2021-01-01 Brahmavihāras: Equanimity (5 of 5)
6:37PM Jan 1, 2021
Welcome to 2021. Last year, the idea was to have 2020 vision. Little did we know, little did we see the future - what 2020 would bring. And maybe it's a little silly. But when I think of that, for me, the obvious thing to think about being this year 2021, it's the year for us to become adults, for maybe our society or country or world to step into some greater maturity, maybe because of the challenges we've gone through this last year.
And certainly, I think it's supportive and healthy and empowering, to wish something like that, that given all the challenges of last year that were interested in, incorporating them or using them as a fuel and catalyst for further growth and mature maturation and development, certainly along the Buddhist path of freedom and compassion.
So may it be so that we continue to grow and mature into a kind of cultural maturity together, into adulthood, cultural adulthood. So, the Brahmavihāras, these four qualities of love or expressions of love. And in the teachings of the Buddha, brahmavihāra specifically refers to the meditation practice on these four states. We practice them in daily life, and in some ways, they're not unique to Buddhism at all. Friendliness, goodwill is everywhere, hopefully. Compassion - I think most people, most cultures celebrate compassion and appreciate its value. And celebrating with people, there's a great human custom. Maybe they don't call it muditā, or the complicated word 'appreciative joy,' but people celebrate together all the time. Equanimity might not be as common, especially equanimity is a kind of love. But all four of these are a meditation practice and teachings of the Buddha.
What it means this amazing thing. It's really kind of an astounding thing. That these four wonderful qualities of love can pervade and characterize the whole quality of one's mind, heart, and very being. It's almost as - if you're okay with the word 'pure,' we can live in a mind that's pure love, a heart that's pure love, which has freed itself from ill will and cruelty and any kind of selfish forms of being in relationship with other people that might look like love, but it's kind of complicated by selfishness. There's no selfishness whatsoever. It's possible to have this purity - with no selfishness, no self-preoccupation, or self-conceit or attachment. And have it be the primary focus, primary absorption of concern for the mind and the heart.
Just like in deep concentration, with meditation on the breathing, the breathing, and the goodness that comes from that becomes what we get absorbed in. So if we can be absorbed in love - and this is an astounding thing, a beautiful thing - that human beings have this capacity. And to appreciate this capacity and that we have it. We don't have to leave it to chance. We could cultivate and develop it. And in this regard, I think it's interesting to consider whether love, goodwill, compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity - are they emotions? Are they attitudes? Are they motivations? Or are they decisions that we make - choices we make?
I'm not sure how to answer this question myself, except to say it's probably a bit of all of those. But it's the last one that may be the most surprising - that these are also a decision. It's a choice to make. And the choice is easier to make, if we've cultivated, discovered, or recognized our innate capacity for love or care, for compassion, that lives in us.
And there are other innate things we have. We have innate capacities for cruelty and hostility. But those are more of the surface mind, the surface heart. They're more states of agitation. And to have the agitation quiet, and experience this. I think of love and its purity - it is a state of profound wellbeing and peace. Even compassion has a sweetness to it, if it's pure compassion, without selfishness and self-concern, and agitation. And in that they're already here for us - at least as a capacity or as a potential - when we started recognizing it's there to choose that. To choose love, over hostility. To choose love over being mean - and mean words. To choose love and affirmation rather than negation. To support people and build them up, rather than tear them down. To appreciate them and what's good in them.
So for that to grow and develop, don't be too focused on what's not so good in them. Because sometimes what we focus on is what we feed and develop. So a decision, a choice, to love more. Let's love! Let's choose to be friendly. Let's choose to be caring. But be careful it isn't another agitation, another should, another obligation. But rather, it's a manifestation. We're allowing for something to manifest which is already here - an impulse, a feeling, a desire, or a form of wisdom. So it becomes more innate, in a sense, than it is. It's a choice, but it's a choice to connect to something that's here, and allow it to manifest, rather than to manufacture it.
In this regard, these brahmavihāras, when there have a kind of purity or fullness in them, are also a manifestation of freedom. And they're closely related to the Buddhist path of freedom. Independent of cultivating the brahmavihāras, the more free we become in meditation, or in Buddhist practice, or in life - most people find that there's a natural impulse to be compassionate, to care, to love. And as we become more loving, that tends to bring more freedom.
Love is an antidote. It's kind of solvent for attachments. Love is a solvent for fear and hostility we might be carrying with us. Love is a solvent for fear, for resistance. And so whether we're on the path for freedom and then discover love comes along - or we're on the path of love, and we discover freedom comes on comes along - this freedom and love go hand in hand.
And one of its most mature forms is this equanimity brahmavihāra, where we have a deep, deep love - fullness of love that's almost synonymous with peace. Where we're so at ease and peaceful with what's there - and nonreactive, unactivated by the Eight Worldly Winds of gain and loss, praise and blame, pain and pleasure, success and failure - that these things can happen to us, all these worldly winds. But because love is so stable, it doesn't agitate the love. There's a peacefulness and ease with it. We stay free. Freedom protects our love, and love protects our freedom.
So it's partly a decision. And it's a wonderful decision. It's a decision that maybe is itself an expression of our freedom. So may this year 2021 be one of greater and greater love and care. If we're going to have a better world for everyone, I believe it needs to include love - needs to include our friendship and goodwill. If it doesn't, then I don't really think we can make a better world for ourselves.
So let this world this new good world develop in 2021, starting with you. Don't sit around, expecting and waiting for someone else to make the world better. Each of us is the agent for the new world for 2021. May we bring our love, our care, our freedom, and our goodness and generosity out into this world for this year. Thank you very much.