Limitless love, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy & Equalness – Four Immeasurable qualities to discover within ourselves

“Apramana means measureless or limitless and refers to the Buddha qualities of limitless love, compassion, sympathetic joy and equalness. The Buddha is described as having equal love and compassion for all beings, wishing them all the highest joy of complete awakening.

This is a state that only a Buddha knows, so although others may seem to have equal and limitless love and compassion for all beings, they do not really know what the highest joy is and so cannot wish it fully for others. Thus only a Buddha can truly rest in the Apramanas. The rest of us are training in order to do so.

Meditation on the Apramanas is therefore a way of linking into a quality we already have. In some ways it is quite confusing to call this love, compassion and joy, because these are feelings that come and go dependent on conditions. To develop equal and limitless love, compassion and joy sounds like a lot of effort, as if we had to hype ourselves up to feel something special that we do not feel right now.

When we start to practice the Apramanas, we might notice changes in our feelings of warmth, tenderheartedness, sympathy and even sadness. Yet it is important to distinguish between feelings that change and the constancy of the quality of Sensitivity, Responsiveness and Well-being, of which such feelings are an expression.

Remember that sensitivity is inseparable from Openness and Clarity and is our true nature. This is a subtle point, yet the way we practice the Apramanas is, in some sense, not very subtle. A lot of the time we will notice that we are experiencing all sorts of different feelings, because the practice if the Apramanas stirs them up. In this way we notice how limited our vision is, how few beings we are actually relating to, how little empathy we feel, how limited our wishes are for the benefit of beings.

As we practice the Apramanas, we use skill, play and beauty to find that point within us that links naturally to the vast vision of equal and limitless love and compassion for all beings. Although at first we may find ourselves trying to beam out love to others and feeling little connection with them, as we relax and let go of all the obstructions that we find blocking our hearts, we will find our natural disposition is more and more in line with the apramanas.

We will find others inspiring and we will start to recognise their qualities as Openness, Clarity and Sensitivity. This is love in the sense of genuine communication that allows for trust and intimacy. However, instead of dwelling on and clinging to such delightful qualities, the practice is to link into a disposition that simply wants to bring all beings to such a state of happiness.”

Lama Shenpen Hookham

An excerpt from the booklet ‘Apramanas: Practising the Four Immeasurables’ that explains the practice, it can be purchased here:

the four immeasurables
From the book ‘Apramanas: Practising the Four Immeasurables’