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Lions Roar : November 2018
I am confused about the concept of “equanimity” in Buddhism. Is it a kind of indifference? Equanimity comes from a calm, stable mind that is not tossed around by the ups and downs of life. It is the key to resilience and to skillfulness, since we cannot benefit ourselves or others if our mind is wild and at the mercy of emotions and passing events. Equanimity starts with the practice of mindfulness, which quiets the mind and leads to insight. That’s when the real transformation happens. Through the insight of emptiness, we see that things are not as solid or threatening as we thought they were. That’s why the Buddha said in the Heart Sutra, “When there is not obscuration of mind, there is no fear.” Through the insight of buddhanature, we see that our basic being is unconditioned, unending, and good, and so we are fundamentally safe. There is one sense in which equanimity is indifference. We are indifferent to selfish concerns (gain and loss, praise and blame, etc.) because they are empty, cause suffering, and we don’t need them anyway. What we are never indifferent to is the suffering of others, which the mind of equanimity sees even more acutely. If we don’t care about others’ suffering, it’s not Buddhism. There aren’t any Buddhist centers in my area, but I know a few other people here who meditate. How do we set up our own sitting group? Being part of a meditation group is a won- derful thing. It keeps you motivated in your practice and ensures you have a relation- ship with community (sangha). The easiest place to start is at home. Is there enough room where you practice to accommodate more people? Or can you create a bigger space by moving some furniture? All you really need is a quiet, uplifted environment, enough cushions, maybe a small altar, and someone to time the session. You can add a reading or some discussion into the mix, and definitely socialize. The occasional potluck is nice. As you add more meditators, you may want to look for a bigger space. Check out places where you can book a room for little or no money. Overall, you’ll have to do some organizing—assigning jobs, finances, scheduling, etc.—but it will be worthwhile for the joy you and your friends experience sharing the prac- tice and the dharma. And to top it off, you’ll be pioneers! How good is that? ♦ WHO? WHAT? WHERE? Tell us what you’d like to know about Buddhism and meditation at firstname.lastname@example.org ISTOCK.COM/CATLANE BEGGING BOWL TRADITIONALLY, THE IDEAL possessions of a Buddhist monk or nun are said to be just three robes, an alms bowl, waistband, needle and thread, razor, and water filter. An alms or begging bowl is on this list of monastic requisites because of its practical use as a receptacle to collect food offerings and eat out of. Yet it’s also a richly symbolic item. When monastics collect alms, they simply accept what- ever food is given without indulging their preferences. So, the alms bowl is a reminder that monastics live simply, free of attachment. The Buddha himself collected alms and those who continue to do so see themselves as following in his footsteps. The tradition has largely died out in Mahayana Buddhist coun- tries like Japan, but Theravadan monks and nuns in South- east Asia still set out every morning with their alms bowl to collect food—never money—from the lay community. Many Westerners equate alms collection with begging, but this isn’t how it’s perceived in the Theravada world. The monastics never ask for anything. They simply walk the streets, barefoot, and if someone wishes to give them something, they accept it. Even if a monastic becomes so loaded down with food that it’s awkward to carry it, he or she must never refuse to take what someone offers. That would mean denying the donor the opportunity to earn merit and thereby obtain a favorable rebirth. Giving or generosity is dana in Pali. According to the Buddha, dana is so important that along with sila (virtuous conduct) and bhavana (meditation), it’s one of the three main elements of practice for lay people. In Buddhism it’s believed that the more we give—especially when we do so without thinking about what we might get in return—the wealthier we become in the most profound sense of the word. LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2018 25 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE