Four Beautiful Qualities

by Friends of Godwin

According to the Buddhist teaching, when we develop four beautiful qualities – which the Buddha emphasised – we become like gods. These four qualities are Metta, loving-kindness; Karuna, compassion; Mudita, sympathetic joy; and Upekkha, equanimity. That’s why they are sometimes called “The Divine Abodes”. I would like to see them as four of our very beautiful friends. When we have these four friends within us they will make us beautiful, they will make us experience more joy and lightness and this can also affect others around us.

Metta can be seen very briefly as learning to be your best friend and then also learning to be a friend to others. Metta helps us to open our heart to ourselves. It also enables us to open our heart to others.

Karuna is when you see suffering in yourself and when you see suffering in others, doing something to overcome your own suffering and doing something to overcome the suffering of others. This is developing the quality of Karuna, compassion.

In this modern world, where there is a lot of suffering, and the suffering manifests itself in many different ways, it is extremely important to develop this quality of Karuna in relation to others and in relation to your own suffering. In this connection the Buddha has said: Helping others is helping yourself; helping yourself is helping others. And eventually you see no difference between yourself and others.

Karuna is responding to suffering in whatever way it occurs. Mudita is being happy because others are happy. This is sometimes not easy because the opposite of this quality of Mudita is jealousy and envy, especially when you see others doing better than yourself. Is it possible for us to really be happy and joyful that others are experiencing happiness and joy?

Another aspect of Mudita is making an effort to make others happy. In a way one can relate it to Karuna because when you see others suffering you try to do something about it and to get them to experience some joy and lightness, freed from their suffering. Then when that happens you can be extremely happy about it.

The last quality, Upekkha,  is equanimity, having a non-reactive mind. Again, it is a thing that we have to cultivate, to work at. So when we are meditating, when we are doing formal sitting meditation, to be open to whatever happens in our mind and body. If there are pleasant experiences, if we are having a non-reactive mind, an equanimous mind, we should learn to relate to it without giving it a plus, and holding onto it and wanting it to continue. And when we have an unpleasant experience, whether it is physical pain or mental pain, the immediate reaction is to give it a minus and not to like it, resisting it, disliking it. So having an equanimous mind means, whether it is pleasant or whether it is unpleasant, no plus, no minus, no liking, no disliking – learning to see things just as they are.