What is the difference between equanimity and apathy?

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What is the difference between equanimity and apathy?

Postby Wizard in the Forest » Mon Jan 03, 2011 8:28 am

I have heard the difference is marked by compassion, but I doubt this is really the complete difference. Can anyone possibly describe the difference, if possible, with Suttas as a reference?
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Re: What is the difference between equanimity and apathy?

Postby Moggalana » Mon Jan 03, 2011 9:23 am

No Sutta reference, but my understanding is that equanimity is supported by mindfulness while apathy is accompanied by dullness.
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Re: What is the difference between equanimity and apathy?

Postby Wizard in the Forest » Mon Jan 03, 2011 9:30 am

Moggalana wrote:No Sutta reference, but my understanding is that equanimity is supported by mindfulness while apathy is accompanied by dullness.


I can't find a sutta reference either, and I am wondering how it can help to distinguish the two. I think I have heard such an idea of a distinction comes from the Visuddhimagga, but I am not certain.
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Re: What is the difference between equanimity and apathy?

Postby Alexei » Mon Jan 03, 2011 9:59 am

Simile for sloth-and-torpor:
"Imagine a bowl of water covered over with slimy moss and water-plants. If a man with good eyesight were to look at the reflection of his own face in it, he would not know or see it as it really was...


As I can see apathy is lack of dhammavicaya, viriya and pīti.

"Just so, when the mind is sluggish it is the wrong time to cultivate the enlightenment-factors of tranquillity, concentration and equanimity, because a sluggish mind is hard to arouse through these factors.

"But, monks, when the mind is sluggish, that is the right time to cultivate the enlightenment-factor of investigation-of-states, the enlightenment-factor of energy, the enlightenment-factor of rapture.[2] What is the reason? A sluggish mind is easy to arouse by these factors.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .wlsh.html
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Re: What is the difference between equanimity and apathy?

Postby Nibbida » Mon Jan 03, 2011 11:35 am

Not from the suttas, but excerpts from Nyanaponika Thera's The Four Sublime States:

Love [i.e. metta] imparts to equanimity its selflessness, its boundless nature and even its fervor. For fervor, too, transformed and controlled, is part of perfect equanimity, strengthening its power of keen penetration and wise restraint.
...
Compassion guards equanimity from falling into a cold indifference, and keeps it from indolent or selfish isolation. Until equanimity has reached perfection, compassion urges it to enter again and again the battle of the world, in order to be able to stand the test, by hardening and strengthening itself.
...
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, a smile that persists in spite of his deep knowledge of the world's suffering, a smile that gives solace and hope, fearlessness and confidence: "Wide open are the doors to deliverance," thus it speaks.

Equanimity rooted in insight is the guiding and restraining power for the other three sublime states. It points out to them the direction they have to take, and sees to it that this direction is followed. Equanimity guards love and compassion from being dissipated in vain quests and from going astray in the labyrinths of uncontrolled emotion. Equanimity, being a vigilant self-control for the sake of the final goal, does not allow sympathetic joy to rest content with humble results, forgetting the real aims we have to strive for.

Equanimity, which means "even-mindedness," gives to love an even, unchanging firmness and loyalty. It endows it with the great virtue of patience. Equanimity furnishes compassion with an even, unwavering courage and fearlessness, enabling it to face the awesome abyss of misery and despair which confront boundless compassion again and again. To the active side of compassion, equanimity is the calm and firm hand led by wisdom — indispensable to those who want to practice the difficult art of helping others. And here again equanimity means patience, the patient devotion to the work of compassion.

In these and other ways equanimity may be said to be the crown and culmination of the other three sublime states. The first three, if unconnected with equanimity and insight, may dwindle away due to the lack of a stabilizing factor. Isolated virtues, if unsupported by other qualities which give them either the needed firmness or pliancy, often deteriorate into their own characteristic defects. For instance, loving-kindness, without energy and insight, may easily decline to a mere sentimental goodness of weak and unreliable nature. Moreover, such isolated virtues may often carry us in a direction contrary to our original aims and contrary to the welfare of others, too. It is the firm and balanced character of a person that knits isolated virtues into an organic and harmonious whole, within which the single qualities exhibit their best manifestations and avoid the pitfalls of their respective weaknesses. And this is the very function of equanimity, the way it contributes to an ideal relationship between all four sublime states.

Equanimity is a perfect, unshakable balance of mind, rooted in insight. But in its perfection and unshakable nature equanimity is not dull, heartless and frigid. Its perfection is not due to an emotional "emptiness," but to a "fullness" of understanding, to its being complete in itself. Its unshakable nature is not the immovability of a dead, cold stone, but the manifestation of the highest strength.


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Re: What is the difference between equanimity and apathy?

Postby Kim OHara » Mon Jan 03, 2011 12:08 pm

:goodpost:
:namaste:
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Re: What is the difference between equanimity and apathy?

Postby Individual » Mon Jan 03, 2011 12:46 pm

The short version:
There is what is called indifference, apathy, numbness. In this, there is no joy and no suffering, no happiness but no sadness either. This is how many people interpret Nibbana too -- as the numbness of experience. But it isn't. It's possible to develop such numbness, but that numbness is itself merely a subtle form of dukkha.

In the case of equanimity, there is joy. Not ecstatic joy, but tiny joy. Whereas in numbness is a subtle form of dukkha, equanimity is a subtle form of happiness. And whereas numbness is ignorance reborn, equanimity is associated with wisdom.

The longer version:
To understand equanimity, one must first understand real happiness. I actually do not think it is possible to truly know what equanimity is without at least attaining the first jhana. Perhaps that's wrong. It's just... Equanimity is built on top of the happiness born of mindfulness and morality.

It's like smelling the flowers, enjoying nature, a warm coffee or shower in the morning, the pleasant feel of a human touch -- all without delighting in them. One can be swept away by the simple joys and have ecstasy even over nature, then reality comes along to remind you of the first noble truth: suffering. One develops equanimity first by practicing mindfulness until one realizes the infinite happiness born of concentration, but then, seeing the danger of it, one practices restraint. Because the happier one is, the sadder one can become. So, you take that happiness born of concentration and you squeeze it, tighter and tighter, smaller and smaller. You squeeze it, because you know, "I love this happiness. I really do, but I know it's impermanent and notself. If I hold onto it and delight into it, it will eventually fade and I will be disappointed." So you make it smaller, so that the disappointment is smaller.

Eventually, you may come to a point where people wonder if you're even happy, because you don't seem to be. But you are. It's just a subtle form of happiness (and actually -- you're smiling all the time -- crying too, but they're tears of joy). But it is also supreme happiness because it stays with you, and doesn't come and go like the intoxication of drugs or the intoxication of delight in every day experience.
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Re: What is the difference between equanimity and apathy?

Postby appicchato » Mon Jan 03, 2011 2:47 pm

:goodpost: as well...
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Re: What is the difference between equanimity and apathy?

Postby kirk5a » Mon Jan 03, 2011 4:00 pm

Apathy isn't awake.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: What is the difference between equanimity and apathy?

Postby cooran » Mon Jan 03, 2011 8:16 pm

Hello all,

Apathy/indifference is the Near Enemy of Equanimity:

''Equanimity is the balanced state of mind. It is the middle way state of mind that is neither clinging nor pushing away.

Each of the four brahma-viharas has what is called a near enemy and a far enemy. The near enemy is a state of mind that is close to the brahma-vihara and is sometimes mistaken as the good emotion, but is actually “a near enemy” and not the correct mental state. The far enemy is virtually the opposite of the brahma-vihara and is completely off the mark for the emotion that is strived for. ''
http://www.brahmaviharas.com/

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Re: What is the difference between equanimity and apathy?

Postby villkorkarma » Tue Jan 04, 2011 1:32 am

I really loved this answer I have been thinking a lot of that refering to the short and the long answer.
Well i think i am close near the first level of enlightenment i want to remember when i was smaller age that i felt so nice so kind and peacefull that i didnt needed or wanted sex.
I also want to remember that i was loosing faith directly after that nearly and began to do stupid things with my mind, but i think iam there soon very near that state again when i was feeling so kind so i didnt needed sex, becourse now things go much easier im not like or dislike is my feeling. thank you for a great forum, iam happy to hear from you very kind people. love from john.
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Re: What is the difference between equanimity and apathy?

Postby villkorkarma » Tue Jan 04, 2011 1:37 am

and now i really have the motivation becourse i have felt so bad and so afraid many times of anxioti. and goenka says, when one comes out from the first level of enlightenment nirvana then one is a changed person, he cant generate new sankharas that will take him to lower fields of life. thank you again thanks.
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Re: What is the difference between equanimity and apathy?

Postby nathan » Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:11 pm

in brief, one could care more and another could care less.

:anjali:
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}
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Re: What is the difference between equanimity and apathy?

Postby Individual » Tue Jan 04, 2011 2:25 pm

nathan wrote:in brief, one could care more and another could care less.

:anjali:

All things are impermanent, so all beings can care more or less equally.
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Re: What is the difference between equanimity and apathy?

Postby pt1 » Wed Jan 05, 2011 12:05 pm

Wizard in the Forest wrote:I have heard the difference is marked by compassion, but I doubt this is really the complete difference. Can anyone possibly describe the difference, if possible, with Suttas as a reference?


Not sure if this will help - i got the difference when someone explained me this issue in dry abhidhamma terms:

Apathy is in essence a state of consciousness that arises accompanied with unwholesome mental factors of ignorance and aversion (also called unwholesome roots). Since aversion arises, then the consciousness is also bound to be accompanied with unpleasant feeling (feeling is also a mental factor). So, one way to recognise apathy is by the unpleasant feeling that accompanies it. I think the same combination of mental factors (though of different strengths) applies in case of boredom, depression, etc.

Equanimity on the other hand is a wholesome mental factor which accompanies a wholesome state of consciousness - a consciousness that is accompanied by wholesome mental factors (wholesome roots) of non-aversion and non-greed (and sometimes) non-ignorance (or wisdom). Since it's a wholesome consciousness, then it can never be accompanied by an unpleasant feeling. A wholesome consciousness can be accompanied only by a neutral or by a pleasant feeling.

And thus, differentiation by feeling is probably the easiest to consider when telling apathy and equanimity apart - apathy will always be accompanied by an unpleasant feeling of some strength, while equanimity will not be.

Now, whether equanimity which accompanies a wholesome state of consciousness will be accompanied by a pleasant or a neutral feeling will depend on what sort of "equanimity" we're talking about:
- equanimity as a neutral feeling
- equanimity as a mental factor (tatrmajjhattata)
- equanimity as a brahmavihara
- equanimity as a jhana factor
- equanimity as a an enlightenment factor
- equanimity of an arahat, etc.

Anyway, there's a lot about these different aspects of equanimity in Visuddhimagga, if anyone's interested I can give some quotes? Didn't want to overload now since the OP asked for sutta references. Atm, this sutta ref comes to mind:

AN 6.1
01. I heard thus. At one time The Blessed One was living in the monastery offered by Anāthapiṇḍika in Jeta's grove in Sāvatthi. The Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus:

Bhikkhus, the bhikkhu endowed with these six things is worshipful, suitable for hospitality, gifts and to honour with clasped hands the incomparable field of merit for the world. What six?

Here, bhikkhus, the bhikkhu seeing a form is neither pleased or displeased abides mindful and aware with equanimity. Hearing a sound, ... re ... scenting a smell, ... re ... tasting a taste, ... re ... cognizing a touch with the body, ... re ... and cognizing an idea, is neither pleased nor displeased, abides mindful and aware with equanimity.

Bhikkhus, the bhikkhu endowed with these six things is worshipful, suitable for hospitality, gifts and to honour with clasped hands, the incomparable field of merit for the world. The Blessed One said thus and those bhikkhus delighted in the words of The Blessed One.

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Re: What is the difference between equanimity and apathy?

Postby Nibbida » Wed Jan 05, 2011 7:44 pm

pt1 wrote:Apathy is in essence a state of consciousness that arises accompanied with unwholesome mental factors of ignorance and aversion (also called unwholesome roots). Since aversion arises, then the consciousness is also bound to be accompanied with unpleasant feeling (feeling is also a mental factor). So, one way to recognise apathy is by the unpleasant feeling that accompanies it. I think the same combination of mental factors (though of different strengths) applies in case of boredom, depression, etc.


This makes perfect sense. A person can only feel apathy if they perceive themselves as separate from others who are experiencing happiness or suffering. So there is stability, but separateness. Equanimity accompanies appreciative joy and compassion, maintaining the stability, but also in light of not being a separate self.
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Re: What is the difference between equanimity and apathy?

Postby pt1 » Thu Jan 06, 2011 8:02 am

Nibbida wrote:Equanimity accompanies appreciative joy and compassion, maintaining the stability, but also in light of not being a separate self.

Yes, I think that’s right. In abhidhamma terms it would be said something like:

the unwholesome mental factor of wrong view (of self) cannot accompany a wholesome consciousness, which has arisen accompanied by equanimity (and other wholesome mental factors like non-ignorance, non-greed, non-aversion, mindfulness, etc).

As you say, one of the characteristics of equanimity as a mental factor, which is said to accompany every wholesome consciousness, is to maintain stability. In Visuddhimagga (XIV,153) this is termed:
It has the characteristic of conveying citta and cetasikas evenly. Its function is to prevent deficiency and excess.
So this naturally happens when equanimity accompanies compassion (karuna), appreciative joy (mudita), etc, as you mention.

A bit more info that I find very interesting. It’s said that a wholesome consciousness can be accompanied either by neutral feeling or by pleasant feeling. I think loving-kindness (metta) for example would be generally accompanied with a pleasant feeling. But, when equanimity is developed to a strong degree and manifests as a brahmavihara, I think in that case the consciousness would be accompanied with a neutral feeling (which is also sometimes translated as equanimity, even though it’s in essence a mental factor of feeling).

Finally, it’s important to remember that unwholesome consciousness can also arise with both neutral and pleasant feeling. This would happen when unwholesome mental factor of greed is one of the roots (together with ignorance) that accompanies the consciousness. That’s why it’s very easy to confuse metta with attachment (greed) for example - because both arise accompanied with a pleasant feeling.

In terms of equanimity as a brahmavihara, it’s particularly tricky because it can be easily confused with both unwholesome states rooted in aversion (like apathy), and with states rooted in greed (subtle attachment, like for example to an idea of being very equanimous – I get that often). Of course, each one of those two would come with ignorance, so that’s why I think ignorance is called the near enemy of equanimity, while the far enemies are greed and aversion . In Visuddhimagga IX,96 this is termed:
It [equanimity] succeeds when it makes resentment and approval subside, and it fails when it produces the equanimity of unknowing, which is that (worldly-minded indifference of ignorance) based on the home-life.


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Re: What is the difference between equanimity and apathy?

Postby villkorkarma » Thu Jan 06, 2011 8:17 pm

Do you mean that one dont feel very good (very very comn) before enligtenment?
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Re: What is the difference between equanimity and apathy?

Postby pt1 » Fri Jan 07, 2011 8:21 am

villkorkarma wrote:Do you mean that one dont feel very good (very very comn) before enligtenment?

Hi, I assume you’re asking me. Your question is a bit cryptic, so I’ll answer as I understand it now, though of course you can expand your question so that I can answer more appropriately.

As far as I know, it's said that any sort of wholesome consciousness can be accompanied either by pleasant or by neutral feeling. It cannot be accompanied by an unpleasant feeling. So for example, a moment of mindfulness can sometimes be accompanied by pleasant feeling, and sometimes by neutral feeling. This will be so in the moments just before enlightenment, as well as at any other time before that. I mean, that’s just the way how a wholesome consciousness arises. Which particular sort of feeling will arise with it would depend on conditions, and often the two sorts of feeling can alternate quickly as the states of consciousness change. For that matter, wholesome and unwholesome states of consciousness can alternate just as quickly, etc. And accordingly, pleasant, neutral and unpleasant feelings will keep alternating, as I think it is obvious from every day experiences.

Anyway, as for “feeling very good”, I guess it would depend on what you mean by that. Certainly, pleasant feeling that accompanies a wholesome consciousness can “feel very good”. Also, there’s the mental factor of joy, which is also one of the 7 enlightenment factors, and it too can “feel very good” when developed. I’ve also heard from some that when equanimity has developed to a high level – either in the fourth jhana, or as a brahmavihara, it also “feels very good”, even though it’s accompanied by a neutral feeling. In fact, they say that it feels much better than the highest level of joy that was experienced in previous jhanas or in mudita brahmavihara.

So, I guess it depends on how one interprets “feeling very good”. And I mean, you can reach the fourth jhana and the equanimity brahmavihara and still not attain awakening. Of course, some say that awakening “feels very good” as well, or more precisely, that it’s better than anything else (even though at the moment of awakeing, the object of consciousness is said to be nibanna, so you don’t really care, so to speak, about the feeling, equanimity, joy, etc, at the time, since these are not really the object of consciousness then). Anyway, I hope some of this addressed your question.

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Re: What is the difference between equanimity and apathy?

Postby villkorkarma » Fri Jan 07, 2011 11:40 pm

yes actually that gaved me hope that iam on the right way practising, i think i have had that neutral feeling before, but i had now motivation to progress to nirvana and that led me to many ruff years.
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