272  Equanimity

Equanimity (upekkha) is another perfection the Bodhisatta fulfilled. Upekkha is in this case not neutral feeling but the sobhana cetasika which is tatramajjhattata (evenmindedness or equanimity) . The commentary to the Cariyapitaka Ven. Bodhi, p. 261 gives the following definition of equanimity:

“Equanimity has the characteristic of promoting the aspect of neutrality; its function is to see things impartially; its manifestation is the subsiding of attraction and repulsion; reflection upon the fact that all beings inherit the results of their own kamma is its proximate cause.”

The Bodhisatta developed the perfection of equanimity together with right understanding. Through equanimity he was imperturbable in the face of abusive speech and wrong done to him. He was impartial even to those who wished him well and he did not expect any reward.

The same commentary states that equanimity is indispensable to the practice of the other perfections. We read:

“ ... For without equanimity, the aspirant cannot relinquish something without making false discriminations over gifts and recipients. When there is no equanimity, he cannot purify his virtue without always thinking about the obstacles to his life and to his vital needs. Equanimity perfects the power of renunciation for by its means he overcomes discontent and delight. It perfects the functions of all the requisites (by enabling wisdom) to examine them according to their origin. When energy is aroused to excess because it hasn’t been examined with equanimity, it cannot perform its proper function of striving. Forbearance and reflective acquiescence (the modes of patience) are possible only in one possessed of equanimity. Because of this quality, he does not speak deceptively about beings or formations. By looking upon the vicissitudes of worldly events with an equal mind, his determination to fulfil the practices he has undertaken becomes completely unshakable. And because he is unconcerned over the wrongs done by others, he perfects the abiding in loving kindness. Thus, equanimity is indispensable to the practice of all the other perfections.”

We need equanimity with the other perfections. While we are generous we should also be impartial. We should not think that we should only give to this person and not to that person. Equanimity helps us not to be disturbed when we lose dear people or when other people hurt or harm us. We can remember that whatever happens has to happen because it has been conditioned already. When we see others suffer and we cannot do anything for them, we can remember that we all are heirs to our own kamma, that we receive the results of our own deeds. Then kusala citta with equanimity can arise instead of aversion. When other people behave badly we can realize that there are no people, only akusala dhammas which appear and that these arise according to their conditions. Then we will be more tolerant, we will not say or think, “These people are terrible”. There are accumulations of kusala dhammas and akusala dhammas which appear in our own and other people’s behaviour. We can learn to have equanimity towards our own akusala and kusala. Instead of being disturbed by our anger, there can be right understanding which realizes anger as a conditioned nama, and at that moment the citta is kusala. Neither kusala nor akusala belongs to us. We know that the perfections have to be developed so that kusala can become one’s nature, but we should not think of accumulating kusala for ourselves, there should not be clinging to “my kusala”. When kusala dhammas arise they are beneficial, they can condition the arising of kusala dhamma again in the future.

Date 31 Mar 2024