What is Equanimity in Tibetan Buddhism?
Generally speaking, equanimity is the absence of biased attitudes of feeling close to some living beings and distant from others. According to Tibetan Buddhism when we meditate on equanimity in the context of The Four Boundless Thoughts, it is the wish for all beings to be free from their attachment to their close ones and aversion to those who are distant from them. Hint: The keyword is ALL, not just our loved ones or friends but all beings. Remember this is a practice, so we can let go of the expectation of instant mastery. Developing equanimity requires time and concentrated effort.
Why is developing equanimity helpful?
Developing equanimity is helpful because it allows us to train ourselves away from biased attitudes. One way to contemplate this is by considering that the people closest to us in this life or another lifetime may have been the ones who hurt us the most in a different lifetime.
On the other hand, those people who we think would never do anything good for us in our current lives could have been helpful to us in another lifetime. Yes, those are a lot of lifetimes to consider. However, it is helpful to our equanimity development to zoom out and consider more than this current lifetime. This contemplation can help us release strong attachments to those we are currently close to and can help ease our aversion to people we tend to avoid.
How to maintain equanimity when we encounter stressful situations or people?
When we realize that there is potential for good and bad in every relationship and every situation, we start to feel a more equal attitude. Developing compassion for all living beings is a lofty goal. It is common to struggle on that journey. It doesn’t feel good to admit, but most of us have at least one person we struggle to like. It can be challenging to understand why we should want them to be free from suffering. We can begin with these contemplations and learn to see the bigger picture, that we perpetuate our own suffering by not developing equanimity.
What’s an example of equanimity?
When we encounter people or experiences that we don’t like, whether it’s because we have opposing viewpoints, or we feel it’s harmful to ourselves or our society, we label them as bad. If we start digging deeper and think about it, we realize that we are all suffering for the same reasons of grasping at self, a misapprehension of reality. Thus, we are all equal.
Why do we need equanimity?
No one wants to suffer, everyone wants happiness. But sometimes we struggle to understand the causes of happiness and suffering. The causes of suffering are self-grasping, afflictive emotions, and doing harmful actions. Most of us claim to not want to suffer, but we often continue to engage in the causes of suffering.
The causes of happiness are the virtuous states of love and compassion, wholesome actions, and the wisdom of emptiness. Often, we claim to want to be happy but don’t make efforts to engage in the causes of happiness. If we wish for happiness, we have to take steps to reach it. If we want to avoid suffering, we have to abandon its causes.
When we see the truth of this, we see that everyone’s suffering is due to a lack of understanding of the basic causes of happiness and suffering, and thereby see that everyone is equally deserving of our patience, love, and compassion. Hearing this once won’t cause a radical change in most of our minds, so we need to think about this carefully and contemplate it again and again.
It will be challenging, if not impossible, to cultivate equanimity if we believe in the idea of a solid, permanent, and truly existing person. If we believe that people are unchangeable and not a product of causes and conditions, it will be difficult to develop compassion and equanimity towards them. It’s important to remember that everyone is conditioned by their life experiences, family of origin, their past karma, and more.
What are some meditation practices for cultivating equanimity?
With any state of mind, you have the mind itself, an object, and a way that the mind appears in relation to the object. When practicing equanimity, the object is all living beings who have attachment to their friends, family, and loved ones, and aversion to those who are distant—those who aren’t included in that sphere of concern. The way that our mind appears in relation to that object is as a wish for all living beings to be free from the biases of attachment to those who are close and aversion to those who are distant. But in the beginning, our own biases may not allow us to make so that wish for all beings. We need help bringing our own minds to that state of equanimity.
In the process of the Four Boundless Thoughts it’s often advisable for us to begin with an equanimity practice. Otherwise we will have a biased attitude which prevents us from developing equal love and compassion for all beings. We will only have biased love and biased compassion for those closest to us without being able to develop it for those outside our sphere of care.
The one aspect that makes boundless attitudes boundless is that they are focused on all sentient beings, not just the ones that we like. The only way to develop an equal attitude of compassion for all beings is by first developing a sense of equanimity in our minds towards all living beings.
Two primary ways to accomplish that are:
- Seeing that all beings have been our mothers in previous lives.
- Seeing that all beings are equal in being selfless due to the nature of emptiness.
Equanimity Practice #1:
The first of those can be quite difficult to fathom for those of us who may not have conviction in the principle of past and future lives, but in brief it means that if we are living in a world in which we have taken infinite previous births, then all living beings have at one time or another been our mother and cared for us by giving us life, giving us food, protecting us from danger, and so forth as has our mother figure of this life. If we can see all living beings in that way, then we can see that they are all equally worthy of our care, love, and respect.
Equanimity Practice #2:
The second of those methods is to see the selflessness or emptiness of all beings. To do that we need to go through the process of analytic meditations found in the Vipassana teachings. In those teachings, we reflect upon our minds and bodies and learn that the self is a mental imputation or mere idea that is conceived in our minds.
When we investigate our minds and bodies, and dissect them piece by piece, we never find any singular, solid, or truly existing self. All we can find are things that we think of as “my”, such as “my head”, “my body”, “my mind”, and so forth, but we never find “me.” In the process of habitually grasping at this falsely imagined self, we believe in the truth of things. When we believe that things really exist in the way that they appear to our minds, then everything that we are doing in that process is furthering our habitual patterns and furthering our experiences of suffering.
If we learn that our own and everyone’s self-grasping comes from an ignorance of our fundamental nature of emptiness or selflessness, we begin to understand equanimity. We can begin to see that everyone is suffering needlessly due to this root cause of ignorance. When we understand that, we gain the equanimity to see that all beings are equally deserving of our love and concern.
Alright, now we know the what, why, and how of equanimity. Got it?! Kidding, kidding! Reading this blog alone probably won’t be enough for you to develop a mind and attitude of equanimity, but we hope this helps on your journey. Remember to cultivate compassion for yourself as you work towards an equanimous mind. You won’t be perfect, but you can always start again.
Learn more about equanimity in this short clip of Lama Tsomo from our Four Immeasurables Retreat.
How do Buddhists practice equanimity? ›
In Buddhist practice, we work to expand the range of life experiences in which we are free. These two forms of equanimity, the one that comes from the power of observation, and the one that comes from inner balance, come together in mindfulness practice. As mindfulness becomes stronger, so does our equanimity.How do you develop equanimity? ›
For a formal practice to cultivate equanimity, begin with some calming breaths or a mantra meditation. Once you feel calm, reflect on your desire for happiness and freedom from suffering, both for yourself and for others.Can we cultivate equanimity? ›
By cultivating equanimity, you are given the choice to accept rather than struggle with these emotions. In other words, through equanimity, you learn to acknowledge your emotions and let them be, instead of letting them overwhelm you.What is the Buddhist concept of equanimity? ›
In Buddhism, equanimity (Pali: upekkhā; Sanskrit: upekṣā) is one of the four sublime attitudes and is considered: Neither a thought nor an emotion, it is rather the steady conscious realization of reality's transience. It is the ground for wisdom and freedom and the protector of compassion and love.What is the root of equanimity? ›
Both "equanimity" and "equal" are derived from "aequus," a Latin adjective meaning "level" or "equal." "Equanimity" comes from the combination of "aequus" and "animus" ("soul" or "mind") in the Latin phrase aequo animo, which means "with even mind." English speakers began using "equanimity" early in the 17th century ...What is an example of equanimity? ›
a calm mental state, especially after a shock or disappointment or in a difficult situation: He received the news of his mother's death with remarkable equanimity. Three years after the tragedy she has only just begun to regain her equanimity.What is spiritual equanimity? ›
Equanimity is defined as a gentle way of life, a state of conscious wisdom and freedom—the great protector of love and compassion. Equanimity is a Buddhism concept. Buddha describes a mind filled with equanimity as abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility, and without ill-will.Is equanimity a skill? ›
Equanimity is a skill of mind and heart that underpins the many facets of emotional intelligence. By opening yourself to your full lived experience, you develop; greater self-awareness, including what you are actually feeling and thinking.What does equanimity feel like? ›
For example, equanimity can feel internally like a great mountain, with the mind solid and stable, undisturbed by the changing seasons. Or it can be like the ocean, with the mind vast, deep, and immeasurable, undisturbed by whatever swims, floats, or is housed in its waters.What is another name for equanimity? ›
The words composure and sangfroid are common synonyms of equanimity. While all three words mean "evenness of mind under stress," equanimity suggests a habit of mind that is only rarely disturbed under great strain.
What should human beings accept with equanimity? ›
A fifth quality that supports equanimity is understanding or wisdom which allows us to accept, be present and aware to our experience without our mind or heart resisting or contracting. In this place we separate people from their actions; we agree or disagree while being in balance with them.How do Buddhists become less attached? ›
- Meditation. Meditation is simply sitting still and trying to pay attention to the present moment — whether that's your breath, your body, or what's around you right now. ...
- Compassion. ...
- Interdependence. ...
- Accepting. ...
The 7 Steps To Living A Zen Lifestyle
- Rise Early. ...
- Exercise. ...
- Declutter. ...
- Take a Breather. ...
- Meditate. ...
- Treat Yourself. ...
- Don't Neglect Shut-Eye.
4 Simple Ways to Maintain Equanimity
- Remember that equanimity is key and always prevails. ...
- Breathe, recite an equanimity mantra, and walk away. ...
- Visualize your vagus nerve, breathe, and let it go. ...
- Physical activity and meditation are pathways to equanimity.
Buddha said very clearly that humans have five main desires: food, sleep, sex, money, fame. As we grow these five desires all become stronger.What are the three desires in Buddhism? ›
The Second Truth, on the other hand, seeks to determine the cause of suffering. In Buddhism, desire and ignorance lie at the root of suffering. By desire, Buddhists refer to craving pleasure, material goods, and immortality, all of which are wants that can never be satisfied.What is the near enemy of equanimity? ›
A near enemy of equanimity is indifference or callousness. Mindfulness means being with what is non-judgmentally, not hardening ourselves against what is unwanted.Is equanimity a peace? ›
Equanimity is the emotional-spiritual state of warm and stable calmness. It is the undisturbed peace and clarity of mind of someone who has mastered themselves. The equanimous person does not allow negative thoughts and emotions to carry them away into suffering.What is equanimity Hinduism? ›
Samatva (Sanskrit: समत्व, also rendered samatvam or samata) is the Hindu concept of equanimity. Its root is sama (सम) meaning – equal or even. Sāmya - meaning equal consideration towards all human beings - is a variant of the word.Is equanimity a core value? ›
Recognizing the inherent equality of all living beings, and having gratitude, love, and respect for each and every person – these are core values in Buddhism, and very important teachings to practice.
Is equanimity a virtue? ›
In Buddhism, equanimity (in Pali, upekkha; in Sanskrit, upeksha) is one of the Four Immeasurables or four great virtues (along with compassion, loving kindness, and sympathetic joy) that the Buddha taught his disciples to cultivate.Which one is better empathy or equanimity? ›
While it is true that equanimity can allow you to detach yourself from the patient to make life altering decisions, empathy is the best way to heal. Empathy must be present in order to fully understand the patient's story.Why equanimity is important in spirituality? ›
Equanimity is a spacious stillness that can accept things as they are. The balance of compassion and equanimity allows us to care and yet not get overwhelmed and unable to cope because of that caring.What is the Buddhist word for calm? ›
Samatha: Meditative calm. Jhana practice is the systematic meditative development of Samatha, leading to states of refined consciousness known as absorptions. Sangha: The community of followers and practitioners of the Buddha's path and teaching.How do you stay calm spiritually? ›
- Deep Breathing. Sit or lie down comfortably. Rest your hands on your stomach. ...
- Mindfulness Meditation. Focus on your breath. ...
- Visualization. Close your eyes, relax and imagine a peaceful place, like a forest. ...
- Repeating a mantra. Sit quietly and pick any meaningful or soothing word, phrase or sound.
DESCRIPTION: Characters skilled in equanimity are able to control their emotions quickly because they understand that all experiences are valuable, even negative ones. This allows them to quickly recover from disappointments and move forward.Does equanimity mean balance? ›
Equanimity means balance, and it's the balance that is born of wisdom. Mindfulness means a capacity or quality of awareness where our perception of what's happening in the moment is not distorted by bias, old fears, projection into the future, anything that may arise, holding on, or pushing away.How do Buddhists clear their mind? ›
Buddhists pursue meditation as part of the path toward liberation from defilements (kleshas) and clinging and craving (upādāna), also called awakening, which results in the attainment of Nirvana, and includes a variety of meditation techniques, most notably anapanasati (mindfulness of breathing).How do Buddhists stop worrying? ›
One of the teachings of Buddha is that: The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly. We probably all worry unnecessary sometimes, which makes us all worrywarts.How do Buddhists stop fear? ›
The simplest way to calm the mind is with the basic meditation practice of sitting quietly, focusing on the breath. Calming the mind and body is stabilizing, but as Dung points out, it's also protective against unwise action. “As a collective energy, fear and anger can be very destructive,” he says.
Can a person be equanimity? ›
If you're equanimous, you're serene and calm. Some people meditate or do yoga in an attempt to be more equanimous. People who are equanimous seem enviably composed and balanced. You might be equanimous about some things, remaining calm when your dog barks or your smoke alarm goes off, but less equanimous about others.Is equanimity the same as acceptance? ›
Equanimity is an attitude of radical acceptance. It is regarding all sentient beings as equals. It is also the practice of viewing all apparent phenomena as dreamlike, illusory and impermanent. That way, we can accept whatever arises, whether or not the situation conforms to our wishes.What are the four sublime states in Buddhism? ›
- Love or Loving-kindness (metta)
- Compassion (karuna)
- Sympathetic Joy (mudita)
- Equanimity (upekkha)
The word serene describes the look of a person who is calm and unworried.What is the opposite word for equanimity? ›
a) excitement - The word 'excitement' refers to 'a feeling of great enthusiasm and eagerness'. This word has the exact opposite meaning of the given word. It is the antonym of 'equanimity'.What is a word for a calm person? ›
3 placid, unruffled, serene, self-possessed.How do Buddhist monks stay calm? ›
Buddhism uses meditation as one of its strategies to achieve goals. A peaceful mind is better equipped to let go of and forgive hurtful memories. Buddhist teachings on how to be calm like a monk include mindfulness and meditation. Fear, wrath, and uncertainty may all be acknowledged via regular meditation.How do Buddhists calm anxiety? ›
- Acknowledge the fear. ...
- Practice mindfulness and meditation. ...
- Cultivating compassion. ...
- Understanding our interconnections. ...
- Use this time to reflect.
Equanimity can be defined as an even-minded mental state or dispositional tendency toward all experiences or objects, regardless of their origin or their affective valence (pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral).What is equanimity meditation? ›
Equanimity enables us to know the energetic movements of mind without reactivity. It is an experience of grounded presence in the midst of extremes, when the mind is steady and responsive, and when we can say to ourselves, “This moment is like this, and it doesn't have to be different right now.
How do monks control their emotions? ›
In addition to practicing emotional control through mindfulness meditation, Tibetan Buddhist monks calm the mind by envisioning complex mental images, including Buddhist deities and symbolic geometric designs called mandalas.What do monks do before bed? ›
Buddhists do it by taking a shower. This ritual is always at 5 or 5.30 p.m. — a few hours before going to bed so that they can spend the rest of the evening relaxed and fall asleep easily. The only catch is to surrender. As you are underneath the shower, feel the water on your body.How a Buddhist monk taught me to stop overthinking? ›
You stop playing stories in your head in which you fight with people from your past or fantasize about happy endings you might never get. After a while, the number of times you have to ask the question will decrease, and eventually, you'll stop overthinking for good.What is the Buddhist antidote to fear? ›
Fearlessness also comes from benevolence and goodwill in the face of whatever oppresses you. You are afraid, but instead of fighting what faces you, you embrace it and accept it—you develop loving-kindness as a direct antidote to fear.How do Buddhists reduce stress? ›
Buddhist teachings present useful ways to cope with stress by calming the mind, controlling negative emotions and feelings through tranquility meditation, and developing wisdom and insight in order to purify the mind to be free from stress and sufferings through insight meditation.How do Buddhists deal with depression? ›
In addition to the Buddha's advice on preventing and handling depression, meditation — meaning the act of giving one's attention to only one thing, either as a religious activity or as a way of becoming calm and relaxed — particularly Mindfulness Meditation and Loving-kindness Meditation (Pali: Metta) is found to be of ...How do you do equanimity meditation? ›
- Find a position that's comfortable and take a few breaths. ...
- Imagine a time when you felt even-minded and balanced. ...
- See if you can bring to mind a time when you felt balanced. ...
- We might say things were as they were. ...
- Notice what happens inside you as you remember that time or you imagine the mountain.
Equanimity is an art fundamental for conscious living. It gives rise to emotional intelligence and self awareness. Many students confuse it with apathy and inexpressiveness or the suppression of emotion. Over time, through your own practice, your understanding and feeling for equanimity will deepen.