Equanimity

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Equanimity (Latin: æquanimitas having an even mind; aequus even animus mind/soul) is a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, pain, or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind. The virtue and value of equanimity is extolled and advocated by a number of major religions and ancient philosophies.

Hinduism[edit]

In Hinduism, equanimity is just another term that attempts to describe the nature of Brahman (not to be confused with Brahmin). In Vedanta the term Brahman points to Absolute Reality. In a true sense, Brahman cannot be described as any description or attribute introduces the idea of boundedness, hence it must be recognized that these terms are only meant to serve as pointers to the intellectual concept of Brahman. In Vedanta the term Brahman points to the Absolute, also referred to as the only Reality.

Vedanta states that Brahman alone is Real and the world is unreal. By the term 'real' what is being pointed to is that which is unchanging in all circumstances and independent of Spacetime or the Spacetime manifold. The physical world and mental world hence do not qualify as being "real". The idea of equanimity refers to being in pure awareness. Being in pure awareness requires dissolution of mind. The term mind is also known as Ego or Identity. When there is no distraction or attachment to thoughts, there is equanimity. As per Vedanta, 'Equanimity' is our true nature. When the sense of individual discrete identity is dissolved, one transcends the apparent duality and see themselves as one with everything.

In lack of better terms, 'Equanimity' can be used to refer to any of the following terms such as Beingness, Undisturbed, Unattached. It should be recognized that 'Equanimity' does not refer to a state of mind, rather it describes our real nature. Sense of attachment or doership is always individual and operates at the level of Individual Identity or Ego. Gita says by renouncing our limited identity, we can reveal our true nature, which is 'Brahman'. When we are aware of our true nature, the individual ego does not operate anymore, hence the outcome is equanimity. When one is fully aware, one does not attach to the world, rather sees the world. The world is apparent and unfolds in front of our awareness, but due to lack of clarity, we identify with the body and the mind and become finite and limited. The only unchanging reality is pure awareness. It refers to being witness and not having a sense of individual doer which creates attachment and makes one behave otherwise.

According to the Bhagavad Gītā, every one can eventually achieve equanimity through spiritual practice leading to self realization.[1]

Yoga[edit]

Equanimity (upekṣhā) is also mentioned in Patañjali's Yoga Sutras (1.33),[2] as one of the four sublime attitudes, along with loving-kindness (maitri), compassion (karuṇā), and joy (mudita). This list is identical to the four immeasurables in Buddhist literature. The Upeksha Yoga school foregrounds equanimity as the most important tenet of a yoga practice.[3]

In many Yoga traditions, the virtue of equanimity can be one of the results attained through regular meditation, combined with regular practice of pranayama, asanas and mental disciplines, which clear the mind and bring one inexorably toward a state of health and balance.

Stoicism[edit]

Equanimity is a central concept in Stoic ethics and psychology. The Greek stoics use the word apatheia whereas the Roman stoics used the Latin word aequanimitas. The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius' Meditations detail a philosophy of service and duty, describing how to find and preserve equanimity in the midst of conflict by following nature as a source of guidance and inspiration. His adoptive father Antoninus Pius' last word was uttered when the tribune of the night-watch came to ask him for the night's password — Pius decided upon "aequanimitas" (equanimity).

Buddhism[edit]

In Buddhism, equanimity (upekkhā, upekṣhā) is one of the four immeasurables 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. While some may think of equanimity as dry neutrality or cool aloofness, mature equanimity produces a radiance and warmth of being. The Buddha described a mind filled with equanimity as "abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility and without ill-will."

[4]

Judaism[edit]

Many Jewish thinkers highlight the importance of equanimity (Menuhat ha-Nefesh or Yishuv ha-Da'at) as a necessary foundation for moral and spiritual development. The virtue of equanimity receives particular attention in the writings of rabbis such as Menachem Mendel Lefin and Simcha Zissel Ziv.

Christianity[edit]

Samuel Johnson defined equanimity as "evenness of mind, neither elated nor depressed." In Christian philosophy, equanimity is considered essential for carrying out the theological virtues of gentleness, contentment, temperance, and charity.[5]

Islam[edit]

The word “Islam” is derived from the Arabic word Aslama, which denotes the peace that comes from total surrender and acceptance. Being a Muslim can therefore be understood to mean that one is in a state of equanimity.

Baha'i Faith[edit]

The voluminous Writings of the Baha'i Faith are filled with thousands of references to divine attributes, of which equanimity is one. Similar in intent and more frequently used than "equanimity" in the Baha'i Writings are "detachment" and "selflessness" which dispose human beings to free themselves from inordinate reactions to the changes and chances of the world. Humanity is called upon to show complete and sublime detachment from aught else but God, from all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth, from the material world and from the promptings of their own interests and passions. Related concepts include faith, the concept of growing through suffering and being tested, fortitude under trials, dignity, patience, prudence, moderation, freedom from material things, radiant acquiescence, wisdom and evanescence. Baha'u'llah, the Central Personage of the Baha'i Faith, wrote: "Until a being setteth his foot in the plane of sacrifice, he is bereft of every favour and grace; and this plane of sacrifice is the realm of dying to the self, that the radiance of the living God may then shine forth. The martyr’s field is the place of detachment from self, that the anthems of eternity may be upraised. Do all ye can to become wholly weary of self, and bind yourselves to that Countenance of Splendours; and once ye have reached such heights of servitude, ye will find, gathered within your shadow, all created things. This is boundless grace; this is the highest sovereignty; this is the life that dieth not. All else save this is at the last but manifest perdition and great loss."

The highly revered Son of Baha'u'llah, 'Abdu'l-Baha, was an exile and prisoner along with His Father, for more than forty years facing a torrent of various hardships. It is written about him: "So imperturbable was ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s equanimity that, while rumors were being bruited about that He might be cast into the sea, or exiled to Fizán in Tripolitania, or hanged on the gallows, He, to the amazement of His friends and the amusement of His enemies, was to be seen planting trees and vines in the garden of His house, whose fruits when the storm had blown over, He would bid His faithful gardener, Ismá’íl Áqá, pluck and present to those same friends and enemies on the occasion of their visits to Him." When in London He was asked about His time in prison and said: "Freedom is not a matter of place. It is a condition. I was thankful for the prison, and the lack of liberty was very pleasing to me, for those days were passed in the path of service, under the utmost difficulties and trials, bearing fruits and results...Unless one accepts dire vicissitudes, he will not attain...When one is released from the prison of self, that is indeed release, for that is the greater prison...The afflictions which come to humanity sometimes tend to centre the consciousness upon the limitations, and this is a veritable prison. Release comes by making of the will a Door through which the confirmations of the Spirit come." Asked about this He said: The confirmations of the Spirit are all those powers and gifts which some are born with (and which men sometimes call genius), but for which others have to strive with infinite pains. They come to that man or woman who accepts his life with radiant acquiescence. Radiant acquiescence—that was the quality with which we all suddenly seemed inspired as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá bade us good-bye."

The following quote by 'Abdu'l-Baha offers a perspective aimed at cultivating equanimity. He wrote: "Grieve thou not over the troubles and hardships of this nether world, nor be thou glad in times of ease and comfort, for both shall pass away. This present life is even as a swelling wave, or a mirage, or drifting shadows. Could ever a distorted image on the desert serve as refreshing waters? No, by the Lord of Lords! Never can reality and the mere semblance of reality be one, and wide is the difference between fancy and fact, between truth and the phantom thereof. Know thou that the Kingdom is the real world, and this nether place is only its shadow stretching out. A shadow hath no life of its own; its existence is only a fantasy, and nothing more; it is but images reflected in water, and seeming as pictures to the eye. Rely upon God. Trust in Him. Praise Him, and call Him continually to mind. He verily turneth trouble into ease, and sorrow into solace, and toil into utter peace. He verily hath dominion over all things. If thou wouldst hearken to my words, release thyself from the fetters of whatsoever cometh to pass. Nay rather, under all conditions thank thou thy loving Lord, and yield up thine affairs unto His Will that worketh as He pleaseth. This verily is better for thee than all else, in either world." All quotes from the internet search engine Baha'i Reference Library.

Etymology[edit]

from Fr. équanimité, from L. aequanimitatem (nom. aequanimitas) "evenness of mind, calmness," from aequus "even, level" (see equal) + animus "mind, spirit" (see animus). Meaning "evenness of temper" in English is from 1610s.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Paul Marcus (2003). Ancient Religious Wisdom, Spirituality, and Psychoanalysis. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 20. ISBN 0-275-97452-9. 
  2. ^ Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati. "Commentary on the Yoga Sutras". Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati. Retrieved 2009-07-31. 
  3. ^ Upeksha yoga
  4. ^ Gil Fronsdal (2004-05-29). "Equanimity". Insight Meditation Center. Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  5. ^ Twenty Essays on the Practical Improvement of God's Providential Dispensations as Means of Moral Discipline to the Christian. London: RB Seeley and W Burnside. 1838. p. 51.