Equanimity (Madhyastha)

Equanimity can be described in many ways. We discussed the different types of equanimity that one could exhibit and classified them into a few groups.

At the top of this scale there is equanimity in everything, that is absolutely everything both from a worldly and spiritual point of view. Equanimity towards everything is a level which we, in our lives now, are not capable of displaying. It is the natural state of Arihanth Bhagwan, who has conquered all of his attachments.

‘Everything’ encompasses a lot, so to speak, including the subjects of other forms of equanimity. We considered equanimity towards our goal of moksha, our own spiritual progress and the rewards from it. This may sound strange, but having a strong inclination towards any goal is an attachment that will lead to the strong kashay when our progress is interrupted. For example, imagine a monk whose deep meditation is disturbed. If the monk becomes angry at the cause then he binds more paap (destructive karmas), however if he had equanimity then there would be no response of anger.

In particular here we see some similarities with previous discussions on how pramod and karuna are focussed on the qualities and suffering of others, not ourselves. This form of equanimity enforces that point. In our discussion we noted that all too often we hear the reason for doing performing acts of pooja or other rituals is that we gain punya (beneficial karmas), there is no equanimity here. During pooja, we should fill our mind only with a feeling of pramod to the wonderful qualities of the Tirthankar we are revering.

We also observed that Mahavir Bhagwan after speaking to Chandrakaushik did not absorb himself in Chandrakaushik’s journey. He remained in as much equanimity from Chandrakaushik’s progress as he would have his own.

Next, we talked about equanimity to all forms of unhappiness and pain that we experience, and from all forms of worldly happiness. At its highest level remaining completely centred to all forms of pain and pleasure is another of those near impossible things. But with control of mind, and using tools such as the twelve bhavnas (reflections) we see how we can incrementally cultivate this type of equanimity. In the Chandrakaushik story, we can see that the bite did not perturb Mahavir Bhagwan at all, despite all the venom and the immense pain.

We then discussed equanimity towards the reactions of others towards us and the insults or offence we may face because of our actions. This links to the speech and actions we carry out when exhibiting pramod or karuna towards others. If for example, we try to help someone in need, but they reject the help, equanimity in this sense is to not be phased, become angry at them or think to ourselves, ‘how dare they react that way, I was only trying to help.’

Lastly, we looked at equanimity towards others who are committing sins, such as harming others, showing infraction of rules that we choose to follow or not performing rituals properly. We suddenly realised that there have been many examples like this throughout the weekend. For example, when the local residents were guiding us during the group pooja in the morning they were seemingly not angry when some people made mistakes in the actions. And when we see other people following different dietary rules we are not angry at them. The only correct thought in these situations is that of karuna, as their actions cause the inflow of more karma.

Maitri Bhavanu

We concluded by seeing how these four pious qualities are inexorably linked together. If every interaction we have with another soul is that of pramod and karuna, which is fuelled by maitri and respond only with equanimity then there can be no experience of the kashay of anger, ego, deceit and greed, and there can be inflow of karma. Maitri is in effect an act of samvara, stopping the inflow of karma. So living these qualities at their highest nature all the time is the equivalent to being free from our attachments and strong passions. It is no wonder they are referred to as the seeds of religion.

A popular pad or poem you may hear is Maitri Bhavanu, which asks for these wonderful pious qualities to grow within us and links nicely with the topics or our discussions. Here is an English translation.

May the sacred stream of amity flow forever in my heart,

May the universe prosper, such is my cherished desire;


May my heart sing with ecstasy at the sight of the virtuous,

And may my life be an offering at their feet,


May my heart bleed at the sight of the wretched, the cruel, and the poor,

And may tears of compassion flow from my eyes,


May I always be there to show the path to the path less wanderers of life,

Yet if they should not hearken to me, may I bide patiently;


May the spirit of good will enter into all our hearts,

May we all sing together the immortal song of brotherhood.

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