The Mahayana Equilibrium Meditation

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal, 1973 (Archive #488)

This meditation comes from Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s book, The Wish-fulfilling Golden Sun of the Mahayana Thought Training, Kopan Monastery, 1974. Rinpoche has described it as more than the standard equilibrium meditation as he has added a number of techniques for overcoming anger and developing patience.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche teaching at the Fourth Meditation Course at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, 1973. Photo: Lynda Millspaugh.

Meditate in the first person and pause for contemplation between paragraphs.

Think: It is never enough to gain only self-liberation. Attachment to personal peace and striving solely for this is both selfish and cruel.

Visualize that you are surrounded by all sentient beings, with your mother seated to your left and your father to your right. In front of you, visualize an enemy; someone who dislikes you or wishes you harm. Behind you, place your dearest friend; the person to whom you are most attached. To the side, visualize a stranger; someone for whom your feelings are neutral.

Think: There is no reason at all for me to be attached to and help my friend or to hate and harm my enemy.

If I were to strive for only my own self-peace, there would be no reason for me to have been born human. Even as an animal, I could strive for this. The various animals have the same aim as many highly educated people--self-happiness--and also create many negative actions, such as fighting with and destroying enemies, cheating others with political mind and so forth, all in the pursuit of their own happiness. There is almost no difference between them except their shape.

The main purpose of my having been born human is to strive for and achieve higher aims--to bring every sentient being to everlasting happiness. This is something no animal can ever do.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche teaching at the Seventh Kopan Meditation Course, Kopan Monastery, Nepal 1974. Photo: Wendy Finster. Just as I wish to avoid suffering and find happiness, so, too, do all other sentient beings. Therefore, I and all other sentient beings are equal, and there is no logical reason for me to care more about myself than others or to harm enemies or any other sentient being.

For countless rebirths I have been discriminating other beings as friend, enemy or stranger with the self-I consciousness. Chandrakirti said, “Where there is self-I consciousness, there is discrimination of other.” From discriminated partisanship between self and other, attachment and hatred arise.

All misfortune arises from acting under the influence of these negative minds.

The self-I consciousness causes attachment to self, which produces attachment to my own happiness.

The entire range of negative minds arises from the above.

Anger is caused by greed and self-attachment and makes me discriminate against whoever disturbs my happiness, producing the enemy.

Attachment creates the friend, who helps, and determines the enemy, who hinders.

Ignorance labels those who neither help nor hinder as strangers.

Anger makes me hate and harm the enemy; attachment makes me cling to and help the friend; and ignorance makes me see the stranger as having a permanent self-nature. By acting under the influence of these negative minds, I lead myself into difficult and suffering situations.

Attachment creates danger and suffering for myself and others. The whole earth is in danger of exploding. Attachment offers no peace and brings only suffering.

Since beginningless time, the two negative actions of helping out of attachment and harming out of anger have thrown me into samsaric suffering, making it impossible for me to achieve the perfect peace of liberation and enlightenment.

Negative actions leave negative imprints on the consciousness; these ripen into endless experiences of suffering. If I continue to behave in this way, I will experience the same suffering over and over again for eons and will never receive any realizations or enlightenment itself.

The three objects of friend, enemy and stranger are false and have been labeled incorrectly for extremely temporal reasons. The current friend, enemy and stranger have not always been friend, enemy and stranger in my countless, previous lives. Even the enemy of last year can this year become my friend and yesterday’s friend become my enemy today. It can all change within an hour and does so because of attachment to food, clothing and reputation.

A scripture says, “If you try for a moment to befriend an enemy, he will become your friend. The opposite occurs if you treat a friend like an enemy. Therefore, the wise, understanding the impermanent nature of temporal relationships, are never attached to food, clothing or reputation.”

Lord Buddha said, “In another life, the father becomes the son; the mother, the wife; the enemy, a friend. It always changes. In cyclic existence, nothing is certain.”

Therefore, there is no reason to be attached to friends or to hate enemies.

If the ignorant, self-I conception and its objects were true, the three designations of friend, enemy and stranger should have existed from countless previous lives and should continue to exist through the present to beyond enlightenment. This makes complete nonsense of the concept of enlightenment, since the Buddha’s sublime, enlightened mind is completely free of the delusions and imprints that create such distinctions.

Out of his compassion, Lord Buddha taught the equilibrium meditation so that I, too, might become free of delusions, imprints and ignorant discrimination. The concepts of friend, enemy and stranger are false because they and their basis are totally illusory. There is no self-I.

My problems are created not by the enemy but by me. In my previous lives, I harmed others through ignorance and the results of this return in this life, causing me hardship and suffering.

Lord Buddha said, “In previous lives, I have killed all of you before and you have all slaughtered me. Why should we now be attached to each other?”

Chandrakirti said, “It is foolish and ignorant to retaliate to an enemy’s attack with spite in hopes of ending it, as the retaliation itself only brings more suffering.”

Therefore, there is no reason to retaliate.

The enemy is the object of my practice of patience, which helps me overcome my anger. I should not hate this enemy, who brings peace into my mind.

The enemy is infinitely more precious than any material possession. He is the source of all my past, present and future happiness. I should never hate the enemy. Any possession can be given up for his peace.

An enemy is my greatest need, the source of all beings’ enlightenment, including my own. The enemy is my most precious possession. For his peace I can give up myself.

From now on I must never hate or harm the enemy or any other being.

The enemy harming me mentally and physically is under the control of his negative mind. He is like the stick that someone uses to beat another. There is no reason to get angry or to retaliate by harming the enemy. It is not his fault; just as the pain I experience from a beating is not the fault of the stick.

If I had clear wisdom I would see that harming others out of hatred is harming myself out of hatred. Obviously, I should not harm others.

All sentient beings, including the enemy, are the object of Lord Buddha’s compassion. The numberless buddhas hold the enemy and all other beings dear to their heart. Therefore, harming another, even slightly, is like harming the infinite buddhas.

The Buddha always considers all sentient beings, including enemies, to be more important than himself. Mindlessly harming another being for my own benefit is the act of a mind of stone.

The enemy and all other sentient beings have been my mother countless times. The holy body, speech and mind of the infinite buddhas are servant to all beings, enemies included. Therefore, I must never give harm to any other being.

Not harming my worst enemy, the ignorance in my mind, and destroying an outer enemy instead is like killing a friend by mistaking him for an enemy. I should not harm the outer enemy but the inner one, the actual cause of all my suffering.

Because of transcendent realizations based on the equilibrium meditation, no bodhisattva would ever see another sentient being as an enemy, even if all rose against him or her.

The enemy is merely a concept created by my hatred, just as friends and strangers are concepts created by my attachment and ignorance. I should not believe the distorted perceptions of my negative minds.

If I investigate with my wisdom eye, I will never find my attachment’s friend or my hatred’s enemy anywhere, neither inside nor outside their bodies. Wisdom tells me that these are merely names.

For all these reasons, I can now clearly see how foolish and nonsensical I have been over beginningless lifetimes.

If you could realize this equilibrium meditation it would be your most priceless possession. Equilibrium brings peace to numberless beings and all your future lives.