Equanimity refers to a balanced mind in adverse circumstances. It is easy to be calm and poised when things are fine and dandy. But it is very difficult to maintain composure and an evenness of mind under strain and stress. It is certainly a virtue in short supply. But it is a goal well worth striving for as serenity and peace of mind depends on that. In Indian philosophical and religious thinking, equanimity is not just a state of mind but truly describes our true, detached, and undisturbed nature which is gradually revealed and made aware through spiritual practice (sadhana), and thus it becomes a pre-requisite for self-realisation. In Patanjali Yoga Sutras, equanimity (upeksha) is considered to be one of the four sublime mental attitudes along with loving kindness (maitri), compassion (karuna), and joy (mudita). In Buddhism, equanimity is the steady consciousness of everything impermanent in this world. A mind filled with equanimity is exalted and flourishing; it is without hostility and ill-will. Actually we are all called to be in a continuous, conscious state of equanimity – a peace that comes from continuous surrendering to what is at any given point, and acceptance of what comes in our way while engaged in doing our very best to make our life meaningful and purposeful.
In these columns I have written a couple of weeks ago a piece on tough love. It related to a close friend of mine with whom I had some initial arrangements in connection with some properties. In the midst of on-going negotiations he got what he wanted from me due to my deep trust in him, and quickly created legal documents on the basis of our verbal exchanges while I was in good faith negotiating with him to come to final agreements that would also produce legal documents for me. From what transpired I realised I had been duped as he had no plan to honour his verbal promises. In retrospection I realise that he was stalling with verbal assurances. Not only did he block my phone calls but also slapped me with some spurious law-suits. He knew too well how averse I was to law-suits and spending time money and energy with lawyers and courts. Even though I pleaded my own case (pro se) in the court and asked the judge to make his own judgment from the facts presented, the law-suit went nowhere. The only comic relief in the court came from none other than myself, an old-man, a swami-priest with a long walking stick and wearing saffron lungi (wrap-around) and a modified loose kurta (Indian shirt) with a specially knitted cap in the midst of a spectacle of lawyers donning flowing black robes of colonial times while speaking Manglish (Malayalamised English) that they alone could understand. My friend turned plaintiff also evaded out of court settlement suggested by the judge and his own lawyer and heartily endorsed by me. After my realising that I became a victim of betrayal of trust, things came to a head in the office of a circle inspector (head of several police stations) in front of whom I put a question to my friend related to his promises. His unscrupulous denial and lying through his teeth to my face clinched the issue for me. The financial loss was enormous. The emotional loss of friendship was devastating. There and then I decided to cut my losses and move on considering my path marked out for my mission in life. Of course everyone has to make his or her decision on the basis of emotional and financial cost-benefit analysis. I made my decision calculated not to let the case touch my being and soul. Equanimity is about not letting unfortunate events managing us and guiding our spirit.
Equanimity is not stark detachment or cool neutrality. It is really a state of balancing between indescribable experiences at the peak of the mountain and unfathomable anguish in the valley of sorrow. It is the bed-rock foundation from which we launch into the art of living and loving. It is necessary for moral and spiritual development. A life that is bitter is lost; and a life that nurses injuries and betrayals is stuck in the mud; and a mind that keeps scores of what could have been and should have been is spinning its wheels going nowhere. Equanimity is the cherished and precious possession that everyone can have and no one can take away. It requires taking care of toxic and cancerous relationships and friendships. Sad news and betrayals will keep on coming. A life lived in trust, hope, and love alone, in spite of all perils, will determine who we are. Equanimity will, according to situations, anchor us, steady us, and steer us on our chosen course in calmness.