The Four Immeasurably Great Catalysts of Being

Growth remains an individual task that is made possible by (and starts from) inner strength and a feeling of shelteredness. Regardless of whether the growth is induced from outside or comes directly from within, it never occurs in a vacuum or in isolation from other growth-aiding forces. Inner strength, in particular, elicits in us the capacity to reach out towards a deeper and wider dimension in human beings, abolishing the individual's self-imposed loneliness. Inner strength makes us participate, and participation means as much to give ourselves to others as it does to receive others into ourselves. This participation occurs through four fundamental properties, which are equally agents, sensibilities, perceptibilities, and feelings: love, compassion, joyfulness, and equanimity, all of these suggesting and implying thoughtfulness for another's welfare, well-being, success, serenity or the like, when taken in their positive connotation. Negatively, they are mere sentimental impulses inducing euphoric states in a make-believe world that is detrimental to growth.

It is in their positive aspect as honest feelings that these four feelings aid our growth. There exists an intimate interrelationship of balancing and of effects and counterfeits amongst the four feelings. Love may turn into an inordinate clinging to the love 'object'. This becomes a source of frustration that can he countered by compassion as the active force in the removal of suffering. But compassion can turn into sentimentality and a feeling of helplessness — there is so much suffering and whatever is done about it is of no avail.

This feeling can be countered by joyfulness as the affirmation of fulfillment — that which had to be done and the other's development is as much a source of joy as is my own. But joyfulness may turn into a feeling of elation which with its overexcitement makes a person lose himself in unreal goals to which he becomes inordinately attached. It is equanimity that can bring the person back to solid ground, but when equanimity becomes mere apathy and passivity, love with its desire for the other's happiness and welfare acts as a potent counteragent.

Thus a man who by having taken refuge has become the
site for spiritual growth
Will cultivate his mind for the welfare of those who are alive
By letting the flower of compassion
blossom in the soil of love
And tending it with the pure water of equanimity
in the cool shade of joyfulness.

As long as these four cardinal agents are not linked to
the road to deliverance,
They are but euphoric states and remain
the cause of fictitious being.
But if the way to inner peace has taken hold of them,
They are the four immeasurably great properties of real being
because they make us cross the ocean of fictitious being.

They have as their objective reference the countless
living beings as well as the absolutely real; while
Their own observable quality is, in an all-encompassing way,
referential or non-referential.

In the former case they are related to
a strictly limited number of living beings,
and their (corresponding) observable mental attitudes
being impure, they are referential and
the cause of euphoric states.

They are non-referential when they operate in the
direction of deliverance
And they will be mastered by those who are
compassion themselves.

Those who are unhappy or tormented by frustrations,
Or engrossed in their happiness and wealth, or who are
deeply attached to or bitterly set against anyone,
be they near or far,
Are the objects for love, compassion,
joyfulness, and equanimity.

Their (corresponding) observable mental attitudes are
the desire that there be happiness and that there be
freedom from suffering,
That there be no separation from joyfulness, and that
the mind may operate in calmness.

Although there is no fixed order in their practice,
The beginner should at first develop equanimity.
When he has become impassive about those near and
far he may then develop the other three properties.

As the objective reference is all sentient beings,
You should examine your mind in this way:
"To be attached to father and mother and friends
And to hate an enemy would be a bad attitude.

In the cycle of existence that has neither
beginning nor end, even this my enemy
Has once been my father or mother and
has added to my prosperity.
Can I harbor malice to repay his kindness?"

"Even this my friend here has been my enemy and
has done me harm;
And even now I am subject to the misery he has brought about,
How could it be reasonable to pay him back in his own coin?
Even neutral persons have been friends or enemies.
As there is no certainty as to prosperity or harm,
attachment and hatred are unreasonable."

Therefore, first you must give up attachment to those
who are your friends,
And you must treat them as neutral.
Then you must give up being hateful of your enemies
And must treat them too as neutral, annulling the
Distinction between those near and far away.

In order to be rid of the mental darkness
(that still exists in dealing with others as neutrals)
Cultivate a mind that abolishes the emotions that will
Make you again see beings as friends or foes,
And let it be free from fictions about the world.

Just have the sole desire, as have all others,
To be happy and to be rid of misery.
Otherwise, in your ignorance, you will lay the
Foundation of suffering.

"Ah! Would that the emotions of beings
Who are worn out by them,
Together with all their latent tendencies,
Come to rest, and mind calm down.
Would that all embodied being tormented by the
Violence of attachment and hatred
Calm down in mind so that
It no longer oscillates between those
Near and those far away, and is free
From attachment and hatred."

Extract from "Now that I Come to Die - Intimate Guidance from One of Tibet's Great Masters" - Longchenpa

Introduction by Tarthang Tulku

Published by Dharma Publishing