Sometimes, commentators on the Yoga Sutra translate upeksha as “indifference” in the face of nonvirtuous, immoral, or harmful deeds of others, but upeksha is better understood as “equanimity”—a state of even-minded openness that allows for a balanced, clear response to all situations, rather than a response born of reactivity or emotion. Upeksha is not indifference to the suffering of others, nor is it a bland state of neutrality. In fact, it means we care—and care deeply—about all beings evenly!
This understanding of upeksha as equanimity stresses the importance of balance. A balanced heart is not an unfeeling heart. The balanced heart feels pleasure without grasping and clinging at it; it feels pain without condemning or hating; and it stays open to neutral experiences with presence.
Equanimity balances the giving of your heart’s love with the recognition and acceptance that things are the way they are. However much you may care for someone, however much you may do for others, however much you would like to control things (or you wish that they were other than they are), equanimity is a reminder that all beings everywhere are responsible for their own actions, and for the consequences of their actions.
Without this recognition, it’s easy to fall into compassion fatigue, helper burnout, and even despair. Equanimity will allow you to open your heart and offer love, kindness, compassion, and joy, while letting go of your expectations and attachment to results.
Equanimity endows the other three brahmaviharas with kshanti: patience, persistence, and forbearance. So, you can keep your heart open, even if the kindness, compassion, and appreciative joy you offer to others is not returned. And when you are confronted with the nonvirtuous deeds of others, equanimity will allow you to feel compassion for the suffering that underlies their actions, as well as for the suffering these actions may cause others. It is equanimity that brings immeasurability, or boundlessness, to the other three brahmaviharas.
Excerpt taken from article written by Frank Boccio and published in the March 2018 edition of Yoga Journal