#17: Equanimity: The key to a cool mind

5 May 2010 - 11:42am Comments Off

A Buddha is cool because he has stilled his passions and is therefore free from excitement and depression. Such highs and lows are what disturbs our mind. He does not become hot-headed and engage in harmful actions. He is not fixated with any person or situation no matter how attractive the prospects are. Without the force of attachment, he can let go of things easily and enjoys total freedom. On the other hand, compassion warms his heart to effortlessly reach out to all of us suffering beings knowing that there is no distinction between enemies, friends or strangers.

How can we have such a mind?

Right now our mind is unbalanced. We are close to some people or things out of attachment, distant from others out of hatred, and indifferent to those we have no involvement.

To attain a mind of equanimity like a Buddha’s, we need to do some contemplation based on faith and logic. People we now label as enemies were our friends earlier in this life or in previous lives. At that time, we cared and loved each other; since then, we have developed a dislike for them and a preference for others instead.

By the same logic, people we now consider as friends have also been our enemies before; we have hurt each other over many lifetimes. Therefore, there is no basis for us to fix people in either of these categories.

Since the difference between my present enemies and friends is due to time only, there is no reason for me to dislike my enemies.

How can we draw the line between enemies and friends when all of them have been both, at one time or another, in our countless encounters and relationships in the past? The reality is that both labels are impermanent and subject to change easily. The way we discriminate between the two arises from false view.

When we meet people, we should maintain a balanced attitude, understanding that they have been our friends and enemies. Just like us, they are suffering beings looking for happiness. If we think in this way, our mind will not be disturbed by the forces of attachment and aversion. This is how we begin to experience the mind of equanimity.

Since the difference between my present enemies and friends is due to time only, there is no reason for me to dislike my enemies.

But sorry, that is still not a stable mind just yet.

After the first experience, some doubts may arise. Some of us may think, “Why we should care for what had happened in the past? Past is past” or “This guy just hurt me and he is my enemy right now”.

Well, here’s an example – let’s say someone gave us a present a year ago, and today we received a gift from someone else. Who is kinder? We may forget someone’s kindness but his / her merits cannot be destroyed by time or any events. In the above scenario, we would have to say both people were equally kind to us, regardless of how they treat us right now.

Alternatively, how about the argument that because everyone has been an enemy to me in the past, there is therefore no reason for me to like anyone now?

Seems like a fair argument…sure, we cannot deny that we have been harmed by others in the past. However, we should still look at them with loving kindness because just like us, when we hurt others, they too cause harm without recognising us as their friends and relatives.

Now that we know better, all the more we should not harbour ill will towards those who harm us; it is due to their ignorance that they behave in this way. When a sick or mental patient offends us, we do not blame them but develop concern for their well being, and wish they will recover. We remember that when they were not influenced by ignorance and correctly saw us as friends and relatives, they were kind to us and helped us countless times in the past.

When we have developed equanimity we gain a peaceful mind that is not easily disturbed in any situation. Does this equate to being unfeeling and indifferent?

Equanimity is a balanced mind without reducing one’s love and compassion for others.

Equanimity reduces our attachment and aversion, but it does not reduce our liking and love for others. Without the push and pull forces, we look at people and things without bias and with objectivity. In relating with other people, the effect on us is an increase in warmth, care and goodwill towards them. This is truly a beautiful mind which can increase our happiness. Pray to have this one, not Russell Crowe’s.

NEXT: Believe it or Not, All Living Beings are Our Mothers

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