What is equanimity exactly?

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What is equanimity exactly?

Postby Zen » Sat Nov 28, 2009 9:07 pm

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the four immeasurables and I need some clarification on the definition of equanimity.

My understanding is that equanimity is non-judgement, which to me means indifference, but this doesn’t make sense along side concepts of compassion, love and sympathetic joy.

I intuit that equanimity doesn’t really mean indifference, but I can’t quite get my head around what it does mean.

Can someone please clarify exactly what equanimity is?

metta
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Re: What is equanimity exactly?

Postby Ben » Sat Nov 28, 2009 9:36 pm

Hi Zen
Upekkha (equanimity) is perfect equipoise of the mind.
'Indifference' takes on a negative, almost calous connotation in secular western society but equanimity within the context of Buddhistic practice is far removed from that.
"looking on", hedonic neutrality or indifference, zero point between joy & sorrow (Cpd. 66); disinterestedness, neutral feeling, equanimity. Sometimes equivalent to adukkham -- asukha -- vedanā "feeling which is neither pain nor pleasure".
-- PTS Pali-English Dictionary: http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... :4007.pali

kind regards

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Re: What is equanimity exactly?

Postby cooran » Sat Nov 28, 2009 9:38 pm

Hello Zen,

This might be of interest:
Excerpt:
"Indifference is the near enemy of equanimity. Indifference is the sad and tragic pretense of equanimity. It is a cold distance from a heartfelt sense of life. It is a state of utter isolation. Its impulse is towards superiority. By nature it suffers a scornful, contemptuous reaction to the beauty of the human process. Indifference blocks the potential to engage the love and freedom life has to offer.

The far enemy to equanimity is craving, clinging and attachment. As a mother of five children I have seen the inbred nature of attachment. Two craving beings come together and create another craving being. We are born to attach ourselves, to cling to the mother. It is part of the survival mechanism. Meanwhile, in delusion we continue to attach and cling to the pleasant and push away the unpleasant. Craving has us living life on demand. Equanimity is the capacity to let go-to let be. Ajahn Chah points to the practice of equanimity when he suggests that we cultivate a mind that knows how to let go. When we can let go a little, we have a little peace. When we can let go a lot, we have a lot of peace. When we can let go completely, we have complete peace. Equanimity practice cultivates a mind that knows how to let go."
http://www.brahmaviharas.org/upekkha.htm

metta
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Re: What is equanimity exactly?

Postby boris » Sun Nov 29, 2009 1:25 am

"Indifference is the near enemy of equanimity. Indifference is the sad and tragic pretense of equanimity. It is a cold distance from a heartfelt sense of life. It is a state of utter isolation. Its impulse is towards superiority. By nature it suffers a scornful, contemptuous reaction to the beauty of the human process. Indifference blocks the potential to engage the love and freedom life has to offer.


Surely it was written without upekkha. We see that author is not indifferent to life and experience. But someone can say that life is suffering and painful.
Than they start to argue and all upekkha is lost :smile:
The man who wants to avoid grotesque collapses should not look for anything to fulfill him in space and time.

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Re: What is equanimity exactly?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Nov 29, 2009 1:32 am

Hi Boris,

I'm sorry, but I can't understand what you mean by this sentence:
boris wrote:Surely it was written without upekkha.

Metta
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Re: What is equanimity exactly?

Postby boris » Sun Nov 29, 2009 1:59 am

There is emotional attitude in it. Assumption about the beauty of the human process With upekkha there are not such assumptions, With upekkha you rather observe experience and try to not take side. At least I see upekkha this way.
The man who wants to avoid grotesque collapses should not look for anything to fulfill him in space and time.

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Re: What is equanimity exactly?

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Nov 29, 2009 2:09 am

boris wrote:
"Indifference is the near enemy of equanimity. Indifference is the sad and tragic pretense of equanimity. It is a cold distance from a heartfelt sense of life. It is a state of utter isolation. Its impulse is towards superiority. By nature it suffers a scornful, contemptuous reaction to the beauty of the human process. Indifference blocks the potential to engage the love and freedom life has to offer.


Surely it was written without upekkha. We see that author is not indifferent to life and experience. But someone can say that life is suffering and painful.
Than they start to argue and all upekkha is lost ::

Your point is less than clear. Are you saying equanimity is indifference?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: What is equanimity exactly?

Postby boris » Sun Nov 29, 2009 2:24 am

tiltbillings wrote:
boris wrote:
"Indifference is the near enemy of equanimity. Indifference is the sad and tragic pretense of equanimity. It is a cold distance from a heartfelt sense of life. It is a state of utter isolation. Its impulse is towards superiority. By nature it suffers a scornful, contemptuous reaction to the beauty of the human process. Indifference blocks the potential to engage the love and freedom life has to offer.


Surely it was written without upekkha. We see that author is not indifferent to life and experience. But someone can say that life is suffering and painful.
Than they start to argue and all upekkha is lost ::

Your point is less than clear. Are you saying equanimity is indifference?


I say that upekkha is onlooking equanimity.
The man who wants to avoid grotesque collapses should not look for anything to fulfill him in space and time.

Nicolás Gómez Dávila
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Re: What is equanimity exactly?

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Nov 29, 2009 2:27 am

boris wrote:
I say that upekkha is onlooking equanimity.

In other words equanimity is equanimity.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: What is equanimity exactly?

Postby Zen » Sun Nov 29, 2009 2:37 am

Thanks for your replies.

So equanimity is indifference as objectivity, rather than indifference as apathy. You can still care about something without getting emotionally involved. Does that sound about right?
But then I thought that compassion, love and sympathetic joy were emotional involvement. But Buddhism teaches us to feel love for all beings…
OK, I’m starting to see how this works – equanimity doesn’t lead to apathy, but to an increased feelings of compassion, love and sympathtic joy because it allows us to view all people equally. Equanimity is like unconditionalness – if that’s a word.

Does that make sense?
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Re: What is equanimity exactly?

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Nov 29, 2009 2:47 am

Zen wrote:Thanks for your replies.

So equanimity is . . . .

I think you are getting a good handle on it. Here is something that puts into an everyday perspective:

IV. Equanimity (Upekkha)
Equanimity is a perfect, unshakable balance of mind, rooted in insight.

Looking at the world around us, and looking into our own heart, we see clearly how difficult it is to attain and maintain balance of mind.

Looking into life we notice how it continually moves between contrasts: rise and fall, success and failure, loss and gain, honor and blame. We feel how our heart responds to all this with happiness and sorrow, delight and despair, disappointment and satisfaction, hope and fear. These waves of emotion carry us up and fling us down; and no sooner do we find rest, than we are in the power of a new wave again. How can we expect to get a footing on the crest of the waves? How can we erect the building of our lives in the midst of this ever restless ocean of existence, if not on the Island of Equanimity.

A world where that little share of happiness allotted to beings is mostly secured after many disappointments, failures and defeats;

a world where only the courage to start anew, again and again, promises success;

a world where scanty joy grows amidst sickness, separation and death;

a world where beings who were a short while ago connected with us by sympathetic joy, are at the next moment in want of our compassion — such a world needs equanimity.

But the kind of equanimity required has to be based on vigilant presence of mind, not on indifferent dullness. It has to be the result of hard, deliberate training, not the casual outcome of a passing mood. But equanimity would not deserve its name if it had to be produced by exertion again and again. In such a case it would surely be weakened and finally defeated by the vicissitudes of life. True equanimity, however, should be able to meet all these severe tests and to regenerate its strength from sources within. It will possess this power of resistance and self-renewal only if it is rooted in insight.

What, now, is the nature of that insight? It is the clear understanding of how all these vicissitudes of life originate, and of our own true nature. We have to understand that the various experiences we undergo result from our kamma — our actions in thought, word and deed — performed in this life and in earlier lives. Kamma is the womb from which we spring (kamma-yoni), and whether we like it or not, we are the inalienable "owners" of our deeds (kamma-ssaka). But as soon as we have performed any action, our control over it is lost: it forever remains with us and inevitably returns to us as our due heritage (kamma-dayada). Nothing that happens to us comes from an "outer" hostile world foreign to ourselves; everything is the outcome of our own mind and deeds. Because this knowledge frees us from fear, it is the first basis of equanimity. When, in everything that befalls us we only meet ourselves, why should we fear?

If, however, fear or uncertainty should arise, we know the refuge where it can be allayed: our good deeds (kamma-patisarana). By taking this refuge, confidence and courage will grow within us — confidence in the protecting power of our good deeds done in the past; courage to perform more good deeds right now, despite the discouraging hardships of our present life. For we know that noble and selfless deeds provide the best defense against the hard blows of destiny, that it is never too late but always the right time for good actions. If that refuge, in doing good and avoiding evil, becomes firmly established within us, one day we shall feel assured: "More and more ceases the misery and evil rooted in the past. And this present life — I try to make it spotless and pure. What else can the future bring than increase of the good?" And from that certainty our minds will become serene, and we shall gain the strength of patience and equanimity to bear with all our present adversities. Then our deeds will be our friends (kamma-bandhu).

Likewise, all the various events of our lives, being the result of our deeds, will also be our friends, even if they bring us sorrow and pain. Our deeds return to us in a guise that often makes them unrecognizable. Sometimes our actions return to us in the way that others treat us, sometimes as a thorough upheaval in our lives; often the results are against our expectations or contrary to our wills. Such experiences point out to us consequences of our deeds we did not foresee; they render visible half-conscious motives of our former actions which we tried to hide even from ourselves, covering them up with various pretexts. If we learn to see things from this angle, and to read the message conveyed by our own experience, then suffering, too, will be our friend. It will be a stern friend, but a truthful and well-meaning one who teaches us the most difficult subject, knowledge about ourselves, and warns us against abysses towards which we are moving blindly. By looking at suffering as our teacher and friend, we shall better succeed in enduring it with equanimity. Consequently, the teaching of kamma will give us a powerful impulse for freeing ourselves from kamma, from those deeds which again and again throw us into the suffering of repeated births. Disgust will arise at our own craving, at our own delusion, at our own propensity to create situations which try our strength, our resistance and our equanimity.

The second insight on which equanimity should be based is the Buddha's teaching of no-self (anatta). This doctrine shows that in the ultimate sense deeds are not performed by any self, nor do their results affect any self. Further, it shows that if there is no self, we cannot speak of "my own." It is the delusion of a self that creates suffering and hinders or disturbs equanimity. If this or that quality of ours is blamed, one thinks: "I am blamed" and equanimity is shaken. If this or that work does not succeed, one thinks: "My work has failed" and equanimity is shaken. If wealth or loved ones are lost, one thinks: "What is mine has gone" and equanimity is shaken.

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 center of one's being. Thus detachment should be practiced.

To the degree we forsake thoughts of "mine" or "self" equanimity will enter our hearts. For how can anything we realize to be foreign and void of a self cause us agitation due to lust, hatred or grief? Thus the teaching of no-self will be our guide on the path to deliverance, to perfect equanimity.

Equanimity is the crown and culmination of the four sublime states. But this should not be understood to mean that equanimity is the negation of love, compassion and sympathetic joy, or that it leaves them behind as inferior. Far from that, equanimity includes and pervades them fully, just as they fully pervade perfect equanimity.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el006.html
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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