I am curious about how to think about the four immeasurable minds in a practical way, please help me make sense of them (see detailed question below)


In the book Teachings on Love by Thich Nhat Hanh he translates Mudita as Joy rather than Sympathetic Joy and explains that while other commentators have translated as Sympathetic Joy he prefers Joy because "Joy is for everyone"

This got me thinking that it may be practical to see two sides of the immeasurables (another example would be self-compassion)

My thinking so far

Below is how i like to think of the four immeasurables


  • Self-love
  • Loving kindness towards others


  • Self-compassion
  • Compassion for others


  • Joy
  • Sympathetic joy


  • Peace/Equanimity
  • Non-discrimination - between self and others, between good and bad

This way of thinking about them splits each of the first (metta, karuna, mudita) three into two parts, one for one-self and one for everyone else

In Buddhism we don't want to make a harsh distinction between self and others but from a practical point of view this can (for example) help us to remember to have self-compassion. One downside is that there is a larger risk of not seeing our suffering as the suffering of others and the suffering of others as our own

The last (upeksha) i have divided into two parts where the first is inner peace for oneself and the other is non-discrimination


Is this (above) a practical way to think about the four immeasurables? (Practical in the sense of getting closer to living in line with them). Are there other ways to think about them that you can recommend and that can help us achieve living with them on a daily basis? (Please provide references to books or other materials if you can)

Grateful for help and with kind regards, Tord

4 Answers 4


Maybe you find it helpful, but I'm not sure it's appropriate:

  • Because you don't want to be, especially, thinking about yourself
  • Because you might tend to have more than enough self-love anyway, without trying to develop more

Consider compassion, for example. Would you burn your hand? No, because it would hurt. Would you burn someone else's hand? No, because it would hurt. It's the same hurt and so the same compassion, the same reason.

Also I read that part of the point of the Brahmaviharas is in a social situation:

They provide, in fact, the answer to all situations arising from social contact. They are the great removers of tension, the great peace-makers in social conflict, and the great healers of wounds suffered in the struggle of existence.

If they're for "situations arising from social contact" maybe they're not applicable when you're alone; and if they are applicable to you, then apply them in the same way that you'd apply them to anyone else.

The metta-bhavana practice (i.e. thinking of someone dear to you, then of someone who is less dear) is I think trying to develop metta (the same metta) towards all: so I see no benefit, see it as counter-productive, to create/view/distinguish two categories of metta, one for yourself and another for others.

I don't want to say that yours is a bad suggestion, I only don't see how to apply it. Maybe your suggestion is especially appropriate when you are alone and not with other people, to "help us to remember to have self-compassion" as you said. But maybe it's more beneficial to not hold a view-of-self.


Say you are an American. (as I do not know your nationality) Now imagine that there is only this earth without any boarders. (no countries but one world) Now imagine we all help and look after each other as one human from earth. We do not have wars between countries. (because there is only one world) Now you expand this concept to whole world without any discrimination and extend your love and compassion to all (animal,human, Deva or even the beings in lower worlds) That is how I see the immeasurable mind.

  • I think the Pali word for measurement is "Mana". Mana is fully eradicated only by Arahant.
    – SarathW
    May 17, 2017 at 3:23

It was interesting to note Thich Nhat Hanh’s take on the word MUDITA. Now you have given further interpretation to the Satara Brahma Vihara: Metta (loving kindness), Karuna (compassion), Muditha (altruistic joy) and Upeksha (equanimity).

In this reply I will give another third interpretation to the Satara Brahma Vihara, that will help you gain immeasurable results from these, yet making it practical and within reach to those who would put it to practice.

An interesting point that we should be mindful about is the fact that those beings in the Brahma worlds have perfected the four Brahmavihara: metta, karuna, mudita, upekkha. They don’t have a trace of hateful thoughts, yet they never developed the ultimate wisdom, or panna. They have ignorance (moha), and thus will one day be reborn in the four lower realms, (unless they attain Sotapanna stage before that). Whereas we in the Dhamma Path have but one goal of walking in this Noble Eightfold Path. Only this Path will lead to Nibbana where one purifies the mind of all defilements.

The loving kindness meditation (metta bhavana) that you and I have been practicing give a meaning like this: “May myself and all beings be free of suffering, healthy, happy, and be free of all suffering”. Contemplating this way helps make your own mind to calm down, and makes you think about the welfare of the other beings.

If we could truly feel the possible suffering of the countless being out there [beings in the lowest four realms (apayas)], this very meditation gives a much more deeper meaning. Even the beings in the higher realms can end up in the apayas (lowest four realms) unless the Sotapanna stage is reached.

A disciple attains the Sotapanna (stream entrant) stage of Nibbana with the understanding of anicca, dukkha, anatta. At the Sakadagami stage one becomes free of all physical ailments and diseases and will only be born in the heavens. At the Anagami stage, one removes more akusala citta becomes permanently free of any physical suffering. With this understanding when in metta meditation you say “be healthy”, it takes a added deeper meaning. By that what you would mean is to not be born ever with a body that is subject to diseases and old age.

All four of the Brahma vihara (metta, karuna, mudita, upekkha) can be cultivated simultaneously if you contemplate on this deeper level. That is to reflect thus:

“May myself and all living beings attain the Stream Entrant stage and be free from suffering in the four lower realms forever”
“May myself and all living beings attain the Once Returner stage and be healthy forever”.
“May myself and all living beings attain the Non Returner stage and attain peaceful happiness forever”.
“May myself and all living beings attain the Arahant stage and be free from all suffering and attain the full Nibbanic bliss”.

What is important is not how you say it, but what you feel within your heart. To be in oneness with such thoughts you need to understand anicca, dukkha, anatta in its truest sense. A niramisa sukha starts to set in if you keep practicing this way.


All life is interdependent. Therefore the happiness of one individual depends upon that of others. The Buddha taught the Four Immeasurables -



appreciative joy and equanimity - in order to remove ill will,



clinging and aversion.

In meditation, the Four Immeasurables are extended to all sentient beings. Through cultivating the Four Immeasurables, people can achieve happiness now and in the future.

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