#16: How to be really cool: Developing equanimity

29 April 2010 - 12:35pm Comments Off

The coolest person in the world is a Buddha.

In Buddhism, being cool is not about ignoring everything or accepting everything. That is being cool in a stupid way. That is not cool. You get this sort of déjà vu feeling when you are high on drugs or intoxicants: it only brings harm to ourselves and others. We all know that.

To be cool means to have control of the passions and emotions that disturb our minds, which make us HOT and react in a bad way, and makes us do stupid things.

To be cool means we can deal with accusations, temptations, criticisms, or whatever that is thrown at us good or bad, without yielding negative results.

How wonderful to think we can become like that! Firstly we need to handle the two dynamic forces of push and pull, which unbalances our minds and secondly, the static force of disinterest that over-cools us and makes our hearts indifferent. It functions to make us inert and unresponsive. These forces arise from our engagement with objects of our likes, dislikes, and neutrality. With regards to people, they are our friends, our enemies, or strangers.

We develop desirous attachment to those we like and consider to be friends; we develop hatred for those we dislike, who we consider to be our enemies, and we do not care about anyone who we do not know. That is not cool. Why? Because we limit and ostracise ourselves, and we suffer as a result!

When we develop attachment towards people we like, our happiness becomes dependent on them. We lose control because, if they disappear (or if they change their ways), we suffer disappointment. Worse still, if someone or something prevents us from possessing this object, we freak out and do stupid things: it does not always degenerate into the extreme of getting rid of the obstacle, but the ticket to hell is always dangerously available as our frustration builds up.

When we encounter enemies, our anger arises. Who suffers? We are the first to suffer. There is no debate. Look at the mirror when we get angry. When that anger develops into hatred, we lose control and engage in hostile actions that increases not only our suffering, but causes others to suffer as well. That is incredibly uncool.

When we encounter enemies, our anger arises. Who suffers? We are the first to suffer. There is no debate.

Even if we are a social animal, how many friends can we name? Even if we are anti-social and a jerk, how many enemies do we have? The vast majority of people co-existing with us are those we label as strangers. If we have an accident, if our car breaks down, if we suffer a heart attack, or find ourselves trapped in an earthquake or a disaster, statistically-speaking our friends are unlikely to be around to help us. Forget about our enemies! The guy who helps us out of our predicament, or who saves our life will most likely be a stranger. Our neighbourhood would be a ghost town if we only wanted friends to live near us. We need strangers!

When friends say bad things to us, we suffer disappointment and feel betrayed. When enemies hurt us, we suffer the effects of anger and hatred. When strangers do not come to our aid when we need it, we suffer the effects of an uncaring society. If we adopt such labelling, we are always bound to lose out.

The great Indian pandita, Shantideva, said that all the suffering in the world is created by us, and all the happiness in the world is due to others. We can believe his words or we can discard them, but when we take time to look at the situation for ourselves, the Truth is there to be seen, carved in golden capital letters.

So what is going on here?

Our habit of labelling people into the above three categories has a major influence in the way we respond to others. Therefore, the key to not experiencing the setbacks that can arise from this kind of habitual attitude, is to stop labelling people in this way and to realise that our attitude arose from our bias and misconceptions. We need to harmonise the three forces that unbalance our composure and make us lose our cool and sense of civility.

NEXT: The Key to Balancing Our Mind: Equanimity

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