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Relationship between Sila and the Brahmaviharas - What did the Buddha say?


#22

(1) Intuitively, this seems very likely. Textual support could be found in the fact that the seventh Factor of Enlightenment and the 4th BV are basically the same, upekha.

(2) This has indeed been my personal experience. Textual support could come from the opening lines of the Karayana Metta Sutta which suggests that when one is already skilled in goodness is the time to start cultivating meta, the first BV. Of course, dana precedes sila.

(3) This logic seems dodgy to me :thinking: because the statement isn’t clear about whether ‘Perfect’ or ‘Partial’ is being considered. “Yes” to ‘Perfect abiding in the BVs requiring perfect sila’. But possibly imperfect or partial sila, or temporary removal of taints etc can provide a basis for some temporary level of BVs. People at different stages along the path are able to let go of bad stuff in part or temporarily. I assume that it is to such people that the Buddha sometimes gave advice, eg to the mendicants he addressed in MN21:

Mendicants, there are these five ways in which others might criticize you. Their speech may be timely or untimely, true or false, gentle or harsh, beneficial or harmful, from a heart of love or from secret hate. When others criticize you, they may do so in any of these ways. If that happens, you should train like this: ‘Our minds will remain unaffected. We will blurt out no bad words. We will remain full of compassion, with a heart of love and no secret hate. We will meditate spreading a heart of love to that person. And with them as a basis, we will meditate spreading a heart full of love to everyone in the world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will.’ That’s how you should train.

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This is perhaps the source of why

The Buddha didn’t just say, “Develop your sila and watch the BVs flow in”; he instructed his followers to work on their defilements, to train and to spread love all around; here’s another eg:

Reverends, the ascetic Gotama teaches his disciples like this: ‘Come, mendicants, give up these five hindrances, corruptions of the heart that weaken wisdom, and meditate spreading a heart full of love to one direction, and to the second, and to the third, and to the fourth. In the same way above, below, across, everywhere, all around, spread a heart full of love to the whole world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will. Meditate spreading a heart full of compassion to one direction, and to the second, and to the third, and to the fourth. In the same way above, below, across, everywhere, all around, spread a heart full of compassion to the whole world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will. Meditate spreading a heart full of rejoicing to one direction, and to the second, and to the third, and to the fourth. In the same way above, below, across, everywhere, all around, spread a heart full of rejoicing to the whole world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will. Meditate spreading a heart full of equanimity to one direction, and to the second, and to the third, and to the fourth. In the same way above, below, across, everywhere, all around, they spread a heart full of equanimity to the whole world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will.’

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Ven Anālayo in Compassion and Emptiness in Early Buddhist Meditation p25 says that use of the stages of cultivating metta for self-revered person-loved person-neutral person-difficult person-enemy is not found at all in the EBTs.

This comes from the Visuddhimarga chapter 10, 8ff and has been much adopted subsequently, in Burma, by Ajahn Maha Chatchai in Thailand and by our very own Bhante @Sujato, who has taught a number of retreats on how to cultivate metta.

Bhante S makes it clear in the introduction to the 2005 retreat that he is teaching the Visuddhimarga formula and explains why he thinks it is valuable for non-enlightened people to cultivate metta.

EBT purists sometimes argue like this:

I mean no disrrespect to Ven Thaniyo when I say that people report (myself amongst them) that doing metta practice, either by radiation as the Buddha and Anālayo suggest or by mantra following the Visuddhimarga, has a noticeable immediate effect: at least when it is combined with efforts towards purification; it might not work (if sila is being seriously neglected). My personal observation is that if someone is irritating me, systematic generation of metta to them achieves a positive improvement in their behaviour! I guess because it makes me kinder to them and consequently they feel kinder to me, act more pleasantly and less irritatingly. My sila is purified just a tiny bit. And theirs is too maybe. Such experiences make me think of the story behind the Karayanamettasutta:

According to post-canonical Sutta Nipāta commentary, the background story for the Mettā Sutta is that a group of monks were frightened by the sprites in the forest where the Buddha had sent them to meditate. When the monks sought the Buddha’s aid in dealing with the sprites, the Buddha taught the monks the Mettā Sutta as an antidote for their fear. The monks recited the sutta and felt better. Their good cheer then happened to quiet the sprites as well.[5][6]

Metta Sutta - Wikipedia

In sum, it would seem that the deliberate practice of metta in daily life and on the cushion can help push the development of sila. Temporary cleansing of the defilements can lead to temporary joyous experience of the BVs, just as permanent removal of the defilesments can lead to permanent divine abiding.


#23

People get spontaneous experiences of the brahma viharas all the time. The idea that you need perfect (or even especially good) sila to get the brahma viharas is absolutely not true. I was not following 5 precepts when I first experienced them, nor was I consciously trying to cultivate them.


#24

Notably, AN8.63 beautifully starts with the Brahmaviharas and leads onward:

AN8.63:1.8: That’s how you should train. When your mind is steady and well settled internally, and bad, unskillful qualities that have arisen don’t occupy your mind, then you should train like this: ‘I will develop the heart’s release by love. I’ll cultivate it, make it my vehicle and my basis, keep it up, consolidate it, and properly implement it.’

Developing the heart’s release without limit transcends self, rendering identity view pointless and useless. For example, if there is food and hunger, sharing emerges decisively, without wishes in this very life. Please have the last bite. There isn’t even a need to grasp at sila.


#25

This morning I listened to Ven Anālayo’s third lecture on climate change. The first part of his lecture directly addresses the distinction in Early Buddhism between permanent liberation (the four stages of enlightenment) and temporary liberation and the role of the BVs in the latter. He references MN31:

“I hope you’re living in harmony, appreciating each other, without quarreling, blending like milk and water, and regarding each other with kindly eyes?”

“Indeed, sir, we live in harmony like this.”

“But how do you live this way?”

“In this case, sir, I think, ‘I’m fortunate, so very fortunate, to live together with spiritual companions such as these.’ I consistently treat these venerables with kindness by way of body, speech, and mind, both in public and in private. I think, ‘Why don’t I set aside my own ideas and just go along with these venerables’ ideas?’ And that’s what I do. Though we’re different in body, sir, we’re one in mind, it seems to me.”

And the venerables Nandiya and Kimbila spoke likewise, and they added: “That’s how we live in harmony, appreciating each other, without quarreling, blending like milk and water, and regarding each other with kindly eyes.”

“Good, good, Anuruddha and friends! But I hope you’re living diligently, keen, and resolute?” … etc

He then goes on to discuss the application of the BVs to our concerns about climate change. The lecture is here: https://mfcc.buddhistinquiry.org/analayo_lectures/


#27

Thanks for the link to this great series of lectures :smiley: :pray:

In the second lecture as well, he speaks about the decline of ethics and moral behaviour as being the cause an increase in the defilements , which in turn leads to a degradation of everything including environment. And then the reverse of this, that an increase in the adoption and practice of sila as being the foundation for a compassionate and functioning social/environmental system.

Going through some BSWA resources, I came across this talk from a few months ago that expands on this aspect. If you listen to it, the questions section is also very illuminating, so make sure to listen through to the end :slight_smile:
PS the audio is extremely faint, but using headphones counteracts this problem :slight_smile:

May all beings attain freedom from suffering :pray::revolving_hearts::dharmawheel:


#29

Is the term, Brahmavihara, found in SN/SA?


#30

@thomaslaw I’m not sure, sorry and my search skills won’t be adequate to that task :slight_smile:

Otherwise, Thanks everyone for your input, agreement and disagreement all :smiley:

:pray: :dharmawheel: :sparkling_heart:


#31

And if they ask, ‘What is the cause, what is the reason why hate doesn’t arise, or if it’s already arisen it’s given up?’

You should say: ‘The heart’s release by love.’

When you attend properly on the heart’s release by love, hate doesn’t arise, or if it’s already arisen it’s given up.

This is the cause, this is the reason why hate doesn’t arise, or if it’s already arisen it’s given up.’
AN3.68

It would seem that metta is a direct antidote to any courses of action stemming from hate(dosa).


#32

Concerning the low audio-quality of the (BSWA)-Solomon-video:

using the (free) utility “audacity” I’ve made a louder version of the soundtrack of the video (couldn’t reconnect the improved soundtrack with the videotrack - don’t know how/with what instrument).

If someone wants it: I make it accessible for some days(!) on a temporary space.

Solomon_lecture (original,192kb quality) (120 MB, mp3)

Solomon_lecture for senior’s-ears (hifreq lifted, 64kb quality, noice-reduced) (40 MB, mp3)


#33

Perhaps with YouTube Studio? Thanks for your work. :slightly_smiling_face:


#34

@musiko Is it possible to make this available for the BSWA?


#35

I’m not quite sure what kind of help is needed? I don’t have much experience editing videos.

In case you asked for a download optimised mp3, here goes (the second one, encoded for voice, 10 MB):


#36

Curiously enough, it would seem that the term only appears twice (and, in a way, just once as this is one of those instance of replication with a bit of variation in surrounding narrative) in the SN: SN54.11 & SN54.12. The curious part is that it’s used to describe breath meditation and the 4BVs don’t appear individually anywhere within them.

However! Looking at the contexts of a few of the other mentions of the term (MN83, DN17, AN5.192), it seems reasonably clear that the term is linked to the cultivation of metta etc.

The term “mettāsahagatena” (a means of trying to identify locations with the same formula in the above three suttas) shows up four times in the SN: SN46.54, SN42.13, SN42.8, SN41.7. “Mettā” can be found a further five times in the SN: SN46.51, SN20.4, SN20.3, SN20.5, SN41.4.

Mweah, I guess there could be some room to assess this as drifting :anguished: but it has ultimately led to this wondrous moment, that must surely offer a definitive answer on what the Buddha said:

Mendicants, suppose one person was to give a gift of a hundred pots of rice in the morning, at midday, and in the evening. And someone else was to develop a heart of love, even just as long as it takes to pull a cow’s udder. The latter would be more fruitful. (SN20.4)

:cow2: :cow: :cowboy_hat_face:

:wink:

Much thanks for a really excellent topic.
:pray:


#37

Ah, your podcast has even nicer quality than my optimized ones. So I’ll remove that versions from my webspace …


#38

Yes I agree. It was just my own conditioning and brain that was perceiving things as drifting. I apologise. In fact, shortly after posting it, I had debated whether to delete that or not delete it … And came to the conclusion that the OP question itself was too narrow -

Though giving things away isn’t necessarily Sila…
Leads to the Question of whether one can practice Sila without Metta , ie isn’t Metta subsumed within Sila? Maybe even vice-versa. At the beginning there may be little of these attributes, but over time they grow via a feedback loop?
It appears that there is such a vast ‘sliding scale’ in the application of these terms, per se, and as one progresses along the path, that it is difficult to pin down. Which brings it all back to the OP :rofl:

Time for me to withdraw from this topic :slight_smile:

May we all be free of suffering :pray::revolving_hearts: :dharmawheel:


#39

Many thanks for your reply and the information.

So, the term Brahmavihara in SN 54.11-12 refers to Anapana breath meditation (not the 4 Brahmaviharas).

So, the term Brahmavihara linked to the cultivation of metta etc. (i.e. the 4 Brahmaviharas) is found only in the MN, DN, AN suttas (but not in SN).

So, it is only this term mettāsahagatena and mettā , but not this Brahmavihara.


Many thanks for the findings.

If the findings are correct, one may conclude that it seems the term Brahamavihara linked to the cultivation of metta etc. (i.e. the 4 Brahmaviharas) is a later development idea in early Buddhism and beyond.


#40

In the SN brahmavihāra development just goes by another name: appamāṇā cetovimutti.


#41

But appamāṇā cetovimutti in the SN is not called brahmavihāra (or the 4 Brahmaviharas).

Brahmavihāra in the SN (such as SN 54.11-12) refers to Anapana breath meditation.


#42

Most welcome! :slight_smile:

Always an vitally important consideration to pause on, just as with the job of interpreting those findings. Mine was a 10 minute, unstructured search. To really explore the matter would require a whole lot more consideration and thoroughness.

Nevertheless,

I’d actually be more inclined to draw the opposite conclusion; or at least be quite nuanced when inferring the significance of any detail. By my own, practically oriented reading, it is absolutely clear that the recommendation to cultivate these four qualities/abodes is a core doctrinal aspect of the EBT. The question of standardized terminology is perhaps another line of curiosity.

As per above, I think it’s a brilliant question! It can be treated broadly or narrowly and both ways are great! Out of my (humorous brand) of respect for the thread, I just wanted to concede that in taking up the particular point that I did I may have been treading the boundaries and put my hands up if wrong-doing was found. :raised_hands: :slight_smile:

Silly response: well, in fact, key point I wanted to highlight from SN20.4 was the discovery of the most glorious unit of time ever; number of cow’s udder pulls should be adopted universally! :grin:

Proper response: Yes, I think doctrinally they are distinguished from one another, but just as you point towards, it’s certainly my feeling that there’s a great deal of interplay between all these wholesome undertakings.

I haven’t been able to read all the comments in the thread, but I think somewhere above the N8FP was raised. To my mind, as I have thus far engaged with the texts, metta+ is a constituent part of Right Intention and naturally supports Right Speech, Action and Livelihood.

Amen!


#43

Also KN:

Thag14.1:9.3: I develop the divine meditation,