Thanissarro Bhikkhu, from “The Ten Perfections Week 4: Calm,”
When the Buddha was teaching his son to be equiniminous he said,
“Make your mind like the earth. Make your mind like water. Make your mind like fire. Make your mind like wind.”
In other words, if someone throws something disgusting on the earth, the earth doesn’t shrink away. It just stays the earth. You use water to wash away disgusting things; the water doesn’t draw away in disgust. Fire will burn disgusting things. The wind will blow disgusting things away. They don’t get disgusted by them. It is because of your ability to stay with things, with equanimity, that you are able to perceive them for what they are.
The Buddha didn’t have his son stop there. In fact, this was just his first lesson in meditation. The next lesson went into breath meditation, in which the instruction was to try to actively develop a state of rapture or a state of pleasure, and to try to develop skills in dealing with the breath throughout the body, learning how to gladden the mind when it needs to be gladdened, learning how to still the mind when it needs to be stilled, learning how to release the mind when it needs to be released.
So equanimity here is a basis for being able to observe what’s actually going on in our minds so as to be able to admit to ourselves what is actually happening there, rather than allowing our preferences to color our idea of what we’d like to tell ourselves is happening. In this way, equanimity becomes a basis for developing further skills. So you don’t stop with equanimity and just sort of ‘let things be.’ You learn to be equiniminous about things that you can’t change so that you can focus on things that you really can change.
Join the retreat and discussion with Thanissaro Bhikkhu!
In January, to accompany Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s Tricycle Retreat The Ten Perfections, now in its final week, we’ll be offering his new book Skill in Questions for download.
Skill in Questions is about asking skillful questions and answering questions skillfully. Thanissaro Bhikkhu quotes the Buddha about answering questions skillfully:
There are these four ways of answering questions. Which four? There are questions that should be answered categorically. There are questions that should be answered analytically. There are questions that should be answered with cross-questioning. There are questions that should be put aside. These are the four ways of answering questions.
We are offering this special e-book edition for free.
If you wish, you can give a voluntary contribution of $5 to the Tricycle Teachers Fund, which benefits Buddhist teachers, who offer the teachings for free. All contributions made in January will be donated to the Metta Forest Monastery, where Thanissaro Bhikkhu serves as abbot.
Here’s how to get involved:
• Join the Tricycle Community at any member level. To participate in Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s Tricycle Retreat, you must join at the Supporting or Sustaining Member level.
• Make a voluntary contribution of $5 to the Tricycle Teachers Fund. All contributions made in January will be donated to the Metta Forest Monastery.
• Download your e-book and start reading immediately.
• Join Thanissaro Bhikkhu in his Tricycle Retreat on The Ten Perfections from January 3 through January 30.
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