In an earlier post I mentioned how I've been bringing a loving kindness mantra into my Ashtanga asana practice...
"Pre practice I sat for some Loving Kindness meditation and for some reason or other decided to bring that into may asana practice, my Primary series. I've explored Mahasati in practice recently and mantra often, this was an extension of that.
So basically on the inhalation I mentally recited
"May I be filled with loving kindness"
on the exhalation
on the exhalation
"May I be safe and well"
on the next inhalation
"May I be peaceful and at ease"
and on the exhalation
"May I be happy"
...and then continued that throughout the whole practice, every breath, every inhalation, every exhalation for going on two hours".
It's a powerful practice, 90 minutes plus of mentaly chanting this mantra, throughout the whole of the practice.
Another option would be to chant it on just the Surynamaskara's, perhaps in your long 25 breath shoulder stands and headstands, and in padmasana.
I'd originally planned to change the mantra each day of my practice week, so on the first day it would be may I be happy, the next day, may my teacher be happy, the next my most loved one M., next up the sangha, the Ashtang/Yoga blogging and wider yoga community, then all those I work with anyone I know, then all those I don't know and finally, all sentient beings which includes of course, any 'enemie's and those who you might consider evil.
That's what I'd planned but I was struck that first day with how powerful the loving kindness mantra was when projected at myself and in my practice, at how important it is to begin loving kindness with ourselves, actually it's suggested you begin with your mother, a new born child or perhaps even a kitten, I've tended to begin with Nietzsche...
|Nietzsche, much missed|
However you're most able to first conjure up that feeling of unselfish love, warmth, kindness which you then bring as a ground into all the other objects of the meditation.
As you bind in Marichiyasana D, the mantra reminds you to be safe
....there are lots of Marichi D's in our day-to-day life,
in Supt Kurmasana, in Kapo be peaceful and at ease,
again how often in our day do we need to be reminded of that.
...May I be happy,
however my asana is, however my practice is, may I be happy with it as it is and with my actions of the day, don't judge myself so much, be happy with where I am, hopefully do a little better in my next action, the next moment, the next day.
And most of all may I be filled with loving kindness,
in every breath of my practice, every breath throughout my day.
Because it shows up when you recite this mantra through your practice how you perhaps aren't filled with loving kindness, that you aren't perhaps being concerned enough that you're safe and well, or that you're peaceful and at ease or that you are happy however you may wish to parse it.
So this week focusing on the I, rather than the you or he or she or they it's been bringing that home quite powerfully, the mantra has come alive, it resonates, such that when I do bring in the he, she they it will perhaps be even more profound.
Loving Kindness is one of the four Immeasurable in Buddhism and it's there in the Yoga Sutras, 1:33. This sutra is the first of seven contemplation techniques or approaches to meditation.
The final meditation option of the seven is the 'fast track' option of contemplating Ishvara ( the Lord, God). The most seemingly straightforward perhaps (but challenging) of the seven, and no doubt the most familiar, is following the breath. But This concentration on the four immeasurable, including loving kindness is the first. Not the first as in we begin with it or that there is an order or that we have to practice all of them, they are surely options, anyone should be able to find an approach to meditation that works for them ( and Patanajali goes into more depth and detail later), but I find it interesting that Patanjali placed it here, right at the beginning.
Update: On thinking about it perhaps he was placing this Buddhist approach to meditation here (perhaps prevalent at the time) and then showing there were other approaches.
Either way the goal is to develop one pointedness, Ekaggatā, focussing on one principle and the four imeasurables perhaps strike me not only as good as anything else but perhaps having the added bonus, the immediate benefit of having an effect on everyone you come into contact with from the very beginning...and it's a long journey.
Sure we can focus on the breath in our work on one pointedness but I struggle with people, the abstract is one thing but actual people... how do you love everyone, feel kindness to everyone.... Well it takes, work, technique, practice....
Brahmavihāras, the four immeasurables in the Yoga Sutras
Yoga Sutras 1-33
maitrî-karuñâ-muditopekæâñâä sukha-duïkha-puñyâpuñya-viæayâñâä bhâvanâtaå citta-prasâdanam
maitrî = friendliness
karuñâ = compassion
mudita = delight
upekæâñâä = equanimity
sukha = happiness
duïkha = distress, pain, suffering puñya = good, virtuous
apuñya = bad, evil
viæayâñâä = object (of experience)
bhâvanâtaï = radiating, projecting
citta = consciousness
prasâdanam = calming, tranquilizing, clarification
Consciousness settles as one radiates friendliness, compassion, delight, and equanimity toward all things, whether pleasant or painful, good or bad.
Ronald Steiner has the full Yoga Sutras along with his commentary on his excellent Ashtangainfo.com
here's the link to his treatment of 1:33, I've quoted a couple of sections from his treatment of 1:33 below.
MAITRI KARUNA MUDITO PEKSHANAM SUKHA DUHKHA PUNYA APUNYA VISHAYANAM BHAVANATAH CHITTA PRASADANAM ||33||
For me this seems to be treating 1:33 kind of like yama/niyama, a general approach to daily life and while I agree completely, cultivate loving kindness, the four immeasurable in all your interactions, I want to go further and remind myself that Patanjali has placed this sutra here among the approaches to contemplation, the meditation techniques and he places it first.
Here's Aranya but notice Vyasa's commentary, "...the mind becomes pure. A purified mind becomes one-pointed, eventually attains serenity"
and the last line of Aranya's commentary
"These fours practices are called Brahmavihāras by the buddhists and these, they say, lead to the brahmaloka" (Theravāda Buddhists hold that rebirth in the brahma-loka is the reward enjoyed by an individual who has accompanied great virtue with meditation).
Here's the sutra and Vyasa's commentary along with that of Aranya.
Ramaswami reminds us that we take the principle that if something is not expanded on, explained in detail in Patanjali's text, then it's taken as a given and we refer outside the text. So to understand Purusha for example we turn to Samkhya on which Patanjali's system, his presentation of yoga, is grounded.
To understand and explore the four immeasurable in more depth then we might turn to Buddhism. There is an area of study that explores how much Patanajali was influenced by Buddhism and/or whether the Yoga Sutras were a response to the Buddhism prevalent in India at the time of writing, It's there in the text and never more so than here in 1-33
Krishnamacharya too it seems was interested in Buddhism in his early life although for how long a period and to what extent is unknown it seems.
Of course you don't have to become a Buddhist to take on board Buddhist Meditation techniques or Buddhist Ethics and Buddhism doesn't hold the patent on Loving kindness, Compassion, equanimity, Joy but they do write about it a lot.
So where can we look for more info on Loving Kindness mediation.... Insight meditation of course, Vipassana sites often treat metta, loving Kindness, as a meditation technique, you'll find retreats, workshops, special sessions on loving Kindnesss...
Check out podcasts from audiodharma, I have a soft spot for those by Gil Frondsal (must have listened to hundreds of dharma talks by him from here and Zencast over the years, always good)
See too this in depth article from the Berzin archives for sources
The four immeasurable attitudes (tshad-med bzhi, Skt.apramana, Pali: appamanna) are:
- immeasurable love (byams-pa, Skt: maitri, Pali: metta),
- immeasurable compassion (snying-rje, Skt: karuna, Pali:karuna),
- immeasurable joy (dga'-ba, Skt: mudita, Pali: mudita),
- immeasurable equanimity (btang-snyoms, Skt: upeksha, Pali:upekkha).
They are also called "the four Brahma abodes" (tshangs-gnas bzhi, Skt. brahmavihara, Pali: brahmavihara) and are found in the various Hinayana and Mahayana traditions of Buddhism, as well as in Bon. Different schools and texts interpret them slightly differently, and certain practices in some traditions change their order. The Four Immeasurable Attitudes in Hinayana, Mahayana, and Bon
The Tibetan Buddhists however really go to town on Loving Kindness and the four immeasurable, the be all and end all of Tibetan Buddhism perhaps, OK maybe I exaggerate ( discuss), actually I think I probably don't.
Pretty much anything by the Dali lama is probably based on Loving Kindness and the four immeasurable to some extent, try this for a start
ILLUMINATING THE PATH TO ENLIGHTENMENT
Or perhaps this Meditation handbook by the 'New Kadampa' school which is based on Lamrim, and can be read in a day, practiced for a lifetime...
Lamrim - The Stages of the Path
The stages of the path to enlightenment, or Lamrim in Tibetan, is the backbone of Kadampa Buddhism.
Lamrim is a special set of instructions that includes all the essential teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni arranged in such a way that all his Hinayana and Mahayana teachings can be put into practice in a single meditation session.
It was compiled by the great Indian Buddhist Master Atisha, who was invited to Tibet by King Jangchub Ö in AD 1042, and who spent the rest of his life there spreading pure Dharma.
First we must understand the value of Lamrim. Then by joyfully and patiently doing the meditations we shall gradually experience the fruits of Lamrim practice.
Eventually we shall attain freedom from all suffering and the unchanging peace and happiness of enlightenment.
There are 21 Lamrim meditations, which are usually practiced in a three-week cycle as a daily meditation practice:
Our precious human life
Death and impermanence
The danger of lower rebirth
Actions and their effects
Developing renunciation for samsara
Recognizing that all living beings are our mothers
Remembering the kindness of living beings
Equalizing self and others
The disadvantages of self-cherishing
The advantages of cherishing others
Exchanging self with others
Relying upon a Spiritual Guide
These meditations, along with instructions on how to practice them and essential background material, can be found in The New Meditation Handbook.