Jul 09, 2013
Naturally there was a lot of discussion on our Google+ community about what we were going to do to follow on from our first 100 days, and many people were keen on exploring mindfulness, using a wonderful book by Jan Chozen Bays, called How to Train a Wild Elephant. But I really wanted to explore lovingkindness practice and the other Brahmaviharas.
There are no doubt many reasons for this. One is that I’d lost my temper a couple of …
Jul 08, 2013
Upekkha involves closely (upa) watching (īkṣ) ourselves in order to develop insight, and the calm that follows from insight, and it also involves wishing that peace for others in a compassionate and loving way — which means wishing that others attain insight. So there’s a self-regarding and an other-regarding aspect to upekkha, just as there is with lovingkindness.
These qualities of closeness, lovingness, the helpfulness that comes with compassion, are usually not stressed when people discuss upekkha. It’s the peace that is emphasized, although usually it’s translated as “equanimity,” which I’m now finding rather inadequate.
In cultivating upekkha we can start by closely watching our own experience, observing the arising …
Jul 07, 2013
I’ve always suspected that the Buddha had a hard time expressing himself, not because of any lack of ability of his part, but because the language that he had available to him was very limited. Actually all language is limited, but the Buddha was trying to express teachings that were very profound and subtle. He said he’d doubted whether it was possible to communicate the insights that he’d realized:
This Dhamma that I have attained is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, peaceful, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise.
Fortunately “he saw beings with little dust in their eyes” and decided it was worth …
Jul 06, 2013
One of the things I love is that when you spend some time hanging out with a practice, you often start to see it in new ways. This has happened for me with each of the four brahmavihara practices we’ve been exploring — lovingkindness, compassion, joyful appreciation, and also equanimity, which is what we’re currently focusing on. I see each of these practices differently after practicing them regularly and reflecting on them, but I’m also starting to see things about the brahmaviharas as a whole that I’d never noticed before.
I’m noticing a kind of progression, suggesting an underlying framework that crops up over and over again in the …
Jul 03, 2013
The traditional term “near enemy” points to some spiritually unhelpful quality or experience that can be mistaken for a helpful quality or experience. The near enemy is a kind of counterfeit of what we’re actually aiming for, and it’s unhelpful because while the genuine article helps free us from suffering, the counterfeit doesn’t.
Each of the four practices we’re focusing on in our 100 Days of Lovingkindness — metta (lovingkindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (joyful appreciation), and upekkha (even-minded love) — collectively known as the divine abidings (brahma viharas) or the “four immeasurables” has a near enemy.
Buddhaghosa, a 6th century commentator, has the following to say about the near enemy …
Jul 02, 2013
Buddhaghosa decribes the “far enemies” of equanimous love like this: “Greed and resentment … are its far enemies … for it is not possible to look on with equanimity and be inflamed with greed or be resentful simultaneously.”
He also says, “[Equanimity's] function is to see equality in beings. It is manifested as the quieting of resentment and approval.”
Equanimity destroys greed (or approval) and resentment, and greed (or approval) and resentment destroy equanimity, and so they’re direct opposites or, as the tradition calls them, “far enemies.”
Equanimity is a state of neither approval nor disapproval, aversion nor craving. It’s a state of balance, calm, and peace. When it’s applied in …
Jun 29, 2013
It’s easy to forget that upekkha, or equanimity, is love. The word “equanimity” doesn’t sound very loving. It’s coldly Latinate, lofty, and remote, and doesn’t roll off the tongue easily. Few of us are likely to use the word in everyday conversation. The adjective, equanimous, is even worse! Even the Anglo-Saxon equivalents, “even-minded” and “even-mindedness,” don’t convey any sense of love, or kindness, either. But upekkha is a form of love.
The word in Pali or Sanskrit is from a root īkṣ, which means “to look upon,” along with a prefix upa-, which can mean many things, but which almost always connotes a sense of closeness, as in upaṭṭhāna …