Equanimity in Pali is called upekkha. It is characterized as that quality which brings about a sense of neutrality or an evenness of heart towards all beings. Its function is in maintaining a steadiness of mind and not allowing differences—whether physical, intellectual, spiritual, or whatever—to detract or influence our perception of those with whom we come in contact. Its proximate cause is understanding the nature of karma—recognition that our actions bear results which affect us and, in effect, that we create our own future world or experiences.
Another factor to recognize regarding karma is that we are not able to take on the results of other’s actions and deeds. Equanimity is therefore understanding how the basic laws of nature work, the recognition that our lives are governed by the way we conduct our lives. Where the suffering of others is concerned, we recognize that by making ourselves suffer, we do not decrease or take away the suffering of others. We can work to alleviate another’s suffering or delight in another’s good fortune, but there is a point where one has to exercise equanimity, being aware of one’s own well-being. To try to take on someone else’s life and carry it around is not equanimity. Equanimity is not taking on more than what is actually necessary or beneficial.
Equanimity succeeds when it is aware of the movement of the mind—the wanting and not wanting, approval and disapproval—and one is able to establish an evenness of mind, a clarity that sees things for what they are. Equanimity fails when it causes indifference, not caring. Indifference could arise due to a lack of attention or clarity or to being unwilling to deal with a situation because too much effort is required. Indifference is the near enemy of equanimity.
True equanimity does not hinder compassion or action but rather enhances it by developing the discernment that knows how and when to engage. The far enemy is aversion and greed: the liking and disliking, approving and disapproving that occurs within our minds.
Equanimity is the quality not shaken by the movement of the worldly dhammas or the ways of the world.
This reflection by Luang Por Pasanno is from the book, Broad View, Boundless Heart, (pdf) p. 19.