Gomchen Lamrim review: Equanimity
Gomchen Lamrim review: Equanimity
- The definition and advantages of equanimity
- How equanimity helps us work through difficult situations
- Identifying afflictions and applying antidotes to maintain a more balanced mind
- The two methods of generating bodhicitta and the type of equanimity cultivated for each
- Guided meditation to develop equanimity
When developing equanimity, these are points to contemplate before doing the Equalizing and Exchanging Self and Other meditation:
Actualizing equanimity that relies on the points of view of self:
- Since all limited beings have been our parents, relatives, and friends in countless lives, it doesn’t make sense to feel that some are close and others far; that this one is a friend and that one an enemy; to welcome some and reject others. Think that after all, if I have not seen my mother in 10 minutes, 10 years, or 10 lives, she is still my mother. So now bring a friend, an enemy, and a stranger to mind. Think how, in past lives, they have been our parents, relatives, and friends. With caring concern and affection, they cherished us.
- It is possible, however, just as these beings have helped me, sometimes they have also harmed me. Compared to the number of times they have helped me, and the amount that they have helped me, the harm that they have done is trivial. Therefore, it is improper to welcome one as close and reject another as distant. So bring to mind someone that you know and make a list in your mind of the times you were harmed and then make a list of the times you were helped. Get a feeling for this.
- We will definitely die, but the time of our death is completely uncertain. Suppose for example you were sentenced to be executed tomorrow. It would be absurd to use your last day to become angry and hurt someone. By choosing something trivial, we would be using our last chance to do anything positive and meaningful with our last day. So remember a day you were angry and were planning to retaliate. Think of what that mind is like and then think what you’re next rebirth would be if you died that day.
Actualizing equanimity that relies on the points of view of others:
- We remember that I do not want to suffer, and no matter how much happiness I have, I never feel it is enough. The same is true with absolutely everyone else. All beings from a tiny bug upwards wishes to be happy and never to suffer or have problems. So it is improper to reject some and welcome others. Again, bring to mind a friend, an enemy and a stranger and connect with the truth that each of them has the same deep wish to be happy and not suffer. And realize that not everyone has the same skill and understanding of what happiness is, what to adopt and abandon to increase happiness and decrease suffering. Connect yourself to these three and see how they are just like me.
- Imagine that you went to the store and bought groceries. You came out of the door with your cart full of groceries, and there was a family there that was asking for some food. Would you think about giving some food to one and not the other two when they are all equal in their hunger and their need for food? So likewise, all of us want happiness, we are all tainted with ignorance, so we’re all the same. Why would we reject some, keeping them far and distant, and welcome others as close?
- Suppose there are 10 sick people. They are all equal in being miserable. Why would we favor some and treat only them and forget about the others? Similarly, all beings are equally miserable with their individual troubles and with the general problem of being caught in samsara. So they are just the same. Why would we reject some as far and distant and welcome others as close?
Actualizing equanimity that depends on the deepest points of view:
- We think about how, because of our confusion, we label someone who is nice to us as a true friend and someone who hurts us as a true enemy. However, if they are established as existing in the ways we label them to be, then the Buddha himself would have seen them that way as well, but he never did. So bring to mind someone with whom you have difficulty. Identify the reasons. Then ask yourself, “Is that ALL this person is?” Can you open your perspective to other qualities you’ve seen in that person?
- If limited beings were established as truly existing in the categories of friend and enemy just as we grasp them to be, they would always have to remain like that. Bring to mind someone who went from being a stranger to a friend, or from an enemy to a friend, or a friend to a stranger. Nothing is as fixed and solid as we feel it is. Make an example of someone who has changed status.
- In a Compendium of Training, Shantideva has explained how self and others depend on each other, like the example of far and near mountains. They depend on, or are relative designations to one another. When we are on the close mountain, the other seems to be the far one and this one the near. When we go to the other side, this one becomes the far mountain and the other near. Likewise, we are not established as existing as self from our own side because when we look at ourselves from the point of view of someone else, we become the other. Similarly, friend and enemy are just different ways of looking at or regarding a person. Someone can be both one’s friend and another’s enemy like the near and far mountains. They are all relative points of view. Contemplating this for some time loosens up our solid view of others and ourselves.
NOTE: If there is any resistance with any of these points, its important to go over them again. They can invoke a lot of feelings. If we can bring some self-empathy to ourselves and accept that we’re not wanting to go there, over time, it will open and we will get into the content in a deeper way. If we don’t open ourselves, we won’t be able to develop equanimity, and therefore, we can’t generate bodhicitta. We will continue to stay in misery. We have the capacity to move past that. These meditation points help us do that. We just have to have confidence in the path and in ourselves. And we have to do them over and over again, breaking down our solid views and habits of setting ourselves apart from others for whatever reason.
Venerable Thubten Jigme
Venerable Jigme met Venerable Chodron in 1998 at Cloud Mountain Retreat Center. She took refuge in 1999 and attended Dharma Friendship Foundation in Seattle. She moved to the Abbey in 2008 and took sramanerika and sikasamana vows with Venerable Chodron as her preceptor in March 2009. She received bhikshuni ordination at Fo Guang Shan in Taiwan in 2011. Before moving to Sravasti Abbey, Venerable Jigme (then Dianne Pratt) worked as a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner in private practice in Seattle. In her career as a nurse, she worked in hospitals, clinics and educational settings. At the Abbey, Ven. Jigme is the Guest Master, manages the prison outreach program and oversees the video program.