Meditation: Finding a common ground with everyone (continued)
Does equanimity imply that you
consider others' ways of getting happiness suitable?
Quite the opposite: you become more astute at not
affirming them. The fact that the other person wants control is pathetic,
isn't it? People have different estimations of what happiness is and
quite different estimations about how to achieve it. They use whatever
smarts they have to determine the best techniques to bring it about,
and often people use some pretty silly means to achieve that end.
wants happiness and doesn't want suffering but is engaging
in the causes of suffering. Isn't it sad?
in a very important sense, this person is like yourself. She
wants happiness and doesn't want suffering. That she may be going about
it blindly should make you feel compassion for her, rather than creating
a reason to separate yourself further from her. How awful it is that
what she wants and what she is doing are at cross-purposes! She wants
happiness and doesn't want suffering but is engaging in the causes
of suffering. Isn't it sad? The person's blind adherence to a certain
way of trying to become fulfilled becomes a reason for feeling closer.
Easy to say, isn't it?
When you see someone who is ruining the environment or acting badly
on the job, you may feel very aggravated, but when you recall this
basic similarity, it can be a shock.
Consider political leaders that you find so easy to
dislike. Who are your favorite politicians to hate? Who
are some of your worst enemies? Once the experience of
equanimity is cultivated, there is no way to separate
these individuals from the class of humans by calling
Without such a perspective, however,
that's just what we are prone to do. When we label them scum, it makes
it all right to do to them whatever we want. But remember: just as
I want happiness and don't want suffering, so do these people, who
have their own ideas of what happiness is. Such types of persons are
too hard to start with—you might think about equanimity but not feel
it. When you've cultivated equanimity with respect to friends and neutral
people, then you can work on developing this same sense of closeness
to lesser enemies and finally to great enemies.
The basis of love and compassion
Equanimity—recognizing the equality
of aspiration to happiness and to get rid of suffering—is the basis
for love, compassion, kindness. The appeal of the practice of equanimity
and the subsequent exercises is an appeal to feeling—heart—not to abstract
principles. The ground to work from is natural feeling. It's merely
our nature that we want pleasure and do not want pain; no other validation
is needed. It may seem like an abstract principle, but we live from
within aspirations to happiness and avoidance of suffering all day
It's our nature to want happiness and not want suffering, and thus
Buddhists do not ask that we give up the pursuit of happiness but merely
suggest that we become more intelligent about how it is pursued.