Since we have this mind that tends to fixate on objects and tends to need an objective referent, that is where we want to start. Normally with regard to these attitudes (equally they are perceptions and feelings) we focus on the object of the experience, but the quality that we experience can be with or without a reference. The referential aspect is limited, impure and leads to higher rebirths. Rebirth here can mean better states to be gained in this lifetime and the next. The non-referential aspect is all encompassing, unlimited and the cause for complete awakening.
With regard to these four attitudes, love is the desire to establish beings in happiness, health or prosperity. Compassion is the desire to free beings from suffering, anxiety or negative states. We should differentiate between sympathy which can lead to pity and empathy which is more of a move to act on that compassion. Joy really means to rejoice in the happiness and success that others have gained, just as when parents are joyful when their child takes their first step. Equanimity means to have a calm, open mind free from acceptance and rejection. There are many traditions and methods to cultivate these four attitudes, many of which start with cultivating love. Longchenpa prefers to start with the cultivation of equanimity so that we have a basis in the non-referential aspect.
So we are starting with equanimity because then the other three attitudes will be of a greater scope. We have all had an experience of feeling at one with the world or others around us, or having a fully present, open mind, or feeling a sense of interconnectedness. Most likely these moments have been brief and fleeting but we want to try to expand and deepen that experience.
On an outer level, we can examine our thoughts and value judgements. We can look at our past experience and see that people who we thought were friends have become enemies, or enemies have become friends. We have done things that we thought were helpful but they ended up causing harm, or things that we thought were bad but ended up being okay or good. Otherwise people that we thought were really admirable turned out to have a terrible demeanor, etc. We have a lot of these types of experiences, so we should examine these experiences and reach a conviction that there isn’t any definitive good or bad, right or wrong, and then we should relax into that certainty. We should start small, slowly, gradually expanding this to our country, world and universe. The measure of success is that oneself and others are seen to be alike.
On an inner level, in our meditation we have the natural settling of our body, feelings and thoughts. As we continue to open up to and naturally abide in equanimity, our experience is that of enjoying in whatever manifests, whether it is of samsara or nirvana, as being pure and equal without acceptance or rejection.
The secret experience, or the dawning of non-referential equanimity, occurs when you realize that everything is nature of mind and that it is empty of existing in any fixed manner (think of the continuum of dependent origination). The nature of the mind is like the sky, and it does not truly exist. The vast expanse of awakened mind is utterly lucid, like a spacious sky. The measure of success is an unchanging openness without center or limit. We have an experience like the waves of the ocean, whether high or low, which serve to ornament the ocean but do not in affect it in any way. We come to abide in the spontaneous presence of the authentic nature.
Next we turn to the practice of love, which means to establish others in happiness. The referential aspect of love is to establish in others pleasure, health and prosperity. We also seek to establish them in their ultimate happiness, their own realization of the awakened mind. The common method to generate love is to develop it towards one’s own mother or loved one. We then gradually expand that practice to include all beings. The measure of success is an all embracing love like a mother who loves her child.
Non-referential love is great love, in which everything is within the reach and range. It is the union of love and the openness of being, and the result is a visible pure pleasantness and noble qualities.
Third is the practice of compassion, which means to free others from suffering. The referential aspect of empathic compassion seeks to free beings momentarily from their suffering, their pain and uncertainty through one’s own virtue, wealth and effort. The measure of success is the inability to bear the suffering of others, like a father who is unable to bear their child’s pain.
Non-referential compassion is great compassion, the union of compassion and the openness of being. The result is a mind that is without malice or vindictiveness, not seeking to inflict harm or dismiss others suffering as only their own.
The fourth and final practice is of sympathetic joy, or rejoicing in the happiness and success of others. The referential aspect is to have joy in others pleasure, not needing to install them in happiness but that they have found it and that they will find it from now until their complete awakening. We should have the intention that they never be separate from this happiness and prosperity. The measure of success is joy free from envy.
Non-referential joy is like experienced in states of meditation, the union of joy and the openness of being. The result is steadfastness through the cultivation of inner wealth.
Next we want to cut through attachment or fixation to the experiences of these four immeasurables. When through love we start to feel attached to our friends or loved ones, we want to cultivate compassion which cuts through the karmic suffering of the relationship. When our compassion becomes fixated on the object of reference, we should cultivate joy to cut through weariness. When joy brings agitation and excitement, cultivate equanimity free of attachment. Finally, when abiding in equanimity leads to passive neutrality and an indeterminate state, we should cultivate love and the other immeasurables.
This cycle of cultivation is easy and leads to the steady development of the four immeasurables. We come to experience an inner happiness free of anything to be upset about. People are friendly and you have an inner wealth to be shared with others. You grow more and more, spontaneously fulfilling the two accumulations of merit and wisdom and gaining the two kayas.
When the four immeasurables are present and meet with afflicted emotions, they act as a catalyst for realizing the five wisdoms, or the five aspect of timeless awareness.
Attitude + Afflicted emotion ======== Attitude + Aspect of timeless awareness
When love is present and acting on anger (aversion, rejection), there comes in its place a mirror-like timeless awareness that naturally reflects, reveals and participates in the experience. When timeless awareness is not recognized and we fixate on the negative characteristics of objective referents, then anger arises.
When compassion is present and acting on desire (attachment, acceptance), there comes in its place all-discerning timeless awareness. When timeless awareness is not recognized and we fixate on positive characteristics of objective referents, then attachment arises.
When joy is present and acting on envy (discontent, should have been this or that way), there comes in its place the timeless awareness of spontaneous fulfillment, things completely perfect as they are and a sense of inner contentment. When timeless awareness is not recognized and we fixate on objective referents, then envy and discontent arise.
When equanimity is present and acting on pride (ego-inflation, arrogance), there comes in its place timeless awareness as equalness. When timeless awareness is not recognized, grasping at subject and object, better or worse, high or low, then arrogance arises.
When equanimity is present and acting on ignorance (delusion, non-recognition), there comes in its place timeless awareness as the basic space of phenomena, the authentic condition free from elaboration. When timeless awareness is not recognized and we fixate on the intrinsic clarity of the nature of mind, then ignorance arises and we move away from the authentic state.
Through the contemplation and practice of the four immeasureables we can really come to experience them in this way.
May all beings have happiness and its causes,
May they be free from suffering and its causes,
May they never be separate from sorrow-less great bliss,
May they abide in equanimity, free from attachment and anger.