Brahmavihara Dhamma

Part VII by Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw

(89) Is it not bad to be indifferent to the welfare of others?

Therefore, one who wishes to develop upekkha bhavana is to nurture the spirit of indifference to pain and pleasure of others, looking upon them as being merely subjected to their own individual kamma, the inevitable resultant effect of their own actions. If that is so, it would appear as if this “upekkha” is a bad dhamma for failing to do for the welfare, or rather, in the interests of others. However, it is not so. On the contrary, it is not at all a bad dhamma. One should render assistance as far as possible in the interests of others by way of developing metta and karuna. Only if circumstances do not permit to help others or do for the welfare of others by any means, one should remain complacent or indifferent by the exercise of “upekkha” To remain indifferent (neutral) is the best. Take an instance of an accused person who has committed a criminal offence. In such a case, one should develop metta and karuna to the best of his ability in the interest of that accused person so that he may escape from punishment. However, if the Court trying the case has passed final orders, imposing a penalty of imprisonment or a death sentence for having found him guilty of the offence, no occasion will arise to be worried about his ineluctable fate. In spite of this, if one gets worried over this matter, it would amount to bringing upon himself both physical and mental distress. Only if he can take an indifferent attitude without worrying himself, it would bring him mental relief. Likewise, it would be quite natural for him to bear in mind that the incident has occurred as a result of one’s own kamma and that it is only the resultant effect, whether good or evil, which has unavoidably come upon that person.

And next, according to the fourth method, rupaacara – fourth jhana cannot be achieved by developing metta, karuna and mudita bhavana. It is attainable only by upekkha bhavana. Therefore, if a person who has already achieved the third jhana through metta, karuna and mudita bhavana wishes to attain the fourth jhana, upekkha must invariably be developed. There is no other alternative.