This article examines and compares the Four Immeasurable States of Mind, namely Loving-kindness, Compassion, Empathic Joy, and Equanimity, as described in the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra, Chapter 17, Verses 17-28, and the corresponding section in the Chinese translation, the Zhuangyanjing lun. Additionally, the article will provide a new annotated translation of the mentioned portion of the Sanskrit text. Furthermore, this article also discusses the doctrinal development of the Four Immeasurable States of Mind from the Bodhisattvabhūmi to the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra. The fndings are as follows:
I. In the Chinese translation, Prabhākaramitra, the translator of the Chinese version in the Tang Dynasty, probably rearranged the order of the verses and their prose commentary to help readers understand the teaching more easily. While our extant Sanskrit text has the term “niṣyanda (homogeneous outflow),”Prabhākaramitra’s original Sanskrit might have had “niśraya (source, or resource)” instead.
II. Both the Bodhisattvabhūmi and the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra explain that one tends to generate loving-kindness towards those beings who are in neither-suffering-nor-pleasure, compassion towards those beings who are in suffering, and empathic joy towards those beings who are in pleasure. On the other hand, one also tends to arouse delusion, hatred, and greed respectively when faced with sentient beings in these three kinds of situations. Consequently, bodhisattvas generate a strong intention (expression)—the mind state of equanimity—to guide these three groups of sentient beings to abandon defilements. This interpretation differs from the traditional defnition.
III. In contrast with the Bodhisattvabhūmi, the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra demonstrates development in five areas: 1. It highlights four characteristics of bodhisattvas’ Four Immeasurable States of Mind.
2. Its defnition of the “object of dharma” is different from that in the Bodhisattvabhūmi. 3. It attributes “Four Immeasurable States of Mind without objects” to four causes. 4. It asserts that bodhisattvas possessing Four Immeasurable States of Mind without objects are those who have attained clear cognition of the unproduced nature of all existences at the eighth stage of a bodhisattva. 5. In terms of the characteristics of Four Immeasurable States of Mind, the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra expounds the subdivisions, such as the issues of mutability or immutability of the Four Immeasurables, attachment or detachment of desire, six weak and strong kinds, one cause, fve effects and two signs, four hindrances, twelve faults and virtues, intenseness of the four boundless states of mind, and so on.
four immeasurable states of mind; three groups of sentient beings; three objects; objectless; clear cognition of the unproduced nature of all existences