The Four All-Embracing Virtues of the Bodhisattva
“At the heart of Buddhism is the idea of interconnectedness. We all suffer. That is the first noble truth of Buddhism: Suffering is a reality. And the practice begins with the awareness that suffering is there in you and it is there in that other person. When you have seen suffering, you are motivated by the desire to remove suffering — the suffering in you and the suffering in that other person — because if that person continues to suffer, it will make you suffer somehow later on. So helping other people remove their suffering means doing something for you also.
An act of compassion always brings about transformation. If not right now, it will happen in the future. The important thing is you don’t react with anger. You react with compassion, and sooner or later you see the transformation in the other person. You keep being compassionate, you keep being patient.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Through regular practice of attending to our breathing and inquiring into the causes of our suffering and the suffering of others, we may begin to experience a growing ease of being. As Thich Nhat Hanh explains, this first hand experience may lead to an arising of spontaneous compassion and a motivation to act in a way that brings this ease to all beings who experience suffering.
According to many wisdom teachings, in order to be of help to others, we are advised to realize our interdependence and interconnectedness with all beings and then to act out of that understanding. How can we do this in a way that recognizes the infinite experiences that have led to suffering, and honor the infinite ways that point to or offer relief from suffering, without judgment, recrimination or any other type of diminishment of those who may be suffering.
Throughout the buddhist teachings there is reference to the Four All-Embracing Virtues or the Four Integrative Methods of the Bodhisattva* as a practice to cultivate an environment for fulfilling the desire for compassionate action.
Here is a very brief summary
- Dana – Paramita (skr.). In this context dana is generosity of giving what others want, without thought of self or achievement of a goal.
- Priyavacana (skr.) Affectionate speech. Speaking with others in a way that promotes ease of being.
- Arthacaryā (skr.) Conduct benefitting others.
- Samānavihāra (skr.) Walking in the other’s shoes. Also referred to as consistency or being in union in body, speech and mind, while remaining engaged in community.
* (Someone who has an aspiration to awaken to truth and lives a life centered on the well being of others.)
For the next five weeks or so, during our morning gatherings we will be exploring these four methods through inquiry and meditation, using the formats of samatha (calm abiding), body awareness, tonglen and brahmavihara practices. It is not necessary to participate in every session to explore with us and to share your insights. Each sit will be a complete practice session in itself.
Please feel free to join us once, intermittently or as often as the inspiration arises! Your presence and insights contribute to this practice and the end of suffering for all beings in all directions and in all times.
We practice on ZOOM:
Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays: 9 AM Eastern Time
Sunday at 10 AM Eastern Time
Wednesday evening at 7:30 PM Eastern Time
ZOOM Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89989680789
May all beings in all directions, throughout all times be free from suffering.
William, Linda, Brian, Chuck, Paul, Mike, David, Jeff, Ginny, Tom, Randall, Angie, Damien