July 31, 2013
After our meditation, I summarized the first three Bramha Viharas (loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy) and introduced the fourth, Equanimity (Upekkha in pali).
Equanimity is a perfect, unshakable balance of mind, rooted in insight. It is the balance of mind with the balance of consciousness.
In the mundane or conditioned world we encounter and struggle with what the Buddha called the Eight Worldly Winds (gain, loss, pleasure, pain, fame, disrepute, praise, blame). We tend to favor the four positive ones not knowing that in order to be free, we must accept all of them equally. Equanimity is the calm space that exists in the midst of the Eight Worldly Winds, treating them all impartially.
Matt Flickstein states:
“When the enlightenment factor of equanimity is at work and the mental factors are in balance, the mind is impartial in terms of what arises to consciousness. This impartiality or non-preferentiality leads to seeing things as they really are. Everything becomes “clear and undisguised.”
What is happening on the content level becomes less important than seeing the three characteristics of impermanency, unsatisfactoriness, and selflessness. We realize on a very deep and transformative level that everything that has the nature to arise also has the nature to pass away. There is no ultimate satisfaction in sense pleasures, and there is no self as part of, behind, or in control of our experiences. There is “just empty phenomena rolling along,” and as it is stated many times in the satipatthana sutra, “one lives independent not clinging to anything in the world.” This is the experience of freedom for which we are seeking.
How can we know that we are experiencing equanimity? We notice less reactivity in our lives.
How can we practice equanimity? Through mindfulness – staying with the original reaction without judgment, commentary, or decision-making. We are aware that all reactions are phenomena, arising in the mind sharing the three characteristics (impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and selflessness). We see what is really happening.
How do the other Brahma Viharas relate to Equanimity? (from Nyanaponika Thera)
Loving Kindness imparts to equanimity its selflessness, its boundless nature and even its fervor.
Compassion guards equanimity from falling into cold indifference and keeps it from indolent or selfish isolation. Until equanimity has reached perfection, compassion urges it to enter again and again into the battlefields of the world.
Sympathetic joy gives to equanimity the mild serenity that softens its stern appearance. It is the divine smile on the face of the Enlightened One.
See if you can spot your reactions without judgment. Whenever you notice a reaction, try to stay with the original feeling rather than letting the mind jump to conclusions or labeling. Be aware of what is happening; that’s all that is needed!