by Nick Sleeman

It is of course very difficult to choose a favourite section of Geshe Acharya Thubten Loden’s Path to Enlightenment in Tibetan Buddhism. Everything is a special teaching, everything a blessing. 

I have selected the section on the four immeasurables (pp152 –154), which follows on from a beautiful meditation visualising Shakyamuni Buddha and the field of merit. Having taken refuge and generated bodhichitta, the conventional mind of enlightenment, Geshe-la writes: 

“Having generated bodhichitta, we now further prepare the mind by meditating on the four immeasurables: 

  1. Immeasurable equanimity. 
  1. Immeasurable love. 
  1. Immeasurable compassion. 
  1. Immeasurable joy.” (p152) 

The essence of the Buddha’s four immeasurables encapsulates a profound truth that transcends boundaries of faith, religion, nationality, and all other mental constructs that differentiate us as individuals. Equanimity, love, compassion, and joy are not merely Buddhist principles; they are universal virtues that resonate with the core of human existence. 

Immeasurable equanimity 

“All living beings experience suffering as a direct result of harbouring attachment for friends and aversion for enemies. How wonderful it would be if all living beings were to abide in equanimity without attachment to some and aversion to others. May they come to this state. I will cause them to come to this. Please bless me to do so!” (p153) 

So, we have in this verse an aspiration, a wish, a superior intention and a special request to one’s Guru and all Buddhas to bless us to make it happen. This is wishing bodhichitta and engaging bodhichitta. 

Equanimity teaches us to embrace a balanced perspective towards all beings, recognising the fundamental equality and interconnectedness of every sentient being. All beings experience suffering. We are all equal in not wanting to experience suffering.  

Equanimity is living in accord with the realisation that there is no difference between oneself and others. All beings have the same wish. As Buddhists, the understanding that all sentient beings have been our mother in one life or another, we should view all beings (human and non-human) with equanimity. 

Cause no suffering.  

Alleviate suffering wherever possible. 

Immeasurable love 

“How wonderful it would be if all living beings were to have happiness and the cause of happiness. May they come to have this. I will cause them to have this. Please bless me to do so”. (p 153) 

Once again, we generate the aspiration, wish, superior intention and request for the blessings of our Guru and the Buddhas to make it happen. In any given situation our wish should be for others to have happiness and the causes of happiness. 

Love is the wish for others to have happiness.  

Great love is the wish for all beings to have happiness. 

Immeasurable compassion 

“How wonderful it would be if all living beings were to be free from suffering and the cause of suffering. May they come to be free of this. I will cause them to be free. Please bless me to do this!” (p153) 

Compassion, likewise, recognises the universal nature of suffering and seeks to alleviate it wherever it may be found. With a mind deeply moved by great compassion, train to observe any instance of suffering with this expansive mind. 

Compassion is the wish for others to be free from suffering.  

Great compassion – the wish for all beings to be free from suffering. 

Immeasurable joy 

“How wonderful it would be if all living beings were never separated from joy. May they not be separated from joy. I will cause them not to be separated from joy. Please bless me to do this!” (p153) 

Joy is the wish for all beings never to be separated from the happiness which is without suffering. The state of nirvana, or one step beyond, to that of complete, perfect enlightenment. Happiness beyond suffering. 

In essence…. 

In essence, the four immeasurables serve as guiding principles for leading a life of meaning and fulfilment, transcending the barriers that often divide us, and reminding us of our shared humanity.  

They invite us to embrace a world view rooted in kindness, empathy, and understanding, ultimately fostering a more compassionate and inclusive society for all beings, regardless of faith, religion, nationality, species, or any other perceived or inferred differences. 

I am constantly reminded of the benefits of memorising these four special wishes. Whether out driving and witnessing dead animals on the side of the road, the homeless people in our cities and towns, the constant suffering witnessed in news reports. Having these verses at your heart generates a mind of love, compassion, joy and equanimity for all sentient beings. 

As Geshe-la might say… ‘Useful’.