The Four Immeasurables


Like atoms whirling in the depths of space,
Impelled by mighty forces, powerless,
Infinite beings, sparks of consciousness,
Migrating ceaselessly from place to place,
Are driven by their cravings to embrace
The pleasures they mistake for happiness,
But desire brings them only more distress;
The very pain they fear they have to face.
To think: “Their sorrows come, not from Above,
Or whim of Fate, or cruel external facts,
Or others’ malice, but from their own acts;
I wish all creatures, though unknown to me,
Freed from unskillful acts, could happy be;”
This thought is called Immeasurable Love.

A creature in his time has many lives,
And now and then in blissful heaven dwells,
But just as soon may fall into the hells
Or, demi-god, be hacked to death with knives.
Now see him as, a hungry ghost, he strives
Without success to eat the food he smells,
Or squeals among the pigs a farmer sells.
The wisdom from these sufferings he derives
Is small indeed, or so we may surmise
To see him waste his few short years on Earth
In foolish deeds that lead to fresh rebirth.
Thinking: “All creatures share this misery.
I must find out the way to set them free,”
Immeasurable Compassion will arise.

If many pass their days in lust and hate
Some make attempt in virtue to abide
But we, half of the time, blinded by pride,
Give them no praise but merely denigrate.
Others find peace that seems to be innate
While we must struggle hard against the tide
And feel ourselves to be most sorely tried.
If we begrudge their carefree, happy state
What little peace we have we will destroy.
To feel resentment at a man’s good name,
His happiness or virtue is a shame;
When envy of his virtue we disown
And greet his happiness as if our own
Then we will find Immeasurable Joy.

We say we long to leave Samsara’s game;
Why is it then that we remain attached?
Each thing we fear seems by another matched
That keeps us circling, moths about a flame.
In seeking praise, we run the risk of blame;
Our gain becomes a loss if from us snatched;
And from the want of pleasure pain is hatched,
While envy soon breeds slander out of fame.
If we think well on this we need not be
Impaled upon the horns of hopes and fears,
Aversions and desires, joys and tears;
By leaving craving and dislike behind,
And by this means alone, a man may find
Immeasurable Equanimity.

This set of sonnets is a chunk of Buddhist theology which I wrote while studying Tibetan Buddhism in Northern India. Don’t begin jumping to conclusions, though. There’s more to the story. πŸ™‚

About Ben Naga

The Spirit that graces me with its passing has no name and stems not from thoughts and words, though it gathers them up as it flows, but from feeling.

Posted on January 4, 2012, in Poetry, Sonnet, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. Ben, these are rich and deep sonnets, which I need to come back and read again and again. I like these “immeasurables” – they are such beautiful reflections and thoughts of loving kindness.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You can write a Petrarchan sonnet? I’m impressed.

    I think I’ll have to read them a couple more times to have anything more pertinent to say.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. wow…quite a masterpiece Ben! Time for a re-read πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The fourth one I did not predict. A wonderful collection of thoughts. These are quite epic in scope and consideration. Beautifully done

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ben, I printed these out several days ago, but could not get to them until this morning. Ethel built a fire in the fireplace before dawn, and I could not resist. As you probably know, I love sonnets whether they are Petrarchian or Shakespearean. I sat down by the fire and spent a few moments in Tibet–it sounds like some time ago.
    One of the many values of writing poetry is to put down on paper what you already know, exploring knowledge as the words form themselves. One of the values of the discipline of traditional forms is that your mind is forced to grapple with ideas, images, and language–more often than not forcing a new understanding or interpretation of knowledge you already know.
    One of the many values of reading poetry, especially if you take the time to read carefully in front of a fireplace while snow is falling outside the window as dawn is rising, is that you, for awhile, react to another individual’s reaction to the substance of the poem, enriching yourself in the process. I have always thought that the romantic’s idea that there are new fountains upon the earth, paraphrasing Wordsworth, and that the only value that exists in creativity is new fountain is a strange one. The romantics were reacting to Pope and the neo-classical straightjackets created during that age of poetry and art, but poetry like yours, writing out what others have taught–in some cases for centuries, has always seemed to me to have equal value to new fountains.
    I enjoyed reading these.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. thanks for the link…your writing is wonderful! I think I’ll do a copy/paste and send it on to a friend whose internet has been “capped” for the month…very special. The Four Immeasurables are so special…and an understanding of the “8 worldly winds” make life so much more manageable!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. rofl…sometimes, it’s hard to get a laugh out of me….but you just did! Yeh, he was really something!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Love Compassion Joy Serenity [I love this word. It is more familiar]. The stories you wrote in the form that Shakespeare chose for his tales, had the perfect rhythm to exhibit your deep philosophy of your inner reflection. Your wisdom is deep. Though you say it is a restatement in your words revealed through your years of learning and exposure to Tibetan Teachings. I am blissed out by what I have read. You have expressed such perfection of thought in your poem. To write so meaningful a poem and share it is a wonderful gift. I am filled with awe and joy. Life has such potential if we could all live with such awareness.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ben, having read (and committing to rereading) The Four Immeasurables as well as deeply thoughtful comments from what I suspect are wise and compassionate readers and friends, I begin to see how gifted you are and how shallow I am. I have much to learn. I am pleased to have crossed your path and to glean wisdom and compassion from your posts. Every now and then we come across people who awaken and encourage us to greater reflection and self-awareness. And for your words to have this impact, I thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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