Posted by: Upāsaka Subhavi | 02/20/2013

Upekkha – Equanimity and Fear

Abhaya mudra

With my family flying up and down the coast these recent weeks I have found myself wracked with worry and fear on more than one occasion. When the fear first starts to rise up from my solar plexus, through my chest and closes up my throat I am bewildered and panicked (this is the way, incidentally, that the Lord Buddha characterizes the worldling’s reaction to suffering) but I have learned enough to stay with it and not try to purposely obfuscate the feelings or run from them. This is not, of course, say that I need torture myself but rather I can acknowledge the fear and let it do its thing while I gather my contemplative resources to deal with the issue. In this case, upekkha seemed to be just the perception needed to help me understand the suffering and find a way through it.

For those who are as yet unfamiliar, upekkha means equanimity and is traditionally understood in the Theravada as being the supreme brahma vihara. It is the divine abode which prevents karuna from becoming unbearable, metta from becoming undue attachment and, for me at least, complements mudita in that both are based on the realization that intentional action (kamma) produces results. That being so, I can worry about my wife and kids all I want but their kamma will (largely) determine what happens to them regardless of how I feel about it. And, given that we only have so many precious breaths to breathe and our mental energies aren’t infinite, why squander them on fears which only serve to weaken the mind and don’t lead to release?

Pheww! That got too technical rather quickly but I hope I’ve made myself understood. I have just really been impressed with the potency of upekkha qua a reflection on the efficacy of kamma in helping me to let go of situations over whih I have no control. Rather than worrying about those outside of me I should return my attention to the intentions upon which I am acting now, in this moment, as this is where the kamma to which I will fall heir is being made.


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