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The brahmaviharas are four sublime mental states recognized by Buddhism and for which there exist different meditative practices designed to cultivate them. Concretely, the brahmaviharas are:

  1. Metta (loving kindness): wishing the happiness / well-being of all conscious beings.
  2. Karuna (compassion): wishing the end of suffering for all conscious beings.
  3. Mudita (sympathetic joy): rejoicing when a conscious being (oneself or other) is experiencing well-being (the opposite of envy).
  4. Upekkha (equanimity): "To practice upekkha is to be unwavering or to stay neutral in the face of the eight vicissitudes of life—which are otherwise known as the eight worldly winds or eight worldly conditions: loss and gain, good-repute and ill-repute, praise and censure, and sorrow and happiness". I understand that it is also associated with the ability to stay in the present moment, in a state of serene mindfulness.

Question: Are there equivalent concepts in Christianity for the four brahmaviharas?

For example, my own educated guess would be that metta and karuna have probably a lot of overlap with the concept of love in Christianity, but I'm not sure if it's a perfect equivalence. And I'm not so sure if perfectly equivalent concepts can be found for mudita and upekkha either. Of course joy is definitely a thing in Christianity, as it's part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, but what about sympathetic joy? Perhaps praising God is a form of sympathetic joy, because you feel sympathetically happy about God's good qualities? And what about the sublime state of equanimity, and all this present moment awareness and mindfulness that comes with it?

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    This is not a question about Christianity in my opinion. It is about philosophical concepts and it is a matter of sheer opinion as to what allusions may be drawn to compare one completely different religion with another in regard to loosely phrased terminology. – Nigel J Mar 19 at 11:04
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    @NigelJ - philosophy, terminology, buddhism and comparative-religion are all on-topic tags. And you can visit the Wikipedia article of each concept if you want more details. Or look up the terms yourself. They are core virtues of Buddhism, there's tons of articles on them on the web. – Spirit Realm Investigator Mar 19 at 12:02
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    Perfectly good question in my opinion. It's entirely reasonable to ask if Christianity includes certain concepts, and there is probably Christian scholarship on the matter if we look for it. – DJClayworth Mar 19 at 13:27
  • The Buddhist concept of Upekkha sounds a lot like the Christian concept of Abiding. – RBarryYoung Mar 19 at 23:27
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    I'm pretty sure that Buddhists and Christians have quite different definitions of what "conscious beings" means, but so far no one is addressing that issue, which I suspect is the key to answering this question. – Ray Butterworth Mar 20 at 0:51
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Yes and no. If you take those concepts in Christianity that are close to the four you list and break them into parts, then the difference will be seen.

The parts are ideas (the Word), emotional response, will, spoken words and actions.

  1. Christians share a common set of writings (though interpreted with variations) that influence common ideas.

  2. Being human and responding to the same Holy Spirit, the emotional responses will be similar.

  3. An act of the will is dificult to quantify and compare, except in its results.

  4. Because of different faith traditions, the words and actions that flow from the common ideas differ. Thus you will not have uniform prayers, meditations or emphases among the different Christian groups and individuals within them as they work out the intent of the words.

The similarities are most pronounced in the ideas then.

Metta (loving kindness): wishing the happiness / well-being of all conscious beings.

Christians are called to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48) and "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Romans 12:18)

21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. 22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. (Proverbs 25:21-22)

Karuna (compassion): wishing the end of suffering for all conscious beings.

Compassion is commanded of all:

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. (1 Peter 3:8)

However, suffering is also taught to be beneficial to the soul, as exemplified by Job and others. The primary goal is not the alleviation of suffering, but the alleviation of sin, its cause.

Mudita (sympathetic joy): rejoicing when a conscious being (oneself or other) is experiencing well-being (the opposite of envy).

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12:15)

Upekkha (equanimity): "To practice upekkha is to be unwavering or to stay neutral in the face of the eight vicissitudes of life—which are otherwise known as the eight worldly winds or eight worldly conditions: loss and gain, good-repute and ill-repute, praise and censure, and sorrow and happiness". I understand that it is also associated with the ability to stay in the present moment, in a state of serene mindfulness.

First, Job displayed this character:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21)

Second, Solomon spoke about the importance of living in the "House of Mourning" not the "House of Pleasure". He also urged moderation in all things:

Do not be overrighteous,
    neither be overwise—
    why destroy yourself?
17 Do not be overwicked,
    and do not be a fool—
    why die before your time?
18 It is good to grasp the one
    and not let go of the other.
    Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes. (Ecclesiastes 7:16-18)

This extends to the pursuit of wealth.

Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread. (Proverbs 30:8)
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Yes, there is in Christianity something similar to the four sublime attitudes in Buddhism. Instead of four, however, there is one, and that one is composed of eight significant attitudes. Those eight attitudes are expressed in a Christian's lifestyle.

In the apostle Paul's letter to the Christians in the province of Galatia, the apostle calls that one thing "the fruit of the Spirit" (Chapter 6, verses 22-23 NIV):

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Too often, I have observed, Christians refer to the fruit of the Spirit as the fruits of the Spirit. That is unfortunate, however, because the fruit of the Spirit is what you might call a "package deal." We could say quite accurately that with the fruit of God's Spirit, the whole is, in a sense, greater than the sum of the parts.

When a person is born again (or born from above) through the regenerating power of God's Holy Spirit, that person has been given all that he or she needs to live a godly life (see 2 Peter 1:3). Is there an instant transformation in that person's life? No. That transformation, referred to in Scripture as sanctification, is a lifelong process. Moreover, that process does not come about through human effort alone. The fruit of the Spirit is made possible by the Holy Spirit, not by human effort.

Salvation, of which sanctification is an important part, is a joint effort between God and every individual believer in Jesus Christ. In his letter to the Philippian Christians, Paul put it this way:

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure (2:12-13 KJV, my italics).

Christians do not work for salvation. Salvation is a gift from God and not of works (see Ephesians 2:8-9), but Christians do work out their salvation in the warp and woof of life. Since God is the one who works within Christians to will and to do His good pleasure, all the credit and all the glory go to God. Christians are but vessels or channels through whom the fruit of the Spirit is fleshed out existentially.

Jesus put the same concept--different words--this way:

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing (John 15:5 NASV, my bolding).

In short, the Christian's primary responsibility in working out their salvation is to be "filled with the Holy Spirit" and "to keep in step with the Holy Spirit." Whatever attitude is needed in any given moment is a gift of the Holy Spirit. That gift comes through yieldedness, sensitivity, and obedience to the Spirit. While one Christian might struggle more with yieldedness in the area of patience than another Christian, the same Spirit is at work in both. The good news is that when a Christian fails to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, he or she can confess that failure God, receive forgiveness, and live to fight another day.

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  • 8 significant attributes? – Tim Mar 19 at 20:54
  • @tim maybe the beatitudes? There are 12 gifts of the holy spirit. – Peter Turner Mar 19 at 22:12
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In classical philosophy, which inspired much of Christianity and continues to teach Western Christianity, the notion of the four loves that C.S. Lewis expounded on may be corollaries to this Buddhist concept. At the very least, there are four of them and they are about interpersonal relationships:

  1. Eros

  2. Agape

  3. Stoage

  4. Philio

See: Understanding the four loves for a better explanation than what I'm about to give.

The word love, in the Greek new testament is translated into several languages as several different words, in English we mess it up by calling just love and charity and blurring the meanings, I don't know if other languages have similar issues. Spanish, at least, has two or three words for love that capture feelings, emotions and desires.

Now, you may think that this is just semantics, but Jesus specifically says that the greatest commandment, both with respect to God and neighbor is loving them. So the breakdown in the way we love is important.

  • Eros is the attraction a husband and wife should have for each other. And really the same physical attraction that can also be used in adultery and all its forms. I believe this would be not a virtue in Buddhism, and it's not really a virtue in Christianity either - it's just a recognition of a fact, but I think it does distinguish one thing about Christianity from Buddhism and that is that the body as well as the soul are eternally important. Whereas the Buddhist might begrudgingly acknowledge the necessity of eros, the Christian recognizes it as a positive good when used appropriately

The other three loves, would be wrapped up in Metta like you surmised:

  • Agape This is the best love, the love that "Greater love hath no man" as Jesus would say. This is dying to self and living for others. It is the love that keeps marriages together and the love that sanctifies mankind.

  • Storge This is familial love, the kind of love that Jesus would say that "Even Pagans have" when they don't feed their children snakes.

  • Philios This is brotherly love, comradeship and the love that people have when they're working together for a common good.


If there isn't a corollary to Karuna in Christianity, it may be because many Christian sects believe in the necessity of self-mortification and the value of tying our own sufferings to Christ's sufferings for the salvation of the world

Declaring the power of salvific suffering, the Apostle Paul says: "In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church"

Pope John Paul II - Salvici Doloris


There is a notion of spiritual ascent in Christianity. St. Theresa of Avila describes it as Interior Castles and other theologians, mystics and doctors of the Church have described other levels of spiritual attainment. But meditation in Christianity has a different meaning and purpose.

No two ideals could be more opposite than a Christian saint in a Gothic cathedral and a Buddhist saint in a Chinese temple. The opposition exists at every point; but perhaps the shortest statement of it is that the Buddhist saint always has his eyes shut, while the Christian saint always has them very wide open. The Buddhist saint has a sleek and harmonious body, but his eyes are heavy and sealed with sleep. The mediæval saint's body is wasted to its crazy bones, but his eyes are frightfully alive. There cannot be any real community of spirit between forces that produced symbols so different as that. Granted that both images are extravagances, are perversions of the pure creed, it must be a real divergence which could produce such opposite extravagances. The Buddhist is looking with a peculiar intentness inwards. The Christian is staring with a frantic intentness outwards. If we follow that clue steadily we shall find some interesting things.

G.K. Chesterton - Orthodoxy Chapter 7

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