love level social barriers, build
harmonious communities, awaken the slumbering generosity within us, and revive the joy and hope long abandoned.
These four qualities of love are
called immeasurable because their capacity to purify the heart and generate positive energy is beyond measure.
In addition, as this sublime love grows within us through sincere practice, it extends immeasurably to all
living beings throughout all realms of existence.
Through deep contemplation and
dedicated practice of The Four Immeasurables, we transform our delusion, greed, self-centeredness, and
negativity. We heal the afflictions of anger, hatred, loneliness, sorrow, and unhealthy attachments.
In this way of practice, we develop a
noble heart filled with the abundance of wisdom, compassion, and love. In time, these sublime qualities of love
become natural and spontaneous—a constant life-affirming attitude radiating from our heart bringing benefit and
happiness to all.
These immeasurable qualities of love are also called abodes (vihara) because they should become the constant
dwelling places of the heart and mind; where we feel at home. They should not remain merely places of rare and
short visits, soon forgotten. In other words, our minds should become thoroughly saturated by these qualities of
love. They should become our inseparable companions, and we should be mindful of them in all our daily activities.
The Buddha tells us: “Cherish all living beings with a boundless heart, radiating kindness over the entire world.”
He suggests we remain in this loving state of being at all times. This he calls the “sublime abiding” (divine
These Four Immeasurables are further described as follows:
In summary, Loving-kindness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy, and Equanimity—are the sublime expressions of love: the
essential nature and radiance of the enlightened heart. They are also known as The Four Limitless Ones, The Four
Sublime States, and the Brahmaviharas or Divine Abodes. These four qualities of true love are said to be sublime,
noble, and most excellent for they are the ideal way of relating with all living beings. This is a superb
practice/meditation for opening the heart and cultivating bodhicitta.
For a PDF copy of this information, click on The Four Immeasurables: Sublime Qualities of Love.
For a PDF one-page summary chart, click on Four Immeasurables.
Source: Used with permission from Neil Steven Cohen at Naljor
Prison Dharma Service, PO Box 1177, Mount Shasta CA 96067. (
Photo Credit: Intellimon Ltd.