Equanimity is the apotheosis of the brahmavihāra’s. It is the nec plus ultra among the ‘Four Divine Abodes’.
The first three ‘Immeasurables’ all still show a form of ‘judgment’: loving-kindness (mettā) is a wish for the well-being of all beings; compassion (karunā) is an action on suffering; sympathetic joy (mudita) is an action on hapiness, successes and virtue of others. Equanimity alone does not carry a ‘judgment’. Upekkhā ignores judgments, opinions, wishes, actions. Because of this, upekkhā transcends as it were the first three brahmavihāra’s.
In fact, equanimity comes down to realizing – internalizing – the fact that it doesn’t make sense to have a value judgment attached to events and certainly not to go along with the wild stories by wanting to hold on to everything that is perceived as pleasant and to want to push away everything that is painful or undesirable.
Equanimity considers all experiences – both pleasant and unpleasant (and neutral!) – to be completely equal.
This leads to the brahmavihāra of equanimity being the most integrated state of mind and evoking the least biased image of other beings in the practitioner (or in other words, bringing with it the least duality): the mental attitude of equanimity responds with mettā, karunā and mudita towards all beings, without any preference and without disgust. After all, the roots of equanimity are the absence of desire, of hatred and of ignorance through which ‘becoming’ (bhava) is eliminated.
Specifically on compassion: karunā is not a synonym for pity. In pity, the ‘I’-person stands central. Pity is reflected by the mirror of the ‘I’. In compassion, the dhammanuvatti is connected to the suffering of all other living beings. In dukkha he is – like Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion – one with them.
In this interconnectedness of everything with everyone, in the course of the billions of existences we have gone through together, there is not a single living being with whom we have not had any relationship at any time. This is what the Buddha metaphorically refers to in the first vigil before his awakening, when he ‘remembered his past lives’ (pubbenivāsānussati). Where he recognizes the eternal ‘process’ of origin and decay. Where he gains insight into the empty concepts of birth and death. Ajata and Amata.
Compassion therefore has a universal character and radiates throughout the universe. Indiscriminately. As a result, equanimity cannot be synonymous with indifference. And certainly not with nihilism. This is a dangerous misdirection. It is therefore of the utmost importance not to fall into this trap.
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You yourselves must strive, the Buddhas only point the wayBuddha, Dhp 276