I feel I'm fond of upekkhā, but I'll try to deal with it equanimously.
There are several contexts of this term: upekkhha-indriya which is vedanaa, and upekkhaa as a factor of the fourth jhaana, the brahma-vihaara and a bojjhanga.
Upekkhha-indriya is a kind of vedanaa, 'neutral feeling', adukkham-asukha-vedanaa.
The other three contexts, in my opinion, point to almost identical meanings.
Argument 1. The sequence of four brahma viharas is consonant to the sequence of four jhanas.
According to Vimuttimagga and Visuddhimagga, three frist of brahmaviharas
can lead to three first jhanas, and upekkhaa can lead to fourth one, which has upekkhaa factor as its hallmark.
In the description of Buddhist path Brahma-viharas occupy about the same place as four jhanas.
See, for example, Udumbarika sutta (DN 20) where Brahma-viharas are placed exactly where jhanas usually belong, between overcoming hindrances and 'abhinna'.
Both jhanas and brahma viharas are placed between overcoming hindrances and formless jhanas.
"Brethren, who is the brother that has reached deva consciousness ?
Herein a brother, aloof from sensual delights (and so forth), having
attained to the First Rapture, or the Second or the Third or the Fourth
Rapture abides therein.
"Verily, brethren, this is the brother who has attained to deva
"Brethren, who is the brother that has attained to Brahmaconsciousness?
Herein, a brother dwells diffusing one quarter with thoughts of loving
kindness, compassion, sympathy and 'upekkhaa'; likewise the second
quarter, likewise the third quarter, likewise the fourth quarter. So
above, below, around, everywhere, and in all respects thus diffusing the
whole world, and with a heart full of loving-kindness (and so forth),
developed, grown great, measureless, benevolent and kindly, so he dwells.
"Verily, brethren, this is the brother that has reached Brahma
"Brethren, who is the brother that has reached the Imperturbable ?
Brethren, herein a brother, having gone utterly beyond all perception of
form and without thinking, about the perception of opposition' and
unmindful of the idea of diversity, attains to and abides in the sphere
of unbounded space. Having in all respects gone beyond the sphere of
unbounded space he attains to and abides in the sphere of infinity of
consciousness. Having in all respects gone beyond the sphere of infinity
of consciousness, he attains to and abides in the sphere of nothingness.
Having in all respects gone beyond the sphere of nothingness he attains
to and abides in the sphere of neither-pereeption-nor-non-perception.
"Verily, brethren, this brother has attained to the Imperturbable.
"Brethren, who is the brother that has attained to the Noble State?
Brethren, herein a brother knows as they really are This is Ill this is
Ill's cause ; this is Ill's cessation ; and this is the Path leading to
Verily, brethren, this brother has attained to the Noble State."
http://awake.kiev.ua/dhamma/tipitaka/2S ... go-e2.html
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dham ... /loka.html
Argument 2. The sequence of seven bojjhangas is illustrated in Dvedhavitakka sutta.
Last four bojjhangas (including upekkhaa) correspond to factors of jhanas.
So the meanings in these three contexts are almost identical.
What does 'upekkhaa' mean in these three contexts?
PED gives meanings like '"looking on", hedonic neutrality or indifference'.
Margaret Cone's dictionary continues this trend with 'disinteresedness'.
Is it truly the summit of Awakening factors, of Brahma-viharas, of jhanas - just plain indifference?
It turns out that these dictionary articles miss a lot.
In suttas 'upekkhaa' is indeed connected with '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."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/canon/su ... 6-031.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.)
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/canon/su ... mn137.html
Here 'upekkhā' is deep and wide seeing with discernment.
In the same sutta we read:
In this case the Tathagata is not satisfied nor is he sensitive to
satisfaction, yet he remains 'anavassuto', mindful, & alert.
Free from both satisfaction & dissatisfaction, he remains 'upekkhako',
mindful, & alert.
'upekkhako' is used interchangeably with 'anavassuto' - 'not leaking', 'free from lust and defilement'.
The jhanas are also described with a series of similes with calm and collected, non-dripping water.
Just as if a skilled bathman or bathman's apprentice would pour bath
powder into a brass basin and knead it together, sprinkling it again &
again with water, so that his ball of bath powder -- saturated,
moisture-laden, permeated within & without -- would nevertheless not
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/canon/su ... .html#lake
We can try to combine above two descriptions from Salayatana-vibhanga sutta (MN 137) in a kind of wide and stable presence, unruffled deep observation with wisdom, spanning high and wide.
This is confirmed by Dhatu-vibhanga sutta (MN 140):
"There remains only 'upekkhaa': pure & bright, pliant, malleable,
& luminous. Just as if a skilled goldsmith or goldsmith's apprentice
were to prepare a furnace, heat up a crucible, and, taking gold with a
pair of tongs, place it in the crucible: He would blow on it time &
again, sprinkle water on it time & again, examine it time & again, so
that the gold would become refined, well-refined, thoroughly refined,
flawless, free from dross, pliant, malleable, & luminous. Then whatever
sort of ornament he had in mind -- whether a belt, an earring, a
necklace, or a gold chain -- it would serve his purpose. In the same
way, there remains only 'upekkhaa': pure & bright, pliant, malleable, &
One discerns that 'If I were to direct 'upekkhaa' as pure & bright as
this toward the sphere of the infinitude of space, I would develop the
mind along those lines, and thus this 'upekkhaa' of mine -- thus
supported, thus sustained -- would last for a long time. One discerns
that 'If I were to direct 'upekkhaa' as pure and bright as this toward
the sphere of the infinitude of consciousness...the sphere of
nothingness... the sphere of neither perception nor non-perception, I
would develop the mind along those lines, and thus this 'upekkhaa' of
mine -- thus supported, thus sustained -- would last for a long time.'
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/canon/su ... mn140.html
This luminous serene unruffled presence, equanimous observation, can be spread far, high and wide. As a brahma vihara 'upekkhaa' is spread 'in all directions'.
Well, in commentaries 'upekkhaa' often means just 'majjhatta(taa)' - impartiality, indifference, neutrality. This is similar to explanation given in Vyasa's commentaries to Yoga-sutra.
Dr. Thynn Thynn answers:
Question: Doesn't upekkha mean detachment?
Sometimes it is translated as detachment, but that translation is very inadequate. You have to understand that upekkha transcends both detachment and attachment. When you are detached, you may also become indifferent if you are not careful. This indifference can lead to dissociation and subtle rejection. Upekkha transcends not only non-attachment, but also rejection. The mind is very tricky and has many nuances you have to be aware of.
The full essence of upekkha is to go beyond attachment and detachment, beyond likes and dislikes, to relate to things as they are.
Question: Will upekkha lead to inner silence?
Yes, the only way that will lead the mind to silence is upekkha. Upekkha is not just a product of meditation training. It is itself a tool in meditation. When you become proficient at looking with equanimity at your own mind, your thoughts and your emotions, then this upekkha approach will also spill over into other areas of life. You will begin to listen, look, feel and relate to everything with upekkha.
Just mindfulness and concentration do not constitute meditation; equanimity must be a constant ingredient.
Thanissaro Bhikkhu in 'Wings to Awakening' writes:
... even-mindedness of a fully awakened person is not an attitude of cold indifference, but rather of mental imperturbability. Such a person has found true happiness and would like others to share that happiness as well, but that happiness is not dependent on how others respond. This is the ideal state of mind for a person who truly works for the benefit of the world.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ml#part3-g
All four contexts, mentioned in the beginning, are integrated. Seeing with wisdom the ups and downs of mind, feelings of pleasure and pain, one lets them go, and returns to serene observation:
He discerns that 'This agreeable thing has arisen in me, this disagreeable thing... this agreeable & disagreeable thing has arisen in me. And that is compounded, gross, dependently co-arisen. But this is peaceful, this is exquisite, i.e., 'upekkhaa'.'
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/canon/ma ... mn152.html