to be with what is

Pain is not a punishment; pleasure is not a reward.

– Pema Chödrön

In response to my last post Harold said:

A literal view of the particular kind of equanimity mentioned above leaves it open for the continued destruction of the earth, and thus ourselves.

Its an important and interesting objection, and a problem discussed in different ways in Buddhism. The simple answer to the objection is this:

Buddhism do not support a laissez-faire attitude towards life and being. The Buddhist concept of equanimity should not be confused with carelessness.

For the especially interested I’ll try to offer a more comprehensive remark:

Equanimity – in Buddhism – is one of four brahma-viharas (= heavenly or sublime abodes). Every brahma-vihara has a near and a far enemy. Near enemy is a quality that can masquerade as the original, but is not the original. Far enemy is the opposite quality.

The 4 brahma-viharas are:

  1. Lovingkindness, good-will (metta): Near enemy – attachment; far enemy – hatred
  2. Compassion (karuna): Near enemy – pity; far enemy – cruelty
  3. Sympathetic joy, Appreciation (mudita), joy at the good fortune of others: Near enemy – comparison, hypocrisy, insincerity, joy for others but tinged with identification (my team, my child); far enemy – envy
  4. Equanimity (upekkha): Near enemy – indifference; far enemy – anxiety, greed

Equanimity in Buddhism (- and therefore also in all mindfulness practices -) means to have a clear-minded tranquil state of mind – not being overpowered by delusions, mental dullness or agitation. A clear-minded tranquil state of mind is the best foundation for wise actions.

7 comments on “to be with what is

  1. I really admire your discussion of equanimity, Sigrun, cogent and thought-provoking. In reading both posts and the comments, I was reminded of Pema Chodron’s description of the four qualities of maitri (accepting ourselves as we are): steadfastness, clear-seeing, the actual experiencing of our emotions, and present moment awareness or attention to the present moment (The Places That Scare You, 2009). As you say, equanimity, in Buddhism, is not a matter of laissez-faire. Wonderful posts, as always.

    Karen

    • Thank you for reading and commenting Karen!
      And thank you for mentioning Pema C, who absolutely has many wise thoughts to offer us on the subject of equanimity.

      It feels like I should study the theme in some depth, as if it – equanimity – has singled itself out
      🙂

  2. Equanimity–isn’t that the expression on the face of statues of Buddha? The half-smile?

    Or is that contentment?

    I believe they are related–? I am not very educated about this.

    • I do not understand the half-smile as contentment, rather as an acceptance of what is –
      In meditation this means attention on the breath and body without either aversion or craving.
      (Equanimity is his pose :))

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