Q: Emptiness and equanimity. Is it correct to associate the two? Is equanimity the skillful attitude to take, to develop in the face of the emptiness of all conditioned phenomena?
A: Don’t be in too great a hurry to develop equanimity. We first need to develop a sense of conviction and a sense of determination in the path. This has to be motivated by goodwill for ourselves and goodwill for all other beings. Equanimity is most useful when you come up against issues that you cannot resolve. Develop equanimity for those issues so that you can focus your attention more skillfully on things that you can resolve. The equanimity of people who have gained awakening comes from the fact that they are no longer feeding on conditioned phenomena and so they can participate in the world when they see it’s skillful, and remain unconnected with the world in areas where it s not.
As for the emptiness of all conditioned phenomena: In the original texts, this means that all phenomena are empty of self—they’re not you, they’re not yours. But here again, don’t be in too great a hurry to see everything as empty. For the sake of the practice, we hold on to some things—such as our actions and intentions—as ours, and we try to use what control we do have over them to make them skillful. Apply the idea of “empty of self” only to habits and other actions that you can see are unskillful to do. As your standards for what counts as skillful grow more refined, you’ll be letting go on more refined levels until finally there s nothing more to let go.
This reflection by Ajahn Geoff is from the book, The Karma of Mindfulness, p. 118.