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What is equanimity? How to have a devoted mind? || Acharya Prashant, on Bhagavad Gita (2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
6 min
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सम: शत्रौ च मित्रे च तथा मानापमानयो: ।

शीतोष्णसुखदु:खेषु सम: सङ्गविवर्जित:। । 18 । ।

तुल्यनिन्दास्तुतिर्मौनी सन्तुष्टो येन केनचित् ।

अनिकेत: स्थिरमतिर्भक्तिमान्मे प्रियो नर: । ।  19 । ।

samaḥ śhatrau cha mitre cha tathā mānāpamānayoḥ

śhītoṣhṇa-sukha-duḥkheṣhu samaḥ saṅga-vivarjitaḥ

tulya-nindā-stutir maunī santuṣhṭo yena kenachit

aniketaḥ sthira-matir bhaktimān me priyo naraḥ

He who is the same to friend and foe, and also in honour and dishonour, who is the same in heat and cold, and in pleasure and pain, who is free from attachment; to whom censure and praise are equal; who is silent, content with anything, homeless, steady minded, full of devotion, that man is dear to Me.

~ Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12, Verses 18-19

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Questioner (Q): Shri Krishna here is giving a lot of importance to equanimity. How to develop this attribute in one’s mind? Also, what does it mean to have a mind full of devotion?

Acharya Prashant (AP):

Equanimity does not really mean giving equal importance or equal value to heat and cold, to happiness and sorrow. It is not about looking at day and night equally; it is not about looking at friend and foe equally. It is about —not looking at these pairs of opposites at all. That’s equanimity.

If you look at friend and foe, then you cannot be equanimous towards them, that’s certain. Because a friend by definition is a friend, that’s why you are looking at him. Why else are you looking at him? A friend by definition is a friend, and a friend carries value for you—that’s the only reason why you are looking at him. Otherwise, why would you look at him? And a foe by definition is a foe, and by definition the foe carries value for you, and that’s the reason you are looking at him. Otherwise, why would you look at him? There are so many other things to look at.

So, if you start looking at a friend and a foe, you cannot be equal towards them. Therefore, equanimity is not to look at these two in an equal way, or same or similar way.

Equanimity is about looking somewhere else. Equanimity is about being absent to these pairs of dualities.

"Heat and cold mean the same to me because I am bothered with neither heat nor cold. So how much does the heat mean to me? Zero. How much cold means to me? Zero. Therefore, heat equals cold. It’s not as if I want to establish ‘H is equal to C’. No, that’s not my objective. Because neither do I bother for H, nor do I bother for C, so ‘H is equal to C’ is not a priority with me at all. My priority is something else, and that leaves me with no priority to give to H or C."

"So, how much does H receive from me, heat? Zero."

"How much does C receive from me, cold? Zero."

"Because both of these receive nothing from me, hence in my eyes, they become equal, because they don’t exist in my eyes at all."

It’s almost like saying, "I am equally good at Maths and Biology." How? "Because I study commerce; I know neither Maths, nor Biology." That’s equanimity. You are in the Commerce section, so how do you pass in front of the Maths section? Nonchalantly. How do you pass in front of the Biology section? Pretty indifferently, not bothered. That’s equanimity. “My section is somewhere else, I belong there. I have no interest here.” So, that’s equanimity.

If you want to practise equanimity by experiencing heat and cold in a similar way, you would only be mastering hypocrisy. That’s what you would practise: how not to display reactions when experiencing heat and when experiencing cold. Because the experience is there, all that you can win over is your reaction. The manifestation of your reaction, that you can stop, but the fact is, heat still means a lot to you; that’s why you went to experience heat. Cold still means a lot to you. Why the hell do you have so much time available to experience this and that, and then say, “Neither of them mean anything to me!”? Why are you not found busy with your own section? You should be found there. And that’s equanimity.

Therefore, the best way to practise equanimity is Love. You must be occupied with your Beloved, and then you become indifferent towards everything else. This indifference is another name for equanimity.

Then, “What does it mean to have a mind full of devotion?”

It means nothing. The mind is anyway full of devotion. Mind is another name for devotion. It’s just that in absence of discretion, devotion becomes quite blind and mad. The mind is always devoted to something, or is it not? Look at your history, look at this day-to-day. Has there been a single moment when mind was not devoted to something or else? The mind is always devoted. The proof is that mind is always with something, the mind always has an object to be with. So, the mind is devoted. It’s just that the mind does not know what it really wants; therefore, it gets devoted to all the little and stupid things.

You don’t really need to have a mind with devotion; devotion is there. You need to have discretion. You need to understand what is it that is worthy of your devotion. Not everything deserves your devotion.

At the same time, anything that you get devoted to would ultimately lead you to the Truth. But do you have ten thousand years to live? How many years do you have in your current physical form, in this mortal body? You have some ten, twenty, forty years to live. And if you get devoted to something that will take ten thousand years to take you to the Truth, are you doing yourself a favour?

That’s the thing that you need to watch out against; ‘discretion’ is the word.

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