Yogic Equanimity of Mind Defined

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In Bhagavad-gītā Fifth Chapter we find a practical description of equanimity. Such a person

  • does not rejoice when something pleasant comes.

  • does not lament when something unpleasant comes.

  • is not attracted to material sense pleasures. His motivation is different, his pleasure is within.

  • tolerates the urges of the senses — and the force of desire and anger — without giving in to them.

  • is in trance even when apparently moving about because he thinks always of the Supreme.

  • is self-intelligent and unbewildered by illusion.

  • knows the science of God realization (bhakti).

  • is already on the spiritual platform.

Now the question may be asked: Why is equanimity desirable? It sounds so much like apathy and disinterest. Isn’t passion and the desire to achieve better? This is reasonable and draws attention to some of the pseudo-spiritual fakery which I have encountered more often than I’d like to remember.

Apathy is defined as a lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern. To the untrained eye it can pass as a cheap counterfeit for equanimity but it is in the mode of ignorance. Equanimity is calmness and composure, especially in a difficult situation. It is the knowledge that ‘this too shall pass.’ It shows itself as level-headedness and self-control, which is only possible with intelligence in the mode of goodness at first, later in transcendental realization. Such a person is even-tempered and forbearing, politely and patiently restraining impulses that may arise to say or do anything inappropriate. (This means he rarely has to apologize.) His awakened intelligence comes from cultivating the mode of goodness by disciplining the senses through yama and niyama, the regulative principles of freedom. By putting the principles into practice (sādhana) one attains realization and inspiration — because the principles work every time they are tried. Thus one’s enthusiasm to continue to pursue the path grows.

The word enthusiasm comes from Greek enthousiasmos, from enthous ‘possessed by a god, inspired’ (based on theos ‘god’). It originally meant religious fervor resulting directly from divine inspiration. This is what happens when the ātmā connects with and begins to hear the Paramātmā. Such a yogi understands that he is not the controller. He is an instrument. Surrender to the Īśvara allows His power to flow through the yogi and into the world. The yogi’s devotion and attachment to the Lord (Īśvara praṇidhāna) thus becomes unshakable.

Divine inspiration is far better than material passion, whose grubby little fingers hang onto the object for as long as possible until the thing is ripped away by the force of time. Passion actually leads to misery. 

—Sravaniya DiPecoraro, excerpt from the upcoming Basic Yoga Sūtras to be published January 2019.