MIDDAH OF THE MONTH-Practicing Non Dual Judiaism-September EQUANIMITY (Shivyon nefesh)
by Nancy Aron
Compiled by Kevin Morgan
1. Rabbi Chaim Vital
In explanation of the secret of equanimity, Rabbi Avner told me the following: A rabbi once came to one of the meditative Kabbalists and requested of him to be accepted as an initiate. The Master said to him, “Blessed are you my son to G‑d, for your intention is a good one. However, tell me whether you have attained equanimity or not?” The rabbi said to him, “Master, explain your words.” The Master replied, “If there are two persons – one of them honors you and the second insults you – are they equal in your eyes or not?” The rabbi said to the Master, “No my master. For I feel pleasure and satisfaction from the person who honors me, and pain from the one who insults me. But I do not take revenge nor bear a grudge.”
The Master said to the rabbi, “My son, go in peace. For until such time that you have attained equanimity, until your soul does not feel the honor of the one who honors you and the embarrassment of the one who insults you, your consciousness is not ready to be connected to the supernal realm, which is a prerequisite to meditation. So go and surrender your heart even more, a true surrendering, until you have attained equanimity. Then you will be able to meditate.”
—Online Kabbalah by Chabad http://www.chabad.org/kabbalah/article_cdo/aid/380555/jewish/Equanimity.htm
2. Rabbi Rafael
The story is told that for a long time, Rabbi Rafael wanted tzitzit (ritual fringes) that came from the Holy Land. Finally, he managed to procure a piece of cloth that had been prepared in the Land of Israel. He took the cloth to the local tailor, so that the tailor would make the cloth into a garment with tzitzit that could be worn. The tailor faithfully set about cutting and sewing the cloth to order.
Alas, when it came to cutting a hole in the middle of the cloth for Rabbi Rafael’s head, the tailor accidentally cut two holes! What was the tailor to do now? He had destroyed the precious cloth! For a long time, the tailor avoided Rabbi Rafael. What would he say to him? How could he explain his mistake? Eventually, the tailor had no choice but to confess his error. With tears streaming down his cheeks, the tailor told Rabbi Rafael what had happened.
Rabbi Rafael responded in a soothing voice: “Don’t you know why I need two holes?” He asked. “One hole is for my head; the second hole is to challenge me not to get angry.”
—by Levi Cooper in the Jerusalem Post, January 3, 2013
3. Alan Moranis on Attaining Inner Distance
Although there are definitely times when we ought to stand away from powerful outer forces, we should be less concerned about falling under external influences than we should the impulses that arise in us. We are solely responsible for the powerful inner forces that can lead us astray and so these are our first priority. The guidance we are being given here is to cultivate an inner attitude that creates some distance between the stimulus that comes at us and our reactions to it. We make this space by cultivating an inner stance as witness.
When you have a strong inner witness, outer influences are seen for what they are and that will help you keep from being infected by sentiments that swirl around you. That same inner faculty also keeps you from being pushed around by the forces that arise within you — the distanced witness is not susceptible to the tides of doubt, temptation, jealousy, etc., that wash through the interior world.
4. Equanimity Isn’t Apathy (No Preferences)
There’s a discourse where the Buddha teaches his son, Rahula, how to meditate. Before he teaches him breath meditation, he tells Rahula, “Train your mind to be like the earth. When foul things are thrown on the earth, the earth isn’t disgusted. When fragrant things are thrown on the earth, the earth doesn’t get enchanted.” Then he goes on to the other elements. Fire burns trashy things, and isn’t disgusted by them, and it burns fragrant things and isn’t delighted by them. Water washes away dirty things, it washes away fragrant things, but it doesn’t feel one way or the other about them. Wind blows foul things around, and it blows fragrant things around, and it doesn’t get disgusted by the one or excited by the other….
… That’s what it means to be a person with no preferences…Learn to develop the mind that’s like fire—not in the sense of burning you up, but in the sense of being willing to burn anything, likable or not. That’s its natural duty
—Dhamma Talks Archives from the Dhamma Wheel
A Buddhist discussion forum on the Dhamma of the Theravada
5. What is the Difference Between Equanimity and Indifference?
Jack Kornfield: The near enemy of equanimity is indifference or callousness. We may appear serene if we say, “I’m not attached. It doesn’t matter what happens anyway, because it’s all transitory.” We feel a certain peaceful relief because we withdraw from experience and from the energies of life. But indifference is based on fear. True equanimity is not a withdrawal; it is a balanced engagement with all aspects of life. It is opening to the whole of life with composure and ease of mind, accepting the beautiful and terrifying nature of all things. Equanimity embraces the loved and the unloved, the agreeable and the disagreeable, the pleasure and pain. It eliminates clinging and aversion.
Although everything is temporary and dreamlike, with equanimity we nevertheless honor the reality of form. As Zen master Dogen says, “Flowers fall with our attachment, and weeds spring up with our aversion.” Knowing that all will change and that the world of conditioned phenomena is insubstantial, with equanimity we are able to be fully present and in harmony with it.
This excerpt is taken from the book, “Bringing Home the Dharma: Awakening Right Where You Are“