The Borobudur Temple, located in Java, Indonesia is one of the most compelling places that I have ever visited. It is not only a remarkable temple, but holds a palpable presence. Considered a sacred site, this remarkable temple was built in the 9th Century and under ash for over 1000 years following the eruption of a volcano. It was rediscovered in the early 1800’s and renovated in 1983. Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world. The journey through Borobudur follows a path around the monument and ascends to the top through symbolic levels of the world of desire; the world of compassion; and the world of formlessness.
A Buddhist teaching that comes out of this experience at the Borobudur Temple and enters my photography work is the Brahma Viharas, also known as the ‘Four Immeasureables.’ The word Brahma (in Sanskrit) means supreme – heavenly or essentially the BEST. Vihara means abode – dwelling or home, so taken together, Brahma Vihara means our BEST HOME…the place where we feel MOST ourselves, MOST whole.
The 1ST of these 4 qualities is LOVING KINDNESS and kindness is essential for meditation to work because if we’re always fighting with ourselves/situation in life, we are NOT accepting what is here. Essentially, the quality of loving kindness has little to do with necessarily ‘liking’ someone or ‘approving’ of them, but more to do with a sense of US – a ‘we-ness’…not a gooey/sentimental notion, but the TRUTHFULNESS of it…that we are ALL INTER-CONNECTED.
The 2nd of these 4 qualities is COMPASSION, and essentially compassion is a RESPONSE to a deep knowing of suffering. There is an EMPATHY here – a being able to feel, be honest about, and support awareness of our own pain. This is how EMPATHY GROWS…being able to say, ‘I remember how it felt when (I was lied to/deceived/exploited/used/abused…). And sometimes our capacity for deeper compassion is compromised because we become frightened when we feel INTO the pain of another with BLAME; feeling OVERWHELMED; or take a ‘FIX IT’ approach as a means for by-passing the deeper depths of the pain. Learning to SIT and QUIET THE MIND can bring us to a FELT EXPERIENCE of our own pain – and from this, grows COMPASSION. Compassion is cultivated. It is an inside job.
The 3rd quality is the divine quality of joy and especially JOY in the JOY of others – an ‘appreciative’ joy, often referred to as ‘sympathetic’ joy – the idea that it is not only helpful to be sympathetic to someone’s LOSS, but also someone’s JOY. And with meditation – sitting and quieting the mind so as to BE WITH EXPERIENCE AS IT IS – we can see what BLOCKS us – the feeling of competition/threat; the experience of ‘never having enough’; or feeling helpless.
The 4th quality of our BEST ABODE/HOME is the quality of profound equanimity or BALANCE – balance in the face of upheaval/groundlessness/swirls of uncertainty and change. Finding this BALANCE is how WISDOM is expressed. We are better able to see what lies BEYOND what’s happened in the moment and just how much we DON’T know. We cultivate a bigger sense of things and learn how to keep calmly knowing change.
So meditation (like being a good parent; good friend; good teacher, and a good photographer) involves a DEEP PROCESS OF LISTENING. When we sit and open our hearts to feel our FEARS; GREED; ANGER; PREJUDICE; LOVE; JOY…ALL OF IT, this process brings loving kindness/compassion/appreciative joy/ and with practice, BALANCE or equanimity to our lives. And it’s a GIFT to feel these things; to ‘house’ these qualities in ourselves – our ‘BEST HOME’.