With this in-breath, I nourish compassion;
With this out-breath, I dispel anger.
With this in-breath, I nourish lovingkindness;
With this out-breath, I dispel hatred.
With this in-breath, I nourish joy;
With this out-breath, I dispel jealousy.
With this in-breath, I nourish equanimity;
With this out-breath, I dispel bigotry.
This is a gatha I developed while meditating recently. It works in the opposite manner of tonglen, in which the meditator “breathes in” negative characteristics and “breathes out” good ones to take their place. Using this gatha in meditation, one concentrates on using the in-breath to nourish positive attributes, and using the out-breath to expel their opposites.
When we breathe in, oxygen nourishes our bodies and minds. It would seem to make sense, then, to imagine our inhalation giving life to compassion, lovingkindness, and the other attributes we wish to encourage in ourselves and others. When we exhale, the waste product carbon dioxide is expelled; we can easily imagine things like anger, jealousy and bigotry being dispelled as well.
These are based on “The Four Immeasurables,” so called because they were thought to have infinite benefit and give unlimited merit to those who practiced them. They are compassion, lovingkindness, joy and equanimity. I’ve imagined their opposites as anger, hatred, jealousy and bigotry. Compassion is the act of “feeling with” another who suffers; a lack of compassion often creates anger. We don’t see or feel the suffering another person is experiencing, which is what makes him behave in ways that make us angry. When we work on developing lovingkindness, we’re trying to bring joy and happiness to other people; if we fail to even try, we become locked in a prison of our own pettiness and hatreds.
Joy as considered in The Four Immeasurables is about sympathetic happiness, the ability to feel happy at someone else’s good fortune. The lack of such sympathy creates jealousy, envy, and a covetous spirit. Finally, equanimity is the ability to respond similarly regardless of circumstance or provocation. Those who do not try to learn such positive self-discipline fall prey to bigotry: the tendency to lump other people into groups and pre-judge them. If you develop your ability to respond to all people in the same loving, joyous spirit, you will avoid this unfortunate tendency.