We are still susceptible
to elation and depression. Those who have highly developed wisdom, the
arahats, are not susceptible to elation nor depression, they have equanimity
instead. There are many kinds and degrees of this quality and the arahat
has the highest degree.
The good give up (attachment
for) everything; the saintly prattle not with thoughts of craving: whether
affected by happiness or by pain, the wise show neither elation nor depression.
VI, The Wise, vs. 83)
Equanimity, evenmindedness or balance of mind (in Pali : tatramajjhattata),
is one of the nineteen sobhana cetasikas which accompany each sobhana citta.
It is not easy to know the characteristic of equanimity. We may think that
there is equanimity whenever there is neither like nor dislike of what
we see, hear or experience through the other senses, but at such moments
there may be ignorance instead of equanimity. We may confuse equanimity
and indifferent feeling, but these are different cetasikas; equanimity
is not feeling, the cetasika which is vedana. The Visuddhimagga
(XIV, 153) states about equanimity :
It has the
characteristic of conveying citta and cetasikas evenly. Its function is
to prevent deficiency and excess, or its function is to inhibit partiality.
It is manifested as neutrality. It should be regarded as like a conductor
(driver) who looks on with equanimity on thoroughbreds progressing evenly.
(I, Book I, Part IV, Chapter I, 133) gives a similar definition. When there
is equanimity there is neither elation nor depression. The object which
is experienced is viewed with impartiality and neutrality, just as a charioteer
treats with impartiality his well-trained horses. Equanimity effects the
balance of the citta and the other cetasikas it arises together with. There
is no balance of mind when akusala citta arises, when we are cross, greedy,
avaricious or ignorant. Whereas when we are generous, observe morality
(sila), develop calm or develop right understanding of nama and rupa, there
is balance of mind.
There are different forms and degrees of equanimity. If we know more about
them it will help us to understand the characteristic of equanimity. The
Visuddhimagga (VI, 156-172) deals with different kinds of equanimity
(1 The Visuddhimagga uses in this section the term "upekkha" for
equanimity, instead of tatramajjhattata. Upekkha can stand for indifferent
feeling as well as for equanimity, depending on the context. See also the
Atthasalini, Book I, Part IV, Chapter III, 172, for the different
types of equanimity.) .
One of the aspects of equanimity mentioned by the Visuddhimagga
is equanimity as specific neutrality. As we have read in the definition
of equanimity given by the Visuddhimagga, it has the characteristic
of conveying (carrying on) evenly citta and the accompanying cetasikas,
and its function is the preventing of deficiency and excess, or the inhibiting
of partiality. Equanimity effects the balance of the citta and the cetasikas
it arises together with, so that there is neither deficiency nor excess
of any one among them. When the citta is kusala citta it is always accompanied
by equanimity which effects the balance of the citta and the accompanying
cetasikas. Kusala citta is also accompanied, for example, by energy or
effort, viriya, which is balanced: there is neither deficiency nor excess
of it, and thus it can assist the kusala citta in accomplishing its task.
All cetasikas play their own part in assisting the kusala citta and equanimity
has its own specific function in effecting mental balance.
When we abstain from wrong action or wrong speech there is equanimity with
the kusala citta. When others, for example, treat us badly or use abusive
speech, there can be equanimity, and then there is no impatience, intolerance
or anxiety about our own well-being- with evenmindedness one can abstain
from answering back harshly or from acts of vengeance. Equanimity is one
of the "perfections" the Bodhisatta developed together with right understanding
for innumerable lives. When there is mindfulness of nama and rupa appearing
now there is patience and equanimity, even if the object which is experienced
There are several other kinds of equanimity. There is equanimity in samatha
and equanimity in vipassana. When calm is developed or when there is right
understanding of the present moment there is equanimity which performs
its function. The Visuddhimagga mentions some aspects of equanimity which
are equanimity of samatha and some which are equanimity of vipassana.
One of the aspects of equanimity mentioned by the Visuddhimagga
is equanimity as one of the "divine abidings" (brahmavihara-upekkha) and
this is developed in samatha (Vis. IV, 158). As we have seen, there are
four "divine abidings" which are objects of calm: loving kindness, compassion,
sympathetic joy and equanimity.
When loving kindness is developed one wishes that other beings may be happy.
When compassion is developed one wishes beings to be free from suffering.
When sympathetic joy is developed one wishes beings' success. When equanimity
is developed one does not think of promoting other beings' happiness, alleviating
their misery or wishing their success, but one views them with impartiality.
We read in the Visuddhimagga (lX, 96) about the divine abiding
is characterized as promoting the aspect of neutrality towards beings.
its function is to see equality in beings. It is manifested as the quieting
of resentment and approval. its proximate cause is seeing ownership of
deeds (kamma) thus: "Beings are owners of their deeds. Whose (if not theirs)
is the choice by which they will become happy, or will get free from suffering,
or will not fall away from the success they have reached?" It 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.
Ignorance is called the
"near enemy" of equanimity, because one may think that there is equanimity
when there is actually ignorance. Its far enemies are greed and resentment,
When there is attachment or aversion there cannot be equanimity at the
If one understands the characteristic of equanimity it can be developed
in daily life and condition moments of calm. Sometimes people may be beyond
any help, but when we remember that unpleasant results in life they receive
are conditioned by kamma, that people are "heirs" to kamma, it will prevent
us from being distressed. Sadness about other people's suffering is not
helpful, neither for ourselves nor for others, whereas when there is equanimity
we can be of comfort to others. Those who have accumulated conditions for
the development of calm to the degree of jhana can, with the divine abiding
of equanimity as meditation subject, attain jhana (1 With this meditation
subject the highest stage of rupa-jhana can he attained, but not the lower
stages. 1f someone wants to attain jhana with this subject he should first
develop the divine abidings of loving kindness, compassion and sympathetic
joy, by means of which the first, second and third stage of jhana of the
fourfold system (and the fourth stage of the fivefold system) Can be attained,
but not the highest stage. if he then develops the diving abiding of equanimity
he can attain the highest stage of rupa-jhana (Vis. IX 88, 111, 11 8))
The Visuddhimagga mentions other aspects of equanimity, which pertain
to samatha, namely the specific quality of equanimity in the third stage
of rupa-jhana (of the fourfold system and the fourth stage of the fivefold
system (2 See Chapter 8 for the fourfold system and the fivefold system
of jhana.)), which is called equanimity of jhana (jhana-upekkha) (3 Seed
Vis, 177. In this stage of jhana the grosser jhana-factors of applied thinking
(vitakka), sustained thinking (vicara) and rapture (piti) have been abandoned
(see Chapter 8 and 11) . There is still pleasant feeling (sukha), but no
attachment to it; there is equanimity even towards the highest bliss.)
and equanimity in the highest stage of rupa-jhana, which is called purifying
equanimity (4 In this stage also the jhana-factor of happy feeling has
been abandoned; there is indifferent feeling and "purity of mindfulness
due to equanimity (Book of Analysis, Chapter 12, Analysis of Jhana,
597, and Vis, IV, 194)) . At each subsequent stage of jhana the jhanacitta
and its accompanying cetasikas are calmer, purer and more refined.
Each of the aspects of equanimity mentioned by the Visuddhimagga
is different. Equanimity as "specific neutrality", equanimity as one of
the divine abidings, equanimity of jhana and purifying equanimity are all
different aspects of tatramajjhattata.
The Visuddhimagga also mentions aspects of equanimity of vipassana.
Equanimity as a factor of enlightenment is an aspect of equanimity in vipassana
mentioned by the Visuddhimagga (IV, 159). There are seven factors
of enlightenment (sambojjhanga): mindfulness (sail), investigation of Dhamma
(Dhamma vicaya, which is panna), energy (viriya), enthusiasm (piti), calm
(passaddhi), concentration (samadhi) and equanimity (upekkha). Equanimity
is in this case again the cetasika tatramajjhattata. When the enlightenment
factors have been developed they lead to enlightenment. They are not developed
separately, but they are developed together with satipatthana. The enlightenment
factor of equanimity performs its own function while it accompanies citta
and the other cetasikas. We read in the Visuddhimagga (IV, 159)
about the enlightenment factor of equanimity: "He develops the equanimity
enlightenment factor depending on relinquishment" (1 Relinquishment is
twofold: it is the giving up of all defilements and also the inclination
to or "entering into" nibbana (Vis. XXI, 18)). When right understanding
sees the unsatisfactoriness of all conditioned realities which arise and
then fall away, there will be indifference towards them.
When satipatthana is being developed we do not have to aim at the development
of equanimity because it develops together with insight. The enlightenment
factors reach completion through satipatthana. When conditioned realities
have been clearly understood as they ate, enlightenment can be attained.
There is yet another aspect of equanimity mentioned by the Visuddhimagga
and this is the sixfold equanimity which is actually the equanimity which
has reached completion at the attainment of arahatship. We read in the
Visuddhimagga (IV, 157):
equanimity is a name for the equanimity in one whose cankers are destroyed.
It is the mode of non-abandonment of the natural state of purity when desirable
or undesirable objects of the six kinds come into focus in the six doors
described thus: "Here a bhikkhu whose cankers are destroyed is neither
glad nor sad on seeing a visible object with the eye: he dwells in equanimity,
mindful and fully aware." (Gradual Sayings Book of the Sixes, Chapter
has a perfect balance of mind. He is unruffled by the worldly conditions
of gain and loss, praise and blame, honour and dishonour, well-being and
misery. To us the sixfold equanimity of the arahat seems to be far off,
we should remember that this equanimity can only be achieved by understanding,
panna, which has been developed stage by stage. It is useless to have wishful
thinking about this perfect equanimity. It cannot be realized by longing
for it. The fact that this equanimity is sixfold can remind us that only
when understanding of what appears through the six doors has been developed
there can be equanimity towards all objects.
Understanding can be developed now, when there is an object presenting
itself through one of the six doors. Sometimes the object is pleasant,
sometimes unpleasant. When understanding has not been developed it is difficult
to be "balanced", to "stay in the middle", without attachment, without
aversion. we may tell ourselves time and again that life is only nama and
rupa, conditioned realities which are beyond control, but we are still
impatient and we are still disturbed by the events of life. However, when
there is mindfulness, for example, of visible object, understanding can
realize it as a rupa which appears through the eye-door, not a thing, not
a person. When there is mindfulness of seeing, understanding can realize
it as only an experience, a type of nama, no self who sees. When realities
are clearly known as not a thing, not a person, thus, as anatta, there
will be more even-mindedness and impartiality towards them. However, this
cannot be realized in the beginning. The arahat has eradicated all defilements
and thus he can have equanimity which has reached perfection. He is undisturbed,
patient and always contented.
We read in the Kindred Sayings (II, Nidana-vagga, Chapter XVI, Kindred
Sayings on Kassapa, 1, Contented) about the arahat Kassapa who was always
contented. We read that the Buddha, while he was staying at Savatthi, said
to the monks:
monks, is this Kassapa with no matter what robe. He commends contentment
will no matter what robe, nor because of a robe does he commit anything
that is unseemly or unfit. If he has gotten no robe, he is not perturbed:
if he has gotten a robe, he enjoys it without clinging or infatuation,
committing no fault. Discerning danger. wise as to escape (1 He enjoys
it as sufficing against cold (the commentary to this sutta, the "Saratthappakasini")).
We then read that the
Buddha exhorted the monks to train themselves likewise. We can train ourselves
by being mindful of whatever nama or rupa appears now. Kassapa had developed
the right conditions leading to perfect equanimity.
Even so is this Kassapa
contented with no matter what alms, will no matter what lodging, with no
matter what equipment in medicines.