It’s on account of equanimity, in its ultimate sense, that you’re balanced - even with regard to Samsara and Nirvana, even those two extremes don’t disturb you. Subject and Object are, the same - or not different, so far as you’re concerned. You are in a state of absolute equanimity or, as I have said elsewhere, you are in a state of axiality and centrality. You have reached what the Chinese mystics call ‘the unwobbling pivot of existence’. As the Mangala sutta says ‘you are one whose mind does not shake when touched by the eight Loka Dhammas.
Do you know what I mean by axiality? You feel as though you are the axis upon which everything turns though not in an egoistic sense. You are absolutely stable and unshakable, immovable, though at the same time you’re extremely mobile, even dancing all over the place. You don’t need to have your centre fixed in any particular spot. Your centre is everywhere.
Neither a thought nor an emotion, it is rather the steady conscious realization of reality’s transience. It is the ground for wisdom and freedom and the protector of compassion and love. While some may think of equanimity as dry neutrality or cool aloofness, mature equanimity produces a radiance and warmth of being. The Buddha described a mind filled with equanimity as “abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility and without ill-will.
Equanimity’s strength derives from a combination of understanding and trust. It is based on understanding that the conflict and frustration we feel when we cannot control the world doesn’t come from our inability to do so, but rather from the fact that we are trying to control the uncontrollable. We know better than to try and prevent the seasons from changing or the tide from coming in. Following autumn, winter comes. We may not prefer it, but we trust it because we can understand and accept its rightful place in the larger cycle, a bigger picture. Can we apply the same wise balance to the cycles and tides of pleasant, unpleasant and neutral experiences in our lives?
Did you never observe how in moments of happiness a person’s features change and become bright with joy? Did you never notice how joy rouses people to noble aspirations and deeds, exceeding your normal capacity?
Sympathetic joy gives to equanimity the mild serenity that softens its stern appearance. It is the divine smile on the face of the Enlightened One, a smile that persists in spite of his deep knowledge of the world’s suffering, a smile that gives solace and hope, fearlessness and confidence: “Wide open are the doors to deliverance” thus it speaks.
Compassion prevents love and sympathetic joy from turning into states of self-satisfied complacency with a jealously-guarded petty happiness. Compassion stirs and urges love to widen its sphere; it stirs and urges sympathetic joy to search for fresh nourishment. Thus it helps both of them to grow into boundless states.
In a way there is only one Brahma Vihara and it’s the Metta Bhavana, but when you, with your metta, happen to come into contact with pain and suffering, the metta automatically, or rather spontaneously, becomes transformed into Karuna. When it comes into contact with the joy of others, it automatically becomes transformed into sympathetic joy. And similarly when your metta is extended equally towards all there is equanimity. So YOU look after metta and the other three will look after themselves. You don’t have to think about them. They depend on circumstances.
we should never underestimate the role of will in the spiritual life. It is not enough to have feeling for the Buddha. We have to will to be like the Buddha. One might even say there is no spiritual life without will. Indeed, the spiritual life could be defined as the constant willing of the good in all circumstances.