Immeasurable Equanimity

By Pabongka Rinpoche

Immeasurable equanimity is the first thing to meditate on in the seven-fold cause and effect instruction. We need to have equanimity of mind towards all sentient beings, but at present our minds do not react equally to all: we get angry at some and attached to others. We could take strangers as our first object of mind training, then move on to our friends, and then to our enemies. Or, we could take a three together as our object. I think the latter of these two has the wider application.

We should meditate on our enemies, friends, and strangers, visualising them in front of us. We have three different reactions towards them: hostility, attraction and indifference. In the first place, we become angry with the people we take to be our present enemies. We to look into what our grievances are and think over their cause - that these people have harmed us. Next we meditate on how nothing is certain... We contemplate how these enemies had been dear to us in many past lives. This will stop us being hostile.

We experience involuntary happiness towards those we now take to be our friends. Then we examine the reasons for this - that they now give us food, clothing, and so on. These are only trivial, short-term reasons. Our attachment to them would come to an end if we were to recall that they have been our enemies countless times over.

We make the further distinction of calling sentient beings who are neither enemies nor friends, strangers; but in the past they have been both enemies and friends. Thus, all have been our enemies, all have been our friends; and if they are all the same, then all three of them enemies, friends, and strangers - are equivalent. To whom should we be attached, with whom should we be angry? It is senseless to be attached to our friends: in the past they were many times our enemies. It is also senseless to be hostile towards enemies, for they have also been dear to us many times in the past. Moreover, everyone we know only appears to be our enemy or friend. There is no certainty that they will always remain so.

There are two points of view: that of ourselves and that of others. For our own part, it is senseless to be attached or hostile to others. Not only are all sentient beings equal in this respect but also, for their own part, they are people. They are all equally pitiable, all equally want happiness and do not want suffering. Thus, from this other point of view, all sentient beings are equal and should be treated impartially.

From another point of view, you may think there are differences between them because some of them have benefited you in this life, while others have done you harm. This is not so. Benefit done in the past is equal to benefit done now. Harm done in the past is equal to harm done now. For example, the damage is the same if someone hit you on the head last year, or if they hit you on the head this year. Giving you a brick of tea last year is equal to giving you one this year. Take the example of ten beggars. When they come to you and ask for alms, from their side they are all equally to be pitied for their hunger and thirst and they are all demanding the same things. From your side they have all equally neither hurt nor harmed you.

If you gain equanimity towards enemies, dear ones, and strangers through this contemplation, you can then extend it to all sentient beings. When you have such equanimity towards them, you will not categorise them into enemies or friends. It will stop you forever from doing such evil, worldly actions as subduing enemies and upholding friends. Without it you will single out beings, feeling that this or that one of them should be left out of "all sentient beings" People who make such distinctions will never develop Bodhicitta. You must work hard at equanimity for months or years on end, because if you spend only a few meditation sessions on it you will not progress. Your hopes of laying the foundations for your enlightenment will then only be wishful thinking. If you work hard at this Bodhicitta training, I can assure you it is more worthwhile than working hard at and meditating on all sorts of less beneficial things that can fritter away your human rebirth.


This teaching is an excerpt from Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand by Pabongka Rinpoche, and is available from Wisdom Publications, Inc., the FPMT publishing company, and can be found at many good bookshops. Amazon can get them too
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