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Upekkha (equanimity/舍)

The seventh factor of enlightenment - equanimity seems to me to be the quality of mind after letting go and no longer clings, so remain neutral towards the world. In fact Chinese translation (舍) actually means let go.

Did I get it wrong? What’s more to this? Please share your wisdom.

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Your definition sounds correct.

SN 36.31 describes three categories of equanimity: carnal equanimity, spiritual equanimity, and equanimity more spiritual than the spiritual.

And what, bhikkhus, is carnal equanimity? There are, bhikkhus, these five cords of sensual pleasure. What five? Forms cognizable by the eye … tactile objects cognizable by the body that are desirable, lovely, agreeable, pleasing, sensually enticing, tantalizing. These are the five cords of sensual pleasure. The equanimity that arises in dependence on these five cords of sensual pleasure: this is called carnal equanimity.

“And what, bhikkhus, is spiritual equanimity? With the abandoning of pleasure and pain, and with the previous passing away of joy and displeasure, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in the fourth jhana, which is neither painful nor pleasant and includes the purification of mindfulness by equanimity.

“And what, bhikkhus, is equanimity more spiritual than the spiritual? When a bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed reviews his mind liberated from lust, liberated from hatred, liberated from delusion, there arises equanimity. This is called equanimity more spiritual than the spiritual.

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Summary of SN 36.31:

Rapture:

  • Carnal: in dependence of sensual pleasures
  • Spiritual: from second jhana
  • More spiritual: liberated from lust, hatred and delusion

Happiness:

  • Carnal: in dependence sensual pleasures
  • Spiritual: from third jhana
  • More spiritual: liberated from lust, hatred and delusion

Equanimity:

  • Carnal: in dependence of sensual pleasures
  • Spiritual: fourth jhana
  • More spiritual: liberated from lust, hatred and delusion

Deliverance:

  • Carnal: connected with form sphere
  • Spiritual: connected with formless sphere
  • More spiritual: liberated from lust, hatred and delusion

The equanimity referred from seven factors of enlightenment goes deeper than what we normally think, as deep as fourth jhana, the more spiritual equanimity. But I can sort of relate it from carnal equanimity, a less profound equanimity.

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@frankk what is your detailed semantic understanding of upekkha?

For me personally, putting on the practitioner’s hat, there are some terms I’m not much bothering with, like nibbana, nirodha, etc. I get a faint idea of ‘ultimate freedom’ and that’s enough for the moment. ‘Upekkha’ is almost in the same league - in the 7 bojjhangas it’s even beyond samadhi. In the jhanas it’s 3rd and 4th jhana. My personal conclusion is that it’s a very advanced concept - certainly not ‘equanimity’ or ‘emotional neutrality’ as we understand it.

At times when we feel’dead inside’ (in a drug hangover way) and we don’t care if a person drops dead in front of us, we certainly don’t have upekkha for example. The suttas don’t do a good job explaining upekkha to us - so either context and understanding were assumed, or forgotten (by the compilers). So for me I don’t feel I need to investigate the term for my personal practice since I’d end up with much guesswork relying on a few slightly clearer suttas.

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We had a deatiled discussion on this topic.

https://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=21428&p=303689&hilit=

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I share my notes on upekkha another time, which are pretty messy right now.

But these 3 citations are worth looking at:

Upekkha appears explicitly in 3rd and 4th jhāna. For the first two jhānas, perhaps the predominance of pīti and sukha as a vedana are too dominant for upekkha to be a factor.

The traditional interpretation of upekkha is one of passive equanimity, but a number of passages seems to suggest a more investigative, insightful function.

AN 3.101 balancing viriya, samadhi, and upekkha

An 7.61 working with S&S in vipassana role

SN 46.3 as upekkha-sambojjhanga, “looking upon the concentrated mind”

upekkha does vipasssana

upekkha is a conjugated form of upa + ikkhati (the verb to “look upon something”).

For jhana and samadhi contexts, I don’t think “equanimity” is a proper translation. If you look in those 3 passsages I cited above, upekkha is definitely doing vipassana type of activity. I translate upekkha as “equanimous-observation”, and I noticed Ven. Namoli, in KN Peta, translates it as something like “look-on-in-equanimity”.

There’s another situtation with several passages in the suttas where you see a close relative of upekkha appear, often with anu-vitakka and anu-vicara. But not exactly as upekkha, as anu-pekkha (anu + pa + ikkhati). But just as anu-vitakka and anu-vicara are obviously something that V&V of first jhana would likely to do, I would say anu-pekkha and upekkha of 3rd and 4th jhana do the same.

Such as AN 6.56

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Etymologically, upekkha is related to ‘looking on’ (upa+ikkh), observation:

"And what is the still greater unworldly equanimity? When a taint-free monk looks upon his mind that is freed of greed, freed of hatred and freed of delusion, then there arises equanimity. This is called a ‘still greater unworldly equanimity.’

“Now, O monks, what is worldly freedom? The freedom connected with the material. What is unworldly freedom? The freedom connected with the immaterial. And what is the still greater unworldly freedom? When a taint-free monk looks upon his mind that is freed of greed, freed of hatred, and freed of delusion, then there arises freedom.”

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn36/sn36.031.nypo.html

And what are the six kinds of renunciation ‘upekkhaa’?
The ‘upekkhaa’ that arises when – experiencing the inconstancy of those very forms, their change, fading, & cessation – one sees with right discernment as it actually is that all forms, past or present, are inconstant, stressful, subject to change:
This ‘upekkhaa’ goes beyond form, which is why it is called renunciation ‘upekkhaa’.
(Similarly with sounds, smells, tastes, tactile sensations, & ideas.)

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.137.than.html

https://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=23&t=5939

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In higher jhanas with the absence of piti and sukha, upekkha (or true looking-on-in-equanimity) arises. I gather that an arahant is always with upekkha.

That’s what I’m trying to do, get a faint idea of it. Sometimes when my mind inclines toward silly worldly things I can go through with those faint ideas, my mind becomes more peaceful. :relieved:

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