On the Rewards of the Four Immeasurables

The four immeasurable sublime attitudes are genuinely worth developing because they are qualities that soothe the hearts of living beings in general throughout the world—our parents, relatives, friends, companions, and all living beings of every sort. In addition, when the sublime attitudes are truly present in the heart, they can bring absolute respite from enmity, fear, and animosity. Thus the Buddha taught his followers: “Monks, when the release of the mind (from enmity, fear, and animosity) through good will is cultivated, developed, practiced often, used as a vehicle (leading to the desired goal), used as a foundation, nurtured unceasingly, made habitual, and constantly brought to mind, eleven rewards can be expected: One sleeps with ease, wakes with ease, and dreams no evil dreams. One is dear to human beings, dear to non-human beings, guarded by deities, and untouched by fire, poison, and weapons. One’s mind is easily concentrated and one’s complexion bright. One dies unconfused and—if penetrating no higher—is reborn in the Brahmā worlds.”

When a person acts, speaks, and thinks with good will, it soothes his or her own heart and is conducive to release from suffering. Those who develop these qualities as a constant practice will have the power to soothe the hearts of other living beings through the power of their good will. Thus to develop these qualities in thought, word, and deed is a genuine necessity for those who practice concentration.

In some places this practice is recommended only for those who are prone to anger. But as far as we are concerned here, you should practice this step first no matter what your disposition. If you are prone to anger, this practice will make it that much easier for you to concentrate your mind.

The four sublime attitudes have been compared to the four faces of Brahmā surveying the four directions, or to fortress walls on all four sides of the heart. Whoever develops them will free the heart from fear and danger.

The development of the four sublime attitudes is especially beneficial in connection with the performance of meritorious acts. You should give alms with an attitude of good will, observe the precepts with an attitude of good will, and practice meditation with an attitude of good will. When done in this way, your skillful activities will bring powerful rewards. Thoughts of good will are like clean drops of rain falling from the sky, refreshing and nourishing the grasses and trees. Such thoughts are desired by all human races. Thus if you hope to develop merit, you should examine your heart at all times to see whether or not it feels good will, so that whatever merit you may perform in thought, word, or deed will be truly conducive to future happiness.

The crucial element lies with the heart: If the heart lacks good will, you’ll have a hard time protecting your words and deeds; but if the heart is truly benevolent, your words and deeds are bound not to be defiled. If words and deeds are defiled, though, they won’t suffer the consequences of their defilement. The heart will. The heart is what reaps the results of all good and evil. This being the case, your next step should be to practice concentration so as to develop the heart.