Upekkha – Inclusiveness

In the new version of the 5 Mindfulness trainings from Plum Village there is a reference (in the third training on True Love) to the 4 Immeasurable Minds (Brahma Viharas or Divine Abidings). In Thich Nhat Hanh’s formulation they are are translated from the Pali as:

loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness

“Inclusiveness” is a particularly interesting translation for the pali Upekkha, usually translated as “equanimity”.  Upekkha (along with Mudita) is also often ignored in favour of Metta (loving kindness) or Karuna (compassion).

The question of how to translate this word came up in my french meditation class a few months ago. Some students were suggesting that “equanimity” in English could be translated by the French term “impassibilite” which means “impassiveness”.  “Right but not True”, Ajahn Chah might have said.  Some things about “impassive” (“calm”; “serene”) are close and some things are clearly not at all true (“without emotion”; “apathetic”; “unmoved”).

The usual translation “Equanimity” is preferred, I am guessing, because connotes the “coolness” of an extinguished flame – which is sometimes the image used to convey Nirvana. Serenity is also fine as a descriptive attribute, but somehow, none of these words get to the heart of Upekkha (it is a given, of course, that that no word is much good at getting at the ineffable.)

I am beginning to appreciate “inclusiveness” more and more because it encourages one to think of this as an attitude rather than as a psychological state to attain.  Inclusiveness means non-discrimination, really. It’s a receptive state of awareness of and acceptance of all phenomena such as they are – free of wanting things to be any different.

With Upekkha, the pleasant, unpleasant, good, bad, beautiful, desirable and undesirable are all contained – welcomed even – under the same umbrella of non-discriminative awareness.