Four immeasurables

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Four immeasurables (Skt. caturapramāṇa; Tib. ཚད་མེད་བཞི་, tsémé shyi, Wyl. tshad med bzhi[1])

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How to Practise the Four Immeasurables[2]

1. Equanimity

Initially, we need to train the mind in equanimity. The way in which we are currently attached to our friends and aggressive towards our enemies is a fault which comes from failing to examine the situation thoroughly. In reality, today’s so-called “enemies” have, in the course of our many past lifetimes, been dear friends who have helped us enormously. And those whom we currently consider to be our “friends” have been our enemies in past lifetimes, having caused us considerable harm.

The Noble Katyayana said:

"He eats his father’s flesh, while striking his own mother,
And cradles in his lap the enemy he killed;
The wife is gnawing at her husband’s bones.
Samsara is enough to make you laugh out loud!

Recognize that this bias, which currently causes us to see some people as our friends and others as our enemies, is a result of having fallen under the power of ignorance. Train your mind until you feel a benevolent attitude, like the one you have now for your present mother and father, for all beings, especially your “enemies” and those who create obstacles for you.

2. Love

Then, since these beings have shown you exactly the same kindness as your current parents, cultivate love for them all and wish them happiness in order to repay their past kindness. Train yourself to be like parents caring for a small child, or a mother bird looking after her young, so that all your actions of body, speech and mind are undertaken only to ensure the happiness and well-being of others.

3. Compassion

Cultivate compassion, which is the wish for beings to be freed from suffering. Imagine a prisoner who is about to be executed, or an animal at the slaughterhouse, and put yourself in their position, or imagine that they are your own dear mother. When you experience an unbearably intense feeling of compassion for them, consider that although the one experiencing such suffering is not actually your mother or father in this lifetime, he or she has been your mother and father countless times throughout the course of your innumerable lifetimes. Practise cultivating this compassion until you feel exactly the same compassion for all sentient beings as you do for your own mother and father.

4. Joy

Whenever you see someone who is wealthy and powerful, and apparently enjoying all the pleasures of the higher realms, or whenever you see someone who possesses the qualities of scriptural learning and realization, do not feel resentful or envious of them, even if you consider them to be an enemy. Instead, feel joyful and make the wish that their riches and power increase even further. And pray that all sentient beings may experience the same kind of good fortune. Train your mind in this way, again and again.

If, when you practise training the mind in these four immeasurables, you proceed gradually—first considering your own parents; then including your friends and relatives; and finally extending the practice to your enemies—you will come to feel the same love and compassion for your enemies as for your parents. This is the measure of your mind training.


  1. In the Pali tradition especially, these four immeasurables are often referred to as the four brahmaviharas or abodes of Brahma (Tib. ཚངས་པའི་གནས་བཞི་, Wyl. tshangs pa'i gnas bzhi)
  2. This section is based on Arousing Bodhichitta from the Ngöndro Commentary of Chökyi Drakpa

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