Equanimity: The Buddhist Philosophy For Cultivating Wisdom and Compassion

Equanimity The Buddhist Philosophy

Bhikkhu Bodhi, American Theravada Buddhist monk, author and president of the Buddhist Publication Society, said: 

“The real meaning of upekkha is equanimity, not indifference in the sense of unconcern for others. As a spiritual virtue, upekkha means stability in the face of the fluctuations of worldly fortune. It is evenness of mind, unshakeable freedom of mind, a state of inner equipoise that cannot be upset by gain and loss, honor and dishonor, praise and blame, pleasure and pain. Upekkha is freedom from all points of self-reference; it is indifference only to the demands of the ego-self with its craving for pleasure and position, not to the well-being of one’s fellow human beings. True equanimity is the pinnacle of the four social attitudes that the Buddhist texts call the ‘divine abodes’: boundless loving-kindness, compassion, altruistic joy, and equanimity. The last does not override and negate the preceding three, but perfects and consummates them.”

The word ‘Tatramajjhattata’ can be broken into different Pali words that can help us gain a better understanding of equanimity. ‘Tatra’ can refer to ‘all things’ or ‘there’. ‘Majjha’ means ‘middle’; while ‘Ttata’ refers to pose or ‘to stand’. In this sense, equanimity means “being in the middle”. It refers to maintaining balance even in chaos and conflict. It means finding your center in the midst of whatever is going around you. 

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This type of mental balance can be attained through mental stability & strength, integrity, confidence, inner peace, vitality and mental, spiritual and emotional well being. Equanimity enables us to stay upright and navigate through life without getting excessively affected or attached. According to Buddhism, equanimity can be developed through meditation and mindfulness about the simple things of life.

As your mindfulness gets stronger, so does your equanimity. It is not an emotion or thought, but a conscious awareness of the impermanent nature of life and reality. It is the foundation for freedom, wisdom, compassion and unconditional love. Equanimity is not about being aloof, but about warmth and joy. 

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Equanimity in Buddhism refers to the state when your mind is “abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility and without ill-will”, as described by Siddhartha Gautama.

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Equanimity in other beliefs

“Equanimity arises when we accept the way things are.” – Jack Kornfield

The concept of equanimity is widely prevalent in different spiritual & philosophical beliefs, and not restricted only to Buddhism.

In Hinduism

Equanimity is known as ‘Samatvam’ in Sanskrit. According to Hinduism, ‘Sāmya’, a variant of ‘Samatvam’, means “equal consideration towards all human beings.” According to the ancient Sanskrit scripture Bhagavad Gita, equanimity refers to a state of even-mindedness. The term ‘Upekṣhā’ is also used Sanskrit for equanimity.

The Bhagavad Gita (Chapter Two, Verse 48), states :

“Perform your duty equipoised, O Arjuna, abandoning all attachment to success or failure. Such equanimity is called yoga.”

However, the idea of equanimity is not only limited to eastern beliefs. Equanimity forms a crucial part of various western beliefs and philosophies as well.

In Judaism

Equanimity or Hishtavut is a crucial aspect of Jewish beliefs for spiritual and moral development. According to Wikipedia, equanimity is a virtue which is specifically mentioned in the works of  Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv and Rabbi Yisroel Bal Shem Tov. Moreover, Rabbi Chaim Vital believes that equanimity is a prerequisite to meditation and is necessary for experiencing divine inspiration and realizing divine  prophecy.

In Christianity

According to Christian philosophy, the virtue of equanimity is believed to be crucial for practicing the theological virtues of charity, temperance, gentleness, modesty and contentment. Temperance, patience and forbearance enable us to choose and appreciate sacrifice, reduce the impact of affliction and realize that all our pain and suffering will lead to God’s blessings.

St. Paul states in Philippians 4:11:13:

“I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

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Theo Harrison

Hey there! I am just someone trying to find my way through life. I am a reader, writer, traveler, fighter, philosopher, artist and all around nice guy. I am outdoor person but heavily into technology, science, psychology, spiritualism, Buddhism, martial arts and horror films. I believe in positive action more than positive thinking.View Author posts