The Wings to Awakening

PART III G. EQUANIMITY IN CONCENTRATION AND DISCERNMENT

We have pinpointed the fifth, reflective level of noble right concentration [150] as the mental state in which transcendent discernment can arise. A look at how equanimity functions in this process will help to flesh out our account of this state.

The word "equanimity" is used in the Canon in two basic senses: 1) a neutral feeling in the absense of pleasure and pain, and 2) an attitude of even-mindedness in the face of every sort of experience, regardless of whether pleasure and pain are present or not. The attitude of even-mindedness is what is meant here.

Passage 179 gives an outline of the place of equanimity in the emotional life of a person on the path of practice. This outline is interesting for several reasons. To begin with, contrary to many teachings currently popular in the West, it shows that there is a skillful use for the sense of distress that can come to a person who longs for the goal of the practice but has yet to attain it. This sense of distress can help one to get over the distress that comes when one feels deprived of pleasant sensory objects, for one realizes that the goal unattained is a much more serious lack than an unattained sensual pleasure. With one's priorities thus straightened out, one will turn one's energy to the pursuit of the path, rather than to sensual objectives. As the path thus matures, it results in the sense of joy that comes on gaining an insight into the true nature of sensory objects-a joy that in turn matures into a sense of equanimity resulting from that very same insight. This is the highest stage of what is called equanimity "dependent on multiplicity"-i.e., equanimity in the face of multiple objects.

Passages 180 and 181 go into more detail on how to foster this sort of equanimity. Passage 181 describes three stages in the process: 1) development, or a conscious turning of the mind to equanimity in the face of agreeable or disagreeable objects; 2) a state of being in training, in which one feels a spontaneous disillusionment with agreeable or disagreeable objects; and 3) fully developed faculties, in which one's even-mindedness is so completely mastered that one is in full control of one's thought processes in the face of agreeable or disagreeable objects. Because the first of these three stages is a conscious process, both 180 and 181 illustrate it with a series of graphic metaphors to help "tune" the mind to the right attitude and to help keep that attitude firmly in mind.

However, the cultivation of equanimity does not stop with equanimity dependent on multiplicity. Formless jhana, if one is able to attain it, functions as a basis for equanimity dependent on singleness [179], i.e., the singleness of jhana. The next stage is to use this equanimity to bring on the state of equipoise called non-fashioning (atammayata), although 183 shows that non-fashioning can be attained directly from any of the stages of jhana, and not just the formless ones. Exactly what non-fashioning involves is shown in 182: one perceives the fabricated and willed nature of even one's refined state of jhana, and becomes so dispassionate toward the whole process that one "neither fabricates nor wills for the sake of becoming or un-becoming." In this state of non-fashioning, the mind is so balanced that it contributes absolutely no present input into the conditioning of experience at all. Because the process of conditioned or fabricated experience, on the unawakened level, requires present input together with input from the past in order to continue functioning, the entire process then breaks down, and all that remains is the Unfabricated.

After this experience, the processes of worldly experience resume due to the kammic input from the past, but one's attitude toward these processes is changed, in line with the mental fetters [II/A] that have been cut by the Awakening. If the Awakening was total, one continues to deal on an awakened level with the world until the time of one's total Unbinding with an attitude of perfect even-mindedness, illustrated by the three "frames of reference" described at the end of 179 [see also II/B]. One feels sympathy for others and seeks their well-being, experiencing a sense of satisfaction when they respond to one's teachings, but otherwise one stays equanimous, untroubled, mindful, and alert. This passage shows that the even-mindedness of a fully awakened person is not an attitude of cold indifference, but rather of mental imperturbability. Such a person has found true happiness and would like others to share that happiness as well, but that happiness is not dependent on how others respond. This is the ideal state of mind for a person who truly works for the benefit of the world.

179. 'The thirty-six emotions should be known by experience.' Thus it was said. And in reference to what was it said? Six kinds of household joy and six kinds of renunciation joy; six kinds of household distress and six kinds of renunciation distress; six kinds of household equanimity and six kinds of renunciation equanimity.

And what are the six kinds of household joy? The joy that arises when one regards as an acquisition the acquisition of forms cognizable by the eye-agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, connected with worldly baits-or when one recalls the previous acquisition of such forms after they have passed, ceased, and changed: That is called household joy. (Similarly with sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and ideas.)

And what are the six kinds of renunciation joy? The joy that arises when-experiencing the inconstancy of those very forms, their change, fading, and cessation-one sees with right discernment as it actually is that all forms, past or present, are inconstant, stressful, subject to change: That is called renunciation joy. (Similarly with sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and ideas.)

And what are the six kinds of household distress? The distress that arises when one regards as a non-acquisition the non-acquisition of forms cognizable by the eye-agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, connected with worldly baits-or when one recalls the previous non-acquisition of such forms after they have passed, ceased, and changed: That is called household distress. (Similarly with sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and ideas.)

And what are the six kinds of renunciation distress? The distress coming from the longing that arises in one who is filled with longing for the unexcelled liberations when-experiencing the inconstancy of those very forms, their change, fading, and cessation-he sees with right discernment as it actually is that all forms, past or present, are inconstant, stressful, subject to change and he is filled with this longing: 'O when will I enter and remain in the sphere that the noble ones now enter and remain in?' This is called renunciation distress. (Similarly with sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and ideas.)

And what are the six kinds of household equanimity? The equanimity that arises when a foolish, deluded person-a run-of-the-mill, untaught person who has not conquered his limitation or the results of action and who is blind to danger-sees a form with the eye. Such equanimity does not go beyond the form, which is why it is called household equanimity. (Similarly with sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and ideas.)

And what are the six kinds of renunciation equanimity? The equanimity that arises when-experiencing the inconstancy of those very forms, their change, fading, and cessation-one sees with right discernment as it actually is that all forms, past or present, are inconstant, stressful, subject to change: This equanimity goes beyond the form, which is why it is called renunciation equanimity. (Similarly with sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, and ideas.)

'Thirty-six emotions should be known by experience.' Thus it was said. And in reference to this was it said.

'With regard to them, depending on this, abandon that.' Thus it was said. And in reference to what was it said?

Here, by depending and relying on the six kinds of renunciation joy, abandon and transcend the six kinds of household joy. Such is their abandoning, such is their transcending. By depending and relying on the six kinds of renunciation distress, abandon and transcend the six kinds of household distress. Such is their abandoning, such is their transcending. By depending and relying on the six kinds of renunciation equanimity, abandon and transcend the six kinds of household equanimity. Such is their abandoning, such their transcending.

By depending and relying on the six kinds of renunciation joy, abandon and transcend the six kinds of renunciation distress. Such is their abandoning, such is their transcending. By depending and relying on the six kinds of renunciation equanimity, abandon and transcend the six kinds of renunciation joy. Such is their abandoning, such their transcending.

There is equanimity coming from multiplicity, dependent on multiplicity; and there is equanimity coming from singleness, dependent on singleness.

And what is equanimity coming from multiplicity, dependent on multiplicity? There is equanimity with regard to forms, equanimity with regard to sounds...smells...tastes...tactile sensations [and ideas: this word appears in one of the recensions]. This is equanimity coming from multiplicity, dependent on multiplicity.

And what is equanimity coming from singleness, dependent on singleness? There is equanimity dependent on the sphere of the infinitude of space, equanimity dependent on the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness...dependent on the sphere of nothingness...dependent on the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception. This is equanimity coming from singleness, dependent on singleness.

By depending and relying on equanimity coming from singleness, dependent on singleness, abandon and transcend equanimity coming from multiplicity, dependent on multiplicity. Such is its abandoning, such its transcending.

By depending and relying on non-fashioning, abandon and transcend the equanimity coming from singleness, dependent on singleness.

Such is its abandoning, such its transcending.

'Depending on this, abandon that.' Thus it was said. And in reference to this was it said.
'There are three frames of reference that a noble one cultivates, cultivating which he is a teacher fit to instruct a group.' Thus it was said. And in reference to what was it said?

There is the case where the Teacher-out of sympathy, seeking their well-being-teaches the Dhamma to his disciples: 'This is for your well-being, this is for your happiness.' His disciples do not listen or lend ear or apply their minds to gnosis. Turning aside, they stray from the Teacher's message. In this case the Tathagata is not satisfied nor is he sensitive to satisfaction, yet he remains untroubled, mindful, and alert. This is the first frame of reference...

Furthermore, there is the case where the Teacher-out of sympathy, seeking their well-being-teaches the Dhamma to his disciples: 'This is for your well-being, this is for your happiness.' Some of his disciples do not listen or lend ear or apply their minds to gnosis. Turning aside, they stray from the Teacher's message. But some of his disciples listen, lend ear, and apply their minds to gnosis. They do not turn aside or stray from the Teacher's message. In this case the Tathagata is not satisfied nor is he sensitive to satisfaction; at the same time he is not dissatisfied nor is he sensitive to dissatisfaction. Free from both satisfaction and dissatisfaction, he remains equanimous, mindful, and alert. This is the second frame of reference....

Furthermore, there is the case where the Teacher-out of sympathy, seeking their well-being-teaches the Dhamma to his disciples: 'This is for your well-being, this is for your happiness.' His disciples listen, lend ear, and apply their minds to gnosis. They do not turn aside or stray from the Teacher's message. In this case the Tathagata is satisfied and is sensitive to satisfaction, yet he remains untroubled, mindful, and alert. This is the third frame of reference....

'There are three frames of reference that a noble one cultivates, cultivating which he is a teacher fit to instruct a group.' Thus it was said. And in reference to this was it said.
M.137

180. Rahula, develop meditation in tune with earth. For when you are developing meditation in tune with earth, agreeable and disagreeable sensory impressions that have arisen will not stay in charge of your mind. Just as when people throw what is clean or unclean on the earth-feces, urine, saliva, pus, or blood-the earth is not horrified, humiliated, or disgusted by it; in the same way, when you are developing meditation in tune with earth, agreeable and disagreeable sensory impressions that have arisen will not stay in charge of your mind.

Develop meditation in tune with water. For when you are developing meditation in tune with water, agreeable and disagreeable sensory impressions that have arisen will not stay in charge of your mind. Just as when people wash what is clean or unclean in water-feces, urine, saliva, pus, or blood-the water is not horrified, humiliated, or disgusted by it; in the same way, when you are developing meditation in tune with water, agreeable and disagreeable sensory impressions that have arisen will not stay in charge of your mind.

Develop meditation in tune with fire. For when you are developing meditation in tune with fire, agreeable and disagreeable sensory impressions that have arisen will not stay in charge of your mind. Just as when fire burns what is clean or unclean-feces, urine, saliva, pus, or blood-it is not horrified, humiliated, or disgusted by it; in the same way, when you are developing meditation in tune with fire, agreeable and disagreeable sensory impressions that have arisen will not stay in charge of your mind.

Develop meditation in tune with wind. For when you are developing meditation in tune with wind, agreeable and disagreeable sensory impressions that have arisen will not stay in charge of your mind. Just as when wind blows what is clean or unclean-feces, urine, saliva, pus, or blood-it is not horrified, humiliated, or disgusted by it; in the same way, when you are developing meditation in tune with wind, agreeable and disagreeable sensory impressions that have arisen will not stay in charge of your mind.

Develop meditation in tune with space. For when you are developing meditation in tune with space, agreeable and disagreeable sensory impressions that have arisen will not stay in charge of your mind. Just as space is not established anywhere, in the same way, when you are developing meditation in tune with space, agreeable and disagreeable sensory impressions that have arisen will not stay in charge of your mind.
M.62

181. And how, Ananda, in the discipline of a noble one is there the unexcelled development of the faculties? There is the case where, when seeing a form with the eye, there arises in a monk what is agreeable, what is disagreeable, what is agreeable and disagreeable. He discerns that 'This agreeable thing has arisen in me, this disagreeable thing...this agreeable and disagreeable thing has arisen in me. And that is compounded, gross, dependently co-arisen. But this is peaceful, this is exquisite, i.e., equanimity.' With that, the arisen agreeable thing...disagreeable thing...agreeable and disagreeable thing ceases, and equanimity takes its stance.

Just as a man with good eyes, having closed them, might open them; or having opened them, might close them, that is how quickly, how rapidly, how easily, no matter what it refers to, the arisen agreeable thing...disagreeable thing...agreeable and disagreeable thing ceases, and equanimity takes its stance. In the discipline of a noble one, this is called the unexcelled development of the faculties with regard to forms cognizable by the eye.

Furthermore, when hearing a sound with the ear, there arises in a monk what is agreeable, what is disagreeable, what is agreeable and disagreeable. He discerns that...and equanimity takes its stance. Just as a strong man might easily snap his fingers, that is how quickly...equanimity takes its stance. In the discipline of a noble one, this is called the unexcelled development of the faculties with regard to sounds cognizable by the ear.

Furthermore, when smelling an aroma with the nose, there arises in a monk what is agreeable, what is disagreeable, what is agreeable and disagreeable. He discerns that...and equanimity takes its stance. Just as drops of water roll off a gently sloping lotus leaf and do not remain there, that is how quickly...equanimity takes its stance. In the discipline of the noble ones, this is called the unexcelled development of the faculties with regard to aromas cognizable by the nose.

Furthermore, when tasting a flavor with the tongue, there arises in a monk what is agreeable, what is disagreeable, what is agreeable and disagreeable. He discerns that...and equanimity takes its stance. Just as a strong man might easily spit out a ball of saliva gathered on the tip of his tongue, that is how quickly...equanimity takes its stance. In the discipline of a noble one, this is called the unexcelled development of the faculties with regard to flavors cognizable by the tongue.

Furthermore, when touching a tactile sensation with the body, there arises in a monk what is agreeable, what is disagreeable, what is agreeable and disagreeable. He discerns that...and equanimity takes its stance. Just as a strong man might easily extend his flexed arm or flex his extended arm, that is how quickly...equanimity takes its stance. In the discipline of the noble ones, this is called the unexcelled development of the faculties with regard to tactile sensations cognizable by the body.

Furthermore, when cognizing an idea with the intellect, there arises in a monk what is agreeable, what is disagreeable, what is agreeable and disagreeable. He discerns that 'This agreeable thing has arisen in me, this disagreeable thing...this agreeable and disagreeable thing has arisen in me. And that is compounded, gross, dependently co-arisen. But this is peaceful, this is exquisite, i.e., equanimity. With that, the arisen agreeable thing...disagreeable thing...agreeable and disagreeable thing ceases, and equanimity takes its stance. Just as a strong man might let two or three drops of water fall onto an iron pan heated all day: Slow would be the falling of the drops of water, but they quickly would vanish and disappear. That is how quickly, how rapidly, how easily, no matter what it refers to, the arisen agreeable thing...disagreeable thing...agreeable and disagreeable thing ceases, and equanimity takes its stance. In the discipline of the noble ones, this is called the unexcelled development of the faculties with regard to ideas cognizable by the intellect. [60]

And how is one a person in training, someone following the way? There is the case where, when seeing a form with the eye, there arises in a monk what is agreeable, what is disagreeable, what is agreeable and disagreeable. He feels horrified, humiliated, and disgusted with the arisen agreeable thing... disagreeable thing...agreeable and disagreeable thing. (Similarly with the other senses.) ...

And how is one a noble one with developed faculties? There is the case where, when seeing a form with the eye, there arises in a monk what is agreeable, what is disagreeable, what is agreeable and disagreeable. If he wants, he remains percipient of loathsomeness in the presence of what is not loathsome. If he wants, he remains percipient of unloathsomeness in the presence of what is loathsome. If he wants, he remains percipient of loathsomeness in the presence of what is not loathsome and what is. If he wants, he remains percipient of unloathsomeness in the presence of what is loathsome and what is not. If he wants-in the presence of what is loathsome and what is not-cutting himself off from both, he remains equanimous, alert, and mindful. [45-46; 98] (Similarly with the other senses.)

This is how one is a noble one with developed faculties.
M.152

182. [On attaining the fourth level of jhana] there remains only equanimity: pure and bright, pliant, malleable and luminous. Just as if a skilled goldsmith or goldsmith's apprentice were to prepare a furnace, heat up a crucible, and, taking gold with a pair of tongs, place it in the crucible. He would blow on it periodically, sprinkle water on it periodically, examine it periodically, so that the gold would become refined, well-refined, thoroughly refined, flawless, free from dross, pliant, malleable and luminous. Then whatever sort of ornament he had in mind-whether a belt, an earring, a necklace, or a gold chain-it would serve his purpose. In the same way, there remains only equanimity: pure and bright, pliant, malleable, and luminous. He [the meditator] discerns that 'If I were to direct equanimity as pure and bright as this toward the sphere of the infinitude of space, I would develop the mind along those lines, and thus this equanimity of mine-thus supported, thus sustained-would last for a long time. (Similarly with the spheres of the infinitude of consciousness, nothingness, and neither perception nor non-perception.)'

He discerns that 'If I were to direct equanimity as pure and bright as this toward the sphere of the infinitude of space and to develop the mind along those lines, that would be fabricated. (Similarly with the spheres of the infinitude of consciousness, nothingness, and neither perception nor non-perception.)' He neither fabricates nor wills for the sake of becoming or un-becoming. This being the case, he is not sustained by anything in the world (does not cling to anything in the world). Unsustained, he is not agitated. Unagitated, he is totally unbound right within. He discerns that 'Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.'
M.140

183. A person who is not truly good...enters and remains in the first jhana. He notices, 'I have gained the attainment of the first jhana, but these other monks have not gained the attainment of the first jhana.' He exalts himself for the attainment of the first jhana and disparages others. This is the quality of a person who is not truly good.

The truly good person notices, 'The Blessed One has spoken of non-fashioning even with regard to the attainment of the first jhana, for however they construe it, it becomes otherwise.' So, making non-fashioning his focal point, he neither exalts himself for the attainment of the first jhana nor disparages others. This is the quality of a person who is truly good.
(Similarly with the other levels of jhana up through the sphere of nothingness.)

A person who is not truly good...enters and remains in the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception. He notices, 'I have gained the attainment of the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception, but these other monks have not gained the attainment of the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception.' He exalts himself for the attainment of the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception and disparages others. This is the quality of a person who is not truly good.

The truly good person notices, 'The Blessed One has spoken of non-fashioning even with regard to the attainment of the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception, for however they construe it, it becomes otherwise.' So, making non-fashioning his focal point, he neither exalts himself for the attainment of the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception nor disparages others. This is the quality of a person who is truly good.

The truly good person, completely transcending the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception, enters and remains in the cessation of feeling and perception. When he sees with discernment, his effluents are ended. This is a monk who does not construe anything, does not construe anywhere, does not construe in any way.
M.113


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