7.4.5 Meditation on Equanimity

Meditation on Equanimity [1]

Select a friend, not your best friend or someone you are sexually attracted to, but a lesser friend. Then think of a stranger who you can picture in your mind. Finally consider someone you dislike, maybe they have hurt you, but don’t pick someone you hate. Visualize these three real people in front of you.

See that they are three human beings just like you who all want to be happy. Now ask, “Why is that person my friend? Why does he or she seem more deserving of my attention and energy? Is it because they bolster my ego? Is it that they fit with my self-cherishing thought?” Now try to remember what caused them to become a friend when you first met them. What was it that changed them from, say, a stranger into a friend?

You expect the friendship to go on, yet one rude word to you, one criticism, may kill the friendship. Friends often fall out; marriages break apart. So why exaggerate the friendship as your exclusive source of happiness and well-being? It is unhealthy to think, “Only these people like me and make me happy.”

But don’t be mistaken: with your friends, the object of the meditation is not to cut the friendship; you want to cut the attachment. If you generate a valid basis for the friendship, it will last longer and be healthier.

Normally, once we have made the decision that a person is a friend, a stranger or an enemy, we treat them accordingly. Our behaviour towards them becomes fixed and instinctive. Consider the person visualized in front of you, who is currently a stranger. Think: “Could my behaviour toward them be different? If they did something kind, would I then see them as a friend? Is there some law of the universe that says that they will always be a stranger? If I said some kind words to them, would they behave differently towards me?” Yes, and the reason is that their attitude is determined by your mind.

We need to cultivate the mental attitude of friendliness towards all beings. This doesn’t mean a physical and verbal relationship, hugging or inviting them to tea.

Lastly, consider your so-called enemy. Think: “If they gave me a present, would they remain my enemy?” If you observe, enemies become friends, and friends become enemies, all the time. Think of someone you know or have heard of who started as a friend and became an enemy. The many partners who separate or divorce were in love when they married; now they are strangers or even enemies. Osama Bin Laden was a great friend of the Americans when Russia invaded Afghanistan; the Americans provided him with guns and money. Later he became a terrible enemy, and was murdered by the Americans. Now focus on your enemy in front of you. Is it possible he or she could become a friend or a stranger in this lifetime?

CONCLUSION: Now let us draw a conclusion from our meditation. Think: “It seems that the categories of friend, stranger and enemy are much more arbitrary than I thought. Therefore, it is illogical for me to restrict my love and attention solely to those who are currently my friends. They may not remain so. And those who are strangers and enemies now were friends in a previous life. Our karma and delusions have set us against each other in this life; but this situation could change in an instant.”

DETERMINATION: “In future I will practise seeing all those I meet as wanting happiness and not wanting suffering in just the same way as I do. In this sense we are all equals. Therefore, we are all much closer to each other than I thought. As a result, I will generate the attitude of friendliness to everyone I meet or think of.

[1] From notes taken at Venerable Thubten Dondrub’s teachings on compassion, 2004, at Hayagriva Buddhist Centre, by Len Warren. The Pure Land of the Indestructible Buddha, Incorporated. 18 May 2021

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