How can we help others to find happiness? One way is through the practice of the
Four Immeasurable Minds.
The first mind is that of loving-kindness, which is offering happiness to others.
Second is the mind of compassion, which is the intention and wish to relieve the
suffering of others. Third is joy, which is felt when beings experience happiness.
And fourth is equanimity, being neither averse to nor attached to anything. We understand
that we cannot cause others to transcend suffering or to feel happiness or joy, but
we still have the wish that all beings will be able to accomplish such freedom and
We start this practice with those who are closest to us: our family and friends.
We then extend it to those we know and like, and gradually keep on expanding this
practice outwards until we feel loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity
for all beings in our world, and eventually for all beings throughout the universe.
Ultimately, the capacity of our mind to care for all beings becomes immeasurable.
Then the mind embraces the expanse of space, and encompasses the vastness of the
The first mind is loving-kindness, which is the practice of selflessness, of constantly
seeking to benefit others, of helping others to find happiness. When we wish to hurt
another, we are experiencing anger. If we then wait for an opportunity to inflict
harm on that person, we are experiencing animosity. When animosity continues for
a long time it becomes hostility. When we act upon these thoughts through speech
or actions, the hostility becomes cruelty. Loving-kindness is the way to counter
these destructive emotions.
To offer happiness to others, we need to know what they want, and for this we need
to listen and understand. If someone tells us that they do not need or want something
but we insist on giving it to them, we are only offering frustration and irritation,
not happiness. If they wish for nothing, then giving them nothing is the offering
of happiness. We should try to give others what they wish for as long as it is not
harmful; even if what they like is something we do not. Our personal desires or opinions
should not enter into it.
So often in our wish to make others happy, we project what we like onto them and
then we act accordingly. Our intentions may be good, but without wisdom the best
of intentions can backfire, exasperating others and disappointing ourselves. To offer
happiness, we need to set aside the thinking that others wish for what we wish for
and, instead, provide other people with what they truly wish for.
Second, compassion is the wish and intention to alleviate the suffering of others.
It counters sorrow and anxiety. It is the unconditional care and concern for all
living beings, the ability to realize that all beings suffer, not just ourselves
or those we care for. All too often we find ourselves trying to ease the suffering
of those we love and care for, but for other people whom we do not care for or even
dislike, it is an entirely different matter. Ideally, our compassion should be held
equally to all.
The third mind is that of joy, which is wanting all beings to be free from unhappiness
and being sincerely happy, without any trace of jealousy, when they accomplish this.
Joy counters sadness. It is the state of great contentment and ease.
The fourth mind is equanimity which is letting go. It counters attachment and aversion.
It is to stop clinging and to no longer judge or discriminate. It does not mean that
we do not love. It means that we love equally and impartially: like a mother who
loves all her children. Loving every one of her children, a mother’s love for one
child is not lessened. Loving all her children with equanimity does not mean she
is indifferent to what her children feel or do. She simply loves them unconditionally
and without expectations.
Equanimity in love is non-possessive. It is like the sun shining on all beings equally.
The sun does not differentiate, deciding to shine more on this person and less on
that person. Neither does the sun cling to those it shines on. It shines on all it
sees with warmth and brightness—equally.
When we can view everyone with equanimity, we will understand that people are who
they are. If we expect them to conform to our ideals, we will smother them and destroy
the very person we care for. How much better it would be to just accept people as
they are, without any of our pre-conceived views and personal judgments. Our only
wish should be for them to be free from suffering, and to be happy and filled with
Developing the four immeasurable minds requires much time, enthusiasm, and dedication.
Although our four minds today may seem to be very small and narrowly focused, their
gradual expansion to encompass the whole universe will bring us immeasurable joy.