A person’s spiritual maturity can be measured by the equanimity of his or her mind. The ability to stay calm and balanced no matter what is happening around you demonstrates how much you have grown spiritually.
Think of the Buddha, the Dalai Lama or Pope Francis. They all exude a sense of peace and inner joy that comes from having equanimity.
I recently came across a little booklet entitled, ”The Gita in daily life” written by spiritual master Swami Tejomayananda who is commonly addressed as “Guruji”.
In this booklet Guruji encapsulates the fundamental teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, a spiritual text revered by the Hindus.
He points out that the main watchword in the Gita is equanimity.
In life we have to handle three aspects: things, circumstances and people. How do we deal with each one with equanimity?
Guruji provides the answers…
When handling physical objects and possessions, we lose our inner poise when we give undue importance to them.
We often peg our self-worth to the number of fancy possessions and money that we have—the more the better, we think.
Guruji writes a story about a wealthy brother whose sister was very poor. He loved throwing lavish parties but never invited his sister. He was afraid she would embarrass him by coming in her simple clothes and fake jewellery.
Over the years, the sister and her husband slowly built up their wealth through hard work and smart investments. She became very rich.
The brother came to know of her wealth and invited her to one of his parties. She happily went, decked up in her finest clothes and diamond jewellery.
Later, as they all sat down for dinner and were ready to eat, the sister picked up the food on her plate and started to “feed” her necklace, ear-rings and rings. Her brother was appalled at her bizarre behaviour and demanded to know why she was doing that. Was she crazy?
She coolly replied, “You invited them, not me. So, they deserve to eat.”
We consider some things more valuable than others and allow ourselves to be swayed by them—like the expensive diamonds in this story.
Guruji points out that every thing has its own place, use and value. We should look at each objectively, giving it its due importance. Even small stones have use and value. When building a house, for instance, you’ll need them, and not diamonds.
When meeting life experiences, we lose our equanimity because we insist on things being a certain way.
We like pleasure, not pain; joy, not sorrow; praise and not criticism or judgement. So, we are delighted when we experience pleasure, joy and praise. And feel distressed when experiencing pain, sorrow and criticism.
But situations are never always what we want them to be. We should be mentally ready to accept what shows up—good or bad.
There is a Sanskrit proverb that says: When something comes, welcome it. When it goes, don’t stop it.
Guruji tells us that equanimity means being free from our personal likes and dislikes. If we don’t hold these preferences, we can remain stable in all situations.
We generally like people who have common values and interests with us and have a harder time accepting people who are different. Often, we even try to change them and convince them to act and think like us.
Guruji advises us to stop agonising over why people are the way they are. He gives a beautiful example from nature.
When we enter a garden with many different flowers and fruit trees, we never compare and say, “Why can’t a petunia be like a rose?” Or, “Why can’t a lemon be as sweet as a peach?” We accept and enjoy the diversity of the flowers and fruits and never expect one to be like the other.
Here’s another example: Fire is always hot. We never complain that it’s hot or expect it to be cold. Heat is its very nature. Similarly, there’s really no sense complaining about people. We have to accept people as they are. Doing this keeps our minds poised and peaceful.
There is an old story of the great philosopher Socrates that illustrates his gracious acceptance and equanimity. Socrates’ wife never understood or appreciated her husband’s greatness. She was short-tempered and always complaining about him.
Once, when he was in a serious philosophical discussion with some others in his home, she stormed into the room and started shouting abuses at him. She just wouldn’t stop. Finally, she picked up a bucket of water, angrily poured it over him, and walked out.
Socrates sat there calmly, without any reaction.
When one of the men in the room asked him how he could remain so calm, he answered, ”It’s only natural that thunder be followed by rain.”
He knew her nature and recognised the fact that she didn’t understand him. He simply accepted her for who she was.
Simple but powerful suggestions
The ideas in this article are probably not new to you. But sometimes, it’s good to be reminded of them.
Being able to maintain equanimity when handling objects, circumstances and people by applying these simple suggestions will keep us peaceful and happy. Who wouldn’t want that?
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Thank you for such a valuable article.
Warm regards, Jana
Thanks Jana. I’m glad you found it useful.
I am not sure if peace is achieved by easily telling the mind to behave the way you put it. Our consciousness comprises of the higher and lower mind.
Our lower mind identifies with the self and is driven by sensory pleasures and prejudices and is largely reactive. Hence merely instructing the mind to react to things, people and circumstances may not easily work. The lower mind is a monkey which will listen when it suits itself but stray away at the first opportunity bcoz its power is driven mainly by our sense pleasures. Our higher mind sits close to the soul and vibrates at a higher frequency of energy. The higher mind helps us do good and brings peace and harmony within us.
By concentrating on our higher self, by identifying with it, little by little, the consciousness of our limited self will dissipate and the consciousness of our higher self will rise and only then will we experience that peace which you mention.
The way to achieve this is via meditation which develops concentration powers to connect to our higher mind, practising selfless and charitable acts, practising ahimsa – not killing animals including fish and fowl for food, commitment to good wholesome values and worship and love for the Creator – for you know you are not alone, the Creator takes care of you in your darkest moments which then brings peace within yourself and you will radiate that peace to others around you.
Thanks Geo for sharing your insightful thoughts. You are absolutely right—the “lower mind” is a monkey-like mind, quick to change and be reactive. Your description of how to bring about peace is as beautiful to read as it is true.
In the last paragraph I say: Being able to maintain equanimity when handling objects, circumstances and people by applying these simple suggestions will keep us peaceful and happy. Who wouldn’t want that?
Perhaps it appears that I’m over-simplifying the means to creating inner peace. However, I feel that I have shared ways to stay balanced by using the “higher mind” as you describe it, to regulate the thinking and responses of the “lower mind.” —Maintaining the right perspective when dealing with physical things, rising above our likes and dislikes when encountering circumstances and holding a calm and loving acceptance of people the way they are, are ways that engage our “higher mind’.
These responses to life will indeed keep us peaceful and happy. They are the means to creating a more enduring peace through the methods that you so well described— identifying with the higher mind, via meditation, practising selfless service, ahimsa and devotion to the Creator. All very good and true. Thanks again Geo!