Upekkhā : Equanimity

The final subject of contemplation is that of Upekkhā, which is translated as Equanimity. The practice of Equanimity brings Patience with it, and it usually defined by emotional evenness and composure even in particularly challenging circumstances.

Venerable Nyanaponika Thera defined Equanimity as “a perfect, unshakable balance of mind, rooted in insight.” Clearly, this isn’t something one masters in a single meditation session.

What is this insight? Insight into the impermanence and not-self-ness of all things. Once again, this matter goes further than intellectual knowledge, because we all “know” that things don’t last forever. What we need to do is develop wisdom on the matter that goes further — that shows us that it is not only perfectly OK for things to not last forever, but that there is ultimately no “one” who cares. Sure, it seems otherwise sometimes, but if we look deeply, does it really matter? Does a man really care when his car starts to wear out, or is the real problem that the pleasure derived from the object has been exhausted?

The perfection of one’s Equanimity gives one the capacity to see that this pleasure is fading, and that its passing is OK too. When truly perfected, the effect is likewise for pain.

Equanimity is also the presence of mind that maintains focus when others speak words of blame or hatred toward oneself. This arises because of the wisdom that in any situation where there is to be praise, there is also blame. One person may praise you while another simultaneously blames you on the account of the same action. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Both! Neither!

Does it really matter?

This is not to say that we can let the mind slip into indifference. Wisdom is not indifference, but right understanding — seeing the real cause of the stress, the unsatisfactory nature, the Dukkha, and knowing the right way to deal with it in the mind.

Venerable Nyanaponika Thera goes further on the subject:

To establish equanimity as an unshakable state of mind, one has to give up all possessive thoughts of “mine”, beginning with little things from which it is easy to detach oneself, and gradually working up to possessions and aims to which one’s whole heart clings. One also has to give up the counterpart to such thoughts, all egoistic thoughts of “self'”, beginning with a small section of one’s personality, with qualities of minor importance, with small weaknesses one clearly sees, and gradually working up to those emotions and aversions which one regards as the centre of one’s being. Thus detachment should be practised.

And the Venerable has a point (of course). Rooting out the idea of things and phenomena being “mine” is crucial to rightly perfecting Equanimity. How can one be at peace with a loss, whether it be large or small, if he is tightly affixed to the idea that the object was something of his to begin with?

Read more on the subject from Venerable Nyanaponika Thera here, if you have a moment. Also by the venerable, the article The Four Sublime States ties into this subject pretty well (as well as a couple of the previous topics).

Read, enjoy, and contemplate. Please be well, friends!

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