Grief & Remorse
Tonight’s talk will be on equanimity. It’s a large topic—so large that we’ll have to split it into two parts, and give one of them this morning.
One of the main points in understanding equanimity is that the Buddha never recommends equanimity on its own. On its own, he says, equanimity can very easily become unskillful. This is why, when discussing the development of equanimity, he always lists it in conjunction with the development of other skillful qualities.
To introduce this principle this morning, I’d like to discuss two big areas in daily life where developing skillful equanimity is especially helpful: when dealing with grief over loss, and when dealing with remorse for mistakes you have made. When you see how the Buddha’s recommendations for equanimity in these cases involve developing other qualities as well, you can get a sense of how equanimity is meant to function, not only in everyday life, but also on more refined levels of the practice.
First, grief: Grief over loss covers not only the death of a loved one, but also the loss of a loved one in other ways—or the loss of love itself.
There are a couple of passages in the Canon where the Buddha talks about how to deal with grief. One involves King Pasenadi. One day, while he was talking to the Buddha, one of his courtiers came to inform him that Queen Mallikā, his favorite queen, had died. King Pasenadi immediately broke down and cried. The Buddha’s way of comforting him was to point out to him that this kind of thing was happening not only to him. He said, “When has it ever happened that someone who was born does not die?” In other words, this kind of loss is universal. It happens to everyone.
It may seem strange that thinking about all the many deaths in the world would actually make your own loss less sharp, but it actually does. You remind yourself, “It’s not happening only to me.” You’re not being singled out for any suffering that’s out of the ordinary. In fact, thinking about the universality of loss might lead you to feel compassion for others that have undergone the same sort of loss that you have. This can soften your grief, by giving you some distance from it without trying to deny the loss. At the same time, it can direct your energies toward acting with more consideration for others.
The Buddha then goes on to say that as long as you see that some purpose is served by grieving, by giving eulogies, or by conducting funeral ceremonies for someone who has died, go ahead and do it. This way, you give honor to what you have lost, recognizing the goodness in what is now past. This can encourage you—and the people around you—to devote the remainder of your life to more goodness. At the same time, it’s traditional in Buddhist funeral ceremonies to make merit and dedicate it to the deceased, both as an expression of your goodwill for the deceased and as a reminder that you are not totally helpless in the face of death: There are still things that you can do for the person who has passed on.
But then when you realize that your expressions of grief have reached the point of self-indulgence, you have to remind yourself that you have a life you have to live and duties you have to perform, so don’t let the loss overcome you. In this case, you develop equanimity toward the loss and re-dedicate your determination to return to fulfilling your duties, both for the sake of your genuine happiness and for the happiness of those still around you. In this way, you develop equanimity as a basis for two other perfections: determination and goodwill.
The Canon has a very interesting analysis of grief. There was one time when Ven. Sāriputta was talking to some of the other monks, saying, “This afternoon I was sitting and meditating, and I asked myself, ‘Is there anyone in the world whose loss would cause me any sorrow or grief?’” The answer to the question was No. Ven. Ānanda was sitting there and he asked, “Now, wait a minute. What if something happened to the Buddha?” And Sāriputta replied, “I would say that it’s a sad thing that such a great and beneficial person has passed away. It would be a great loss for the world. But what could be done? This is the nature of all living beings.” Then Ānanda made an interesting comment, which was that, “This is a sign that you have no conceit.”
Now, remember that conceit in this sense means a strong sense of “I am.” What Ānanda was saying here is that a lot of our grief has to do less with concern for the suffering of the other person who’s passed away and more with our own sense of loss. Sometimes there’s a feeling that you owe the person who’s passed away a certain amount of grief. But the other person is not benefiting from your grief at all. So, you really have no responsibility or debt that requires you to grieve for a person for a certain amount of time or with a certain amount of intensity.
The irony of this story is that Ven. Sāriputta actually passed away before the Buddha. Ānanda went to see the Buddha to deliver the news, telling him that hearing the news of Sāriputta’s death made him lose his sense of bearings. The world seemed dark to him. The Buddha asked Ānanda, “When Sāriputta died, did he take away virtue?” “No.” “Did he take away concentration?” “No.” “Did he take away discernment?” “No.” “Did he take away release?” “No.” So, the good things in life are still there. These are some of the ways in which the Buddha would talk to the monks about loss.
In more general terms, you have to remember that the amount of tears you have already shed from the death of a mother is more than the amount of water in the oceans. The same goes for the amount of tears you’ve shed over the death of a father, the loss of a brother, the loss of a sister, the loss of a son, the loss of a daughter. When you think about that, it becomes overwhelming. The Buddha adds that thinking about this should make you realize that the best thing in life would be to gain release from all of this.
This kind of thinking, which comes under the perfection of discernment, can help you develop a certain amount of equanimity around loss and lead to a sense of saṁvega, or dismay, motivating your determination to practice further on the path.
Now, the Buddha’s not forcing you to give up your grief. That would be heartless. What he’s actually doing is giving you the opportunity to realize that your life does not have to be ruined by a loss.
There are two examples of women whom he comforted after they had lost their children. In one case, it was her son, and one of the contemplations he recommended to her was this: “He came to you without permission and he’s left you without permission. Do you know where he came from? Was he yours before he came? And now he’s gone, to another unknown place.” He added, “This is the nature of all beings.” The woman later said that this calmed her mind and completely removed the arrow of her grief.
The other case was a woman named Ubbiri. She had lost her daughter, Jīvā, and she had gone to the cemetery, where she was crying, “Jīvā, Jīvā, where are you?” The Buddha said to her, “Do you realize that 84,000 women named Jīvā have been buried in that cemetery? So for which of them are you grieving?” The sense of the vast extent of all the loss that human beings have suffered does help to pull you out of your individual grief and to view the whole situation with a lot more equanimity.
So, we can see that, in the face of loss, the Buddha doesn’t advise overcoming your grief simply by numbing yourself into equanimity. Equanimity, to be skillful in situations like this, has to be developed together with other perfections, such as discernment, goodwill, and determination.
The second situation where the Buddha talks about using equanimity to get over your emotional upset regarding things in the past deals with remorse for your own mistakes. He says that no matter how much remorse you have for what you’ve done, remorse cannot go back and undo what you did. Sometimes there’s a childish thought that if we punish ourselves enough over a past mistake, then no one else will punish us. You’ve probably seen dogs act this way, right? They wet on your carpet and they know they did something wrong, so when you come back to the house they turn over on their back and look miserable, in hopes that if they look miserable enough, you won’t hit them. There is this aspect of the human mind as well.
But, as the Buddha says, this accomplishes nothing. Simply recognize the mistake—“Yes, that was a mistake”—and determine not to repeat the mistake. That determination, which is then carried out in the persistence of your right efforts, is really all that can be asked of a human being. Then at that point, he said, you develop thoughts of goodwill, compassion, and equanimity for all beings: yourself, the people you’ve wronged, and the other people you will be dealing with in the future. This way, by not punishing yourself over the mistake and still wishing goodwill for yourself, you don’t weaken yourself. By extending goodwill to others, you erase any resentment you might have for the person you wronged, and you remind yourself to be careful in how you treat others from now on.
In cases like this, the Buddha doesn’t simply have you develop equanimity toward your past mistakes. He also has you develop discernment into how to use the teaching on kamma wisely, along with the perfections of goodwill, determination, and persistence that will ensure that you do your best not to repeat those mistakes in the future.
Those, then, are two of the areas in daily life—grief and remorse—where the Buddha talks about how to develop equanimity with regard to things that have happened in the past. In both cases, you’re combining equanimity with other good qualities, such as discernment, goodwill, persistence, and determination. These additional qualities are what ensure that your equanimity doesn’t become indifference, and instead becomes skillful equanimity, a perfection that furthers the path.
Our topic tonight is equanimity, the second of the two perfections that come under the heading of calm in the four determinations.
Both endurance and equanimity play an important role in helping to keep our persistence going. They’re the two qualities that give us stamina. They’re similar in inducing calm, but they differ in that equanimity is more a matter of maintaining emotional stability and equilibrium: keeping the mind on an even keel both in good and in bad situations. It’s your ability to step outside of emotions that would get in the way of the path. It involves not engaging in the present-moment fabrication that would keep those emotions going. Endurance, on the other hand, deals more with your external behavior: not behaving unskillfully in response to difficult situations, such as unkind words and actions or physical pain. Ideally, equanimity and endurance work together: You develop equanimity to provide inner support for external endurance.
Endurance, as you may remember, is based on the desire to make your goodness independent of the goodness or badness of the people and situations around you. Equanimity is based more on the desire not to weigh yourself down with needless emotional baggage.
As we noted earlier, in discussing determination, the quality of calm plays two roles. It can be either the goal to which we’re headed or else the means by which we get there. A similar distinction applies to equanimity. There are three levels of equanimity altogether: two that function as part of the path, and one that comes about as a result of reaching the true happiness of the goal. And here it’s important to emphasize that equanimity is not, in and of itself, the goal. The goal, as we’ve said many times, is true happiness.
The fact that there are these different levels of equanimity means that we need to be careful not to confuse them. If we do, it’ll get in the way of our perseverance and persistence. For instance, if we experience a strong sense of the first level of equanimity and think we’ve already arrived at the goal, we’ll conclude that there’s nothing more to do. That will undercut any desire to put any further effort into the path and create an obstacle to finding genuine peace.
The three levels of equanimity are these:
1) Worldly equanimity: your ability to keep the mind on an even keel in the presence of enticing sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations. This level of equanimity overlaps to some extent with what the Buddha calls “house-based equanimity,” which refers to keeping the mind on an even keel in the face of good or bad sensory input, ranging from the things you experience in everyday life up through the third jhāna.
2) Unworldly equanimity: the equanimity attained when the mind is in the fourth jhāna or any of the higher formless attainments.
These two levels of equanimity function as part of the path.
3) Even more unworldly unworldly equanimity: the sense of inner peace that arises when, after you’ve attained full awakening, you reflect on how your mind is released from passion, aversion, and delusion.
Equanimity is never recommended as a good thing on its own. This is perhaps the most important point of tonight’s talk, so I’ll repeat it: Equanimity is never recommended as a good thing on its own. It’s always recommended in conjunction with right effort and other skillful qualities. In terms of equanimity on the path, this fits in with the Buddha’s observation—which we discussed under the topic of persistence—that the causes of suffering fall into two types: those that go away simply when you look at them with equanimity, and those that go away only when you exert any of the three types of fabrication against them. For instance, there are cases where lust goes away when you simply watch it steadily. It’s as if it’s embarrassed to show its face. There are other times, though, when you stare at your lust and it stares right back, not the least bit embarrassed. That’s when you need to make a concerted effort to get rid of it. You have to use your discernment skillfully to determine which kind of case you’re facing, and you need to have more than just equanimity in your box of tools.
Equanimity on the first two levels can be either skillful or unskillful, depending on the qualities you combine it with, guided by discernment.
As with all the perfections, it’s good to understand these two levels of equanimity in light of right view, particularly in line with the teachings on kamma, fabrication, and the four noble truths.
• In terms of the first level of equanimity—ordinary, everyday equanimity—there are two rules of thumb.
The first rule is similar to the basic principle underlying when and when not to practice endurance: You have to be equanimous about the kamma you’ve already done, along with its results, but not about the kamma you’re planning to do in the present. However, equanimity can also be applied to uncertainty about the future. You have to calm your mind and have confidence that, whatever the future holds, you’ll be best prepared by developing skillful qualities in the mind right now.
The second rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t develop equanimity that leads to laziness and defeatism. Instead, develop the sort of equanimity that allows you to accept setbacks and not get knocked out by them: the kind of equanimity that allows you to deal with difficulties and come out winning.
The forest ajaans give some good examples to illustrate this distinction. A big storm once went through Ajaan Chah’s monastery, and the next day he was going through the monastery to check on the damage. He came to one hut and saw that half the roof had been blown off. A monk was sitting and meditating in the hut, so Ajaan Chah asked him, “Why aren’t you fixing the roof?” The monk replied, “I’m practicing equanimity.” And Ajaan Chah said, “That’s the equanimity of a water buffalo. You’re a human being. Fix the roof!”
As for the kind of equanimity that involves defeatism and depression, Ajaan Fuang made a distinction between what he called large-hearted equanimity and small-hearted equanimity. Small-hearted equanimity is when you resign yourself to thinking, “I just can’t do anything in life, there’s nothing worth attaining, everything is inconstant, stressful, and not-self,” so you give up. That’s small-hearted equanimity. I’ve read a study of some laypeople in Sri Lanka who were reputed by their friends to be very advanced in the Dhamma because they always talked about inconstancy, stress, and not-self. Some social scientists gave them a psychological test and came to the conclusion that they were all suffering from clinical depression. There’s something really wrong there. That’s not Dhamma. It’s small-hearted equanimity.
Large-hearted equanimity is when you’ve found true happiness inside so that the events of the world don’t have any effect on you emotionally, because the well-being you’ve gained is not affected by such things. This is the kind of equanimity we’re trying to develop.
The Canon, in recommending the type of equanimity to be developed, tends to list it together with other good qualities. For example, there’s the equanimity that’s part of the four brahmavihāras. This is the kind of equanimity that functions well together with goodwill and compassion. You might call it the equanimity of a good doctor. Every good doctor has goodwill and compassion for the patient and wants the patient to be cured, but may find that there are some symptoms he cannot cure. But he doesn’t give up totally on the patient. He develops equanimity toward the symptoms he can’t cure so that he can focus on those he can—or at least on ways in which he can alleviate the patient’s pain and suffering. Instead of trying to force things in areas where he cannot make a difference, he channels his goodwill and compassion for the patient in other ways that are more fruitful and productive. In this way, he doesn’t waste his time and energy on areas where he cannot give help so that he will have the time and energy to focus on areas where he can be of help.
When, in the context of the perfections, we combine equanimity with the perfections of endurance and determination, we’re developing what could be called the equanimity of a good soldier. A soldier in battle will have to endure hardships and suffer setbacks, but he doesn’t let himself get emotionally upset by them. That allows him to look for—and find—ways to come out victorious. This is the opposite of defeatist equanimity. It’s the equanimity that enables you to come out winning.
When we apply these lessons to equanimity in daily life, we can see that one of the purposes of equanimity is to keep us from getting emotionally distracted by ups and downs that would pull us off the path. We’ve already talked about the ups under the perfection of renunciation, so here we’ll focus on the downs:
Equanimity functions well when it helps you to let go of what cannot be changed—or of something whose change cannot be stopped—so that you can focus your energy on what can be changed and is worth changing, or on things changing in the wrong direction where you’re in the position to put a stop to the change. As we said earlier, this is an area where equanimity, to be skillful, has to function together with other emotions and mental qualities on the path. In other words, there are some situations in your life where you’re like a doctor: You’re motivated by goodwill and compassion, but you have to balance them with equanimity. There are other times when you have to practice the equanimity of a soldier: There are battles you have to fight in life, and you need equanimity to stay calm in the midst of setbacks.
This is where you develop your mastery of the processes of verbal fabrication and mental fabrication—in other words, the stories you tell yourself about your situation in life. For instance, suppose something bad has happened in your life, and your mind is telling you all kinds of things about how horrible it is. You could be a victim of the attitude that inspires the Thai expression, taai laeo, which means, “I’m already dead!” Too many people react to situations in life that way. You have to look at yourself to remind yourself that you’re not dead, you’re still alive, and there are still things you can do. That helps to calm you down.
Some people object to the idea of developing equanimity in daily life because it sounds like you’ll end up with no feeling or affection for anybody, but that’s not the case. You have to realize that as long as you feel the need to feed on other people, there’s going to be emotional upset. The mind is going to be like a roller coaster, and if your mind is like a roller coaster, you’re not in a good solid position to help them. You would actually be more helpful to the people you love if you could develop equanimity. You could view situations more objectively and come from a more emotionally secure and steady place. That way, you’d be better equipped to provide genuine help—as with the equanimity of a doctor. So, you can still have affection for others, and you can still be helpful to them even though you develop equanimity.
As I noted earlier, the lowest level of equanimity covers everything from equanimity in daily life up through the attainment of the third jhāna. What this means in practice is that this is the equanimity you have to develop as you’re learning to bring the mind into concentration. And here again, it has to be combined with the right qualities, in the right balance, at the right time, in order to be skillful.
For example, when the Buddha was first teaching Rāhula, his son, how to meditate, he started out with the instruction for Rāhula to make his mind like earth: Just as earth isn’t upset when disgusting things are thrown on it, you should try to train your mind not to let agreeable or disagreeable sense impressions take charge of your mind. The purpose of this instruction, though, is not simply to put the mind into a state of equanimity or acceptance. Instead, it’s meant to act as a foundation for the more proactive steps of breath meditation. If you’re going to train the mind to be skilled at fabricating a good state of concentration, you first have to train yourself to be a good observer, solid and balanced, and that means not letting pleasant and unpleasant things take over the mind to tip it out of balance. That way, when you make a mistake, you can see it clearly and admit it. When you do something well, you’re in a position to figure out how to put it to good use, rather than simply enjoying the immediate good results.
So, equanimity in this case acts as a basis for persistence and discernment.
Now, as you’re trying to apply these lessons to get the mind into concentration, the Buddha notes that there are times when equanimity, if it’s emphasized at the wrong time, can be unskillful. For example, when he describes the seven factors for awakening, he notes that three of the factors are skillful when the mind has too much energy and three are skillful when it doesn’t have enough. When the mind has too much energy, you need to develop the factors that calm it: calm, concentration, and equanimity. You avoid the more energizing factors, which include analysis of qualities—which is the activity of discernment—persistence, and rapture. When the mind is sluggish, however, you develop the energizing factors and avoid the more calming ones.
The Buddha gives an analogy of trying to control a fire. If the fire is too big, you put water and ashes on it. As for the three more energizing factors, those are like adding more fuel to the fire. So, if there’s too much energy in your mind, then equanimity is one of the factors that functions like water or ashes. But if you’re sitting here falling asleep in the middle of your meditation, it’s not a time for equanimity. It would be like putting ashes and water on a fire that’s already threatening to go out. So, there are times when equanimity is not what you want.
There’s another passage where the Buddha makes a similar point about equanimity and its role in meditation, where it’s more a matter of getting several different skillful qualities to work together at the same time. He says you have to balance equanimity with concentration and persistence. If you develop just concentration, the mind gets lazy. If you develop just persistence, the mind gets restless. If you develop just equanimity, the mind doesn’t get concentrated. In other words, if you just sit there watching things coming and going, coming and going, nothing gets developed.
He compares this to the process of refining gold. Persistence is like putting the gold into the fire, concentration is like blowing on it, and equanimity is like simply watching it. So, imagine: If you just sit there watching the gold without putting it into the fire or doing anything to it, nothing happens. If you just put it into the fire without taking it out to blow on it or watch it, it burns up. If you just blow on it, it stays cool—and there you are: nothing. So, as you’re working on your meditation, you have to balance your equanimity with concentration and persistence, getting them to work together as you refine the state of your mind.
Now, even though we’re talking about equanimity in meditation, as long as we haven’t reached the fourth jhāna, it still counts as worldly equanimity. It’s still based on the determination not to react. As long as you can maintain that determination, your equanimity will last, but if it lacks the nourishment of the fourth jhāna, it can crumble pretty easily. Still, to reach the higher levels of equanimity, you need to learn to develop this level of equanimity first.
• The second level of equanimity, which the Buddha calls unworldly equanimity, is the equanimity based on high levels of concentration, starting with the fourth jhāna. The Buddha also calls this “equanimity based on singleness” because it’s based on getting the mind solid in a state of oneness. This is stronger than the first level of equanimity because its foundation is stronger. This is another area where the practice of jhāna enters into the perfections.
Now, even though this level of equanimity is more solid than the first level, it, too, can become unskillful if you simply let yourself rest content with it. There’s a passage where the Buddha talks about how this level of equanimity is not the goal because we can still feed on it. We can still cling to it. You still need the discernment to get past that kind of attachment, and it requires a certain amount of persistence to get that discernment to work, because the second level of equanimity is something extremely calm and extremely stable. Because it’s so stable, it can make the mind lazy, which is why you have to energize your discernment, your mindfulness, and your persistence—in other words, right view, right mindfulness, and right effort—to act on the realization that “I have to let go of this attachment, too.”
This is another example of how equanimity needs to be teamed with other skillful qualities in order to stay skillful. It also shows how the different perfections have to work together, and how we need all the perfections and not just one or two: Equanimity helps give our persistence and discernment some stamina, but at the same time, persistence and discernment have to check equanimity to make sure we’re not getting stuck on a lower level. Without these two perfections, equanimity can make you lazy, and it’s very easy to tell yourself, “This is it, this is it, this is all I need. My mind is calm; my mind is stable.” So, you have to be very watchful.
• The third level of equanimity is the equanimity based on awakening. The Buddha calls this “even more unworldly unworldly equanimity.” This level of equanimity is a by-product of awakening, but it’s not a characteristic of awakening itself. Awakening itself is the highest happiness. The equanimity that follows on awakening comes when you reflect on how you are now free from passion, aversion, and delusion. This realization can give rise to equanimity because this level of happiness is not based on conditions and so cannot be affected by anything. That means that this equanimity cannot be shaken by anything at all. It’s emotionally stable with regard to anything else. However, this realization can also give rise to strong pleasure and rapture, so here, too, is a case where skillful equanimity does not occur alone.
It’s important to note that this equanimity does not get in the way of compassion. In fact, quite the contrary: Now that your desire for true happiness has succeeded and your own needs have been met, you can turn your energies to helping others with no need to feed on them. This is why the Buddha places so much emphasis on solving the problem of your own suffering and your tendency to feed. Your motivations with regard to yourself and others can now be totally pure.
Now, this third level of equanimity is not something that can be done. In other words, it’s not part of the path. It’s something that comes as a result. This is an important distinction to make. All too often we hear that awakened people have lots of equanimity, so we decide, “I’m going to have equanimity. And there we are!” But that kind of willed equanimity would be nothing more than worldly equanimity, the lowest level of equanimity. It’s nothing more than an attempt to clone awakening, but awakening can’t be cloned. It requires you to follow all the steps of the path and develop all the factors of the path. Then, when the path has been fully developed and is yielding its results, that’s when the highest level of equanimity will appear—and, as the ajaans all say, it’s totally unlike the first two levels of equanimity.
Ajaan Maha Boowa tells a story about his own practice. He got his mind into a very strong level of concentration and it got to the point where it didn’t seem to change at all. At first, he was convinced, “This must be it. This must be awakening.” But then he began to notice that that level of equanimity and peace still had its subtle ups and downs. It still had to be tended to. Finally, he realized, “This can’t be it. If this were unconditioned, it wouldn’t have any ups and downs, it wouldn’t have to be tended to.” Only when he was able to let go of his attachment to that state of concentration was he able to step back from it, analyze it, and then come to true awakening. And—excuse me for this image—he said that although he originally thought that that earlier state of concentration was so wonderful, when he found true awakening and compared the two, he said the concentration was like excrement, only he used a more impolite word. It’s for this reason that he was very strict with his students. And it’s also for this reason that we should be strict with ourselves. Don’t allow yourself to rest content when there’s something better to be attained. Keep developing your discernment, persistence, and renunciation. You’ll be glad you did.
Q: What is the difference between upekkhā, equanimity, and adukkham-asukhaṁ, a neutral feeling?
A: The difference is that upekkhā has to do with the emotions. A neutral feeling is simply the feeling tone of a sensation, physical or mental. Equanimity has more to do with mental and emotional stability.
Q: Contentment is hard for me, the idea of accepting things just as they are. What should I do?
A: The Buddha didn’t teach you to accept things as they are in all cases. This is where it’s important to understand his teachings on kamma. Everything we experience in the present moment is a combination of three factors. The first factor consists of the results of past intentions. These could be intentions from just the moment before to lifetimes before, ripening now in the present moment. The second factor is your present intentions. The third is the result of your present intentions. You can’t do much about the results of your past intentions, but you can change your present intentions and their results.
So, the things you have to content yourself with are the things that come from past kamma. But even then, the simple fact that your past kamma up to now has, say, given bad results doesn’t mean that it has to keep on giving bad results. You can change your present intentions freely. This is why the Buddha said that we don’t have to suffer even from the results of past bad actions. If we master skillful intentions in the present moment, we can keep the mind from suffering even in bad situations. So, content yourself with things you cannot change, but don’t content yourself with things you can change and need to be improved. A lot of discernment will lie in figuring out which is which.
The Buddha taught that, as a meditator, you should content yourself with outside conditions if they’re good enough for you to practice in. But as long as you’re still suffering, you should not content yourself with the level of skill in your own mind. In fact, the Buddha said that was the secret to his awakening: As long as there was a further skill that he could still develop, he would not rest content.
Q: There are those who I like, those who I don’t like. I have my preferences. Equanimity to me seems like a utopia. Please comment.
A: Equanimity doesn’t mean not having likes or dislikes. It simply means not letting your likes and dislikes take over the mind. It basically comes down to the fact that certain things in life you can change and certain things you cannot. You need to have equanimity about the things you cannot change so that you have the strength and energy to work on the things that you can change and improve. When they say that the Great Way is not difficult for those with no preferences, what they mean is that you have to be willing to do whatever the Great Way requires. If it requires observing the precepts, then you observe the precepts. If it requires learning how to concentrate the mind, then you concentrate the mind. You prefer following the path to not following the path, but you don’t let other preferences get in the way of actually following the path.