The Ten Kinds of Equanimity (Upekkhā)

Anne Murphy


Upekkhā has been translated from Pali as “hedonic neutrality or indifference,” the “zero point between joy and sorrow,” and “disinterestedness, neutral feeling, equanimity.” In Buddhist philosophy, equanimity (upekkhā) is most typically recognised as one of the four brahma-vihāras (also mettā, karuṇā, and muditā). In meditation practice, equanimity is also commonly known as the faculty most prominent when experiencing the fourth jhāna. However, in the commentaries of the Atthasālinī and the Visuddhimagga, Bhikkhu Buddhaghosa defines equanimity in ten different ways. These ten kinds of equanimity are: a) six-factored equanimity, b) equanimity as a brahma-vihāra, c) equanimity as an enlightenment factor, d) equanimity of energy, e) equanimity about formations, f) equanimity as a feeling, g) equanimity about insight, h) equanimity as specific neutrality, i) equanimity of jhāna, j) equanimity of purification. This article will discuss each of these ten kinds of equanimity in detail, sourced from the canonical literature, for a multifaceted understanding of the faculty of equanimity. This discussion raises the question why, in both commentaries, Bhikkhu Buddhaghosa placed such an emphasis on equanimity as a faculty to be cultivated. It is proposed here that it is because, according to the Cūḷahatthipadopama Sutta, the faculties of mindfulness and equanimity were most predominant in his mind when the Buddha comprehended the three knowledges and became fully enlightened. Thus, while the mental practice of equanimity, in general, might be considered uninteresting, with some reading of the canonical literature, equanimity may be appreciated as a deeply profound and beautiful state of mind with multiple facets in its application.

 Keywords: Equanimity, Upekkhā, Atthasālinī, Visuddhimagga, Buddhist Psychology