Why Brahama Viharas are not included in 37 factors of enlightenment?

Why Brahama Viharas are not included in 37 factors of enlightenment?


Good observation. They are not included and are quite rarely mentioned in the suttas. They are not exactly essential since good will can do the same job as them. And good will does not depend on them, it depends on wisdom. They can also develop attachment, can obscure wisdom and are generally praised by humans so no need to emphasize them too much. Despite Buddha lack of emphasis on them, many still imagine Buddha in an idealistic way, especially in mahayana.

The practical role of them along the path is to combat the hidrance of ill will/aversion. They also make the person more happy witch is a good trait to have because a happy person can develop the path more easy. From a technical point of view, they are more like an aid along the path.

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Because they don’t lead to enlightenment in themselves, unlike the other formulations of the path, in the 37 factors of enlightenment.

With metta

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Really? In multiple places suttas say brahmavihara can be used to attain nibbana, such as Karaniyametta sutta.


“Then again, a monk keeps pervading the first direction with an awareness imbued with good will, likewise the second, likewise the third, likewise the fourth. Thus above, below, & all around, everywhere, in its entirety, he keeps pervading the all-encompassing cosmos with an awareness imbued with good will—abundant, expansive, immeasurable, without hostility, without ill will. He reflects on this and discerns, ‘This awareness-release through good will is fabricated & intended. Now whatever is fabricated & intended is inconstant & subject to cessation.’ Staying right there, he reaches the ending of the mental fermentations. Or, if not, then—through this very Dhamma-passion, this Dhamma-delight, and from the total wasting away of the first five Fetters—he is due to be reborn [in the Pure Abodes], there to be totally unbound, never again to return from that world.

“This too, householder, is a single quality declared by the Blessed One—the one who knows, the one who sees, worthy & rightly self-awakened—where the unreleased mind of a monk who dwells there heedful, ardent, & resolute becomes released, or his unended fermentations go to their total ending, or he attains the unexcelled security from the yoke that he had not attained before.

(Similarly with awareness-release through compassion,through appreciation, & through equanimity.)


One may say that metta and karuṇā is included in the path factor of right thought / intention.

Katamo ca, bhikkhave, sammāsaṅkappo? Yo kho, bhikkhave, nekkham­ma­saṅkappo, abyāpā­da­saṅkappo, avihiṃ­sā­saṅkappo—ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, sammāsaṅkappo.

“And what, bhikkhus, is right intention? Intention of renunciation, intention of non-ill will, intention of harmlessness: this is called right intention.

In the quote above, abyāpā­da (non malice) is a synonym for metta and avihiṃ­sā (non cruelty) a synonym for karuna.

As well, one may say that upekkhā - which by the ways is explicitly mentioned as one of the seven awakening factors across the Bojjhaṅga Saṃyutta- is as well part of the path factor of right stillness / samadhi:

Katamā ca, bhikkhave, nirāmisā upekkhā? Idha, bhikkhave, bhikkhu sukhassa ca pahānā, dukkhassa ca pahānā, pubbeva somanas­sa­do­manas­sā­naṃ atthaṅgamā, aduk­kha­ma­su­khaṃ upekkhā­sati­pāri­suddhiṃ catutthaṃ jhānaṃ upasampajja viharati. Ayaṃ vuccati, bhikkhave, nirāmisā upekkhā.

“And what, bhikkhus, is spiritual equanimity?
With the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous passing away of joy and displeasure, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in the fourth jhana, which is neither painful nor pleasant and includes the purification of mindfulness by equanimity.

In the quote above, the fourth jhana is framed as the basis for the sort of equanimity that leads one to awakening as well.

Last but not least mudita is definetely present in the element of pāmojja / pamoda. And a second order linkage to the path factor of right mindfulness can be traced through the anapanasati - satipatthana relationship as per SN54.13:

Yasmiṃ samaye, ānanda, bhikkhu ‘cittap­paṭi­saṃ­vedī assasissāmī’ti sikkhati, ‘cittap­paṭi­saṃ­vedī passasissāmī’ti sikkhati; abhippamodayaṃ cittaṃ … pe … samādahaṃ cittaṃ … ‘vimocayaṃ cittaṃ assasissāmī’ti sikkhati, ‘vimocayaṃ cittaṃ passasissāmī’ti sikkhati

"[9] He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in sensitive to the mind.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out sensitive to the mind.’ [10] He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in satisfying the mind.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out satisfying the mind.’ [11] He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in steadying the mind.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out steadying the mind.’ [12] He trains himself, ‘I will breathe in releasing the mind.’ He trains himself, ‘I will breathe out releasing the mind.’



@Gabriel_L Thank you for going to so much effort to define your terms and for providing links. It is extremely helpful, especially for those of us that don’t know Pali or may not be fully conversant with the central topics. A clearly well intentioned and generous effort on your part.

Your analysis above does not make any distinction between active and passive states. Let me explain.

[ The four bramma viharas (sublime attitudes, sublime abidings) are Metta (Loving-kindness), Karuna (Compassion), Mudita (Joy for others) and Upekkha (Equanimity) .

Of the four, it seems only Upekkha (Equanimity) is directly mentioned in the 37 factors. It is number 7 in the seven awakening factors. ]

But surely Loving-kindness is much more than simply non-malice. It is possible to refrain from malice and at the same time not have any loving kindness toward, say, fellow passengers on a train. There is something active about Metta (Loving-kindness) and something passive about abyāpā­da (non malice). Feeding a hungry child can be an act of loving kindness (and an act of compassion).
Abyāpā­da (non malice) does not require one to act.

It all depends how you define Karuna (Compassion). I always thought of compassion as something much more than simply feeling passive sympathy for the pain of others. Compassion motivates people to act to help relieve the physical, spiritual, or emotional pain of others. We can speak of acts of compassion. So compassion is something you do as well as something you feel.
Avihiṃ­sā (non cruelty) does not require one to act

Loving kindness and compassion require actions to make them genuine. Non-malice and non-cruelty only require non-action to be fulfilled

Again, Mudita is often defined as Joy for others, whereas pāmojja/pamoda is simply joy. So you could say pāmojja/pamoda is present in Mudita, but not vice versa.

There certainly seems to be something going on in all of this regarding active vs passive states; action vs non-action. Also something about looking inward vs looking outward.


It can be used as part of the tranquility (Samatha) component. There are some suttas describing how it can be used that way for example : AN 6.13.

However Tranquility and Insight are both essential, and all formulations of the path (five powers, seven factors of enlightenment etc) all have both these factors included in them. Samatha and Vipassana are said to be like the two wheels of a chariot, the latter being the Noble Eightfold Path.

This is how the Samatha of the Divine Abodes forms the basis for Vipassana practice (i.e. It is wisdom and insight practice). It allows letting go of all kinds of states which can be easily clung to, effectively being a hindrance to Nibbana.

I heard a dhamma talk by Ajhan Sujato- a birth story where the Bodhisattva in a previous life practiced the divine abodes to a great depth. It only took him to the brahma mansions, not to Nibbana.

It is important to keep in mind that it was the lack of Vipassana that stopped the Buddha from attaining Nibbana under his former teachers, Alsrakalama and Uddakaramaputta. Later with Vipassana he uses the same jhanas to go into nirodhasamapatti, an attainment open to non-returners an arahanths, which is only found in the Buddha’s teachings. Vipassana was the Buddha’s most important contribution to the meditative world. However it requires the contribution of the jhanas to really take flight.

With metta


I had the question myself for a long time. AFAIK nowhere in the EBT are the brahma vihara’s canonically blessed as part of the noble eightfold path or 37 factors in bodhi pakkhiya. By “blessed”, I mean have an official recorded statement such as how each of the factors in the noble eightfold path are defined as “right” in SN 45.8. But many passages in he EBT such as this make it sufficiently clear the importance of the 4bv (brahma viharas) and especially metta.

AN 1.17
AN 1.17
“Nā-(a)haṃ, bhikkhave, aññaṃ eka-dhammampi sam-anupassāmi
“no-***, *********, other one-thing (do) {I} see
on account of which
an-uppanno vā byāpādo n-uppajjati
un-arisen ** ill-will (does) not-arise, (and)
uppanno vā byāpādo pahīyati
arisen ** ill-will (is) removed,
yatha-yidaṃ, bhikkhave,
as-this, monks:
mettā ceto-vimutti.
good-will mind-liberation.

Mettaṃ, bhikkhave, ceto-vimuttiṃ
[by means of] good-will, *********, mind-liberation,
yoniso manasi karoto
(with) wise mental attending,
an-uppanno ceva byāpādo n-uppajjati
un-arisen ** ill-will (does) not-arise, (and)
uppanno ca byāpādo pahīyatī”ti.
arisen ** ill-will (is) removed."

Right intention being defined in part as “a-byapada” (non - ill will) is enough to capture not just metta but all 4bv.

When you see enough of the passages like the above, then mentally you just include the 4bv as part of right intention .

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The divine abodes are found in all aspects of the Noble Eightfold Path:

Right view: harmlessness, humbleness, Virtue, gratitude underlies mundane right view.

Right intension: non-ill will, non-harming

Right action, speech, livelihood: metta underlies these elements

Right effort: shedding the unwholesome and developing the wholesome states such as the divine abodes

Right mindfulness: shedding unwholesome anger in the five hindrances portion

Right samadhi: divine abodes used as basis for attaining jhana.

When reading a sutta it is important to not think that the sutta contains everything that form the required supporting factors for what is in the suttas to be effective and practicable. Reading the above someone might think metta is all that is required in the Noble Eightfold Path. As a sutta will focus on its topic of discussion we have to come with the background knowledge of the dhamma-vinaya to understand it in it’s actual context.

With metta



The 4 Sublime Abidings are supposed to be integrated with the 7 Awakening Factors - SN 46.54.


In the Vinaya we find an interesting dialogue between two arahants - Sabbakāmin and Revata - which confirms the understanding that the abiding in metta being was considered a solid foundation for awakening:

Then at the end of the night towards dawn, the venerable Sabbakāmin spoke thus to the venerable Revata: “Because of what abiding do you, dear, abide now in the fullness thereof?”

“Because of abiding in loving-kindness, do I, honoured sir, abide now in the fullness thereof.”

“They say that you, dear, because of abiding in friendship now abide in the fullness thereof. This abiding in friendship, beloved, this is loving-kindness.”

“Formerly, honoured sir, when I was a householder loving-kindness was practised by me, and because of that abiding in loving-kindness I now abide in the fullness thereof, and moreover perfection was attained by me long ago.

Also interesting is that the same dialogue seems to suggest that the theme of emptiness was a more popular one back then:

(Revata asks in return:) "Honoured sir, because of what abiding does the elder now abide in the fullness thereof?”

“Because of abiding in (the concept of) emptiness do I, beloved, now abide in the fullness thereof.”

“They say that the elder, honoured sir, because of the abiding of great men (mahāpuri­sa­vi­hārena) now abides in the fullness thereof. This abiding of great men, honoured sir, this is (the concept of) emptiness.”
Source: https://suttacentral.net/en/pi-tv-kd22

“Formerly, beloved, when I was a householder emptiness was practised by me, and because of that abiding in emptiness I now abide in the fullness thereof, and moreover perfection was attained by me long ago.”

Another interesting thing we learn with the above is that kullaka is a synonym for metta. I risk saying it is etymologically related to the term colleague (at least it sounds like).



Surely, the theme of Nibbana was even more popular?

SN 46.54 draws the following conclusions:

the liberation of mind by lovingkindness has the beautiful as its culmination, I say, for a wise bhikkhu here who has not penetrated to a superior liberation. (SC7)

the liberation of mind by compassion has the base of the infinity of space as its culmination, I say, for a wise bhikkhu here who has not penetrated to a superior liberation. (SC8)

the liberation of mind by altruistic joy has the base of the infinity of consciousness as its culmination, I say, for a wise bhikkhu here who has not penetrated to a superior liberation. (SC9)

the liberation of mind by equanimity has the base of nothingness as its culmination, I say, for a wise bhikkhu here who has not penetrated to a superior liberation.” (SC10)

The sutta is clearly distinguishing between different types and levels of liberation. It actually uses the phrase ‘a superior liberation’ and seems to be saying that the Divine Abidings culminate in lower levels of liberation. Very curious indeed!


Indeed. The Divine abiding, in themselves, lack Right view (of the Four Noble Truths) and any element of Vipassana (revulsion, dispassion, cessation).

The Divine abodes add the mind-release (ceto-vimutti) important for enlightenment. Right view and Vipassana contribute to Insight-release (panna vimutti). Mind-release alone is not found in the Dhamma MN 70. It’s either both or Insight-release alone and even the latter requires the jhanas.

With metta