Prejudice and Equanimity
The four limitless ones culminate in a supplication for equanimity: “May they [all sentient beings] dwell in the great equanimity free from passion, aggression, and prejudice.” Here, equanimity is being defined as freedom from passion, aggression, and prejudice. Freedom from prejudice—in other words, impartiality or an unbiased attitude toward all beings—is the key. The Tibetan word for prejudice is nye ring. Nye literally means “near” or “close.” Ring means “far” or “distant.” So this fourth line could be paraphrased: “May all beings rest in equanimity, free from attachment to those thought of as close and free from aversion toward those thought of as distant.”
Nye ring, or “near far,” points to the fundamental experience of duality that drives our lives: the eight worldly dharmas of loss and gain, pleasure and pain, praise and blame, disgrace and fame. “Near ones” are the people that we hold near and dear, such as family and friends. “Far ones” are the people that we dislike or hold at a distance. These could include so called neutral people, with whom we feel no particular connection and whose impact on our lives we consequently ignore: the grocery store clerk, a bank teller, someone we might pass on the street.
Equanimity (tang nyom) is the mind that is free from this kind of dualistic judgment, an attitude that sees all beings as equal to one another and, most importantly, equal to oneself. Tang means “to give” or “to send,” and is a form of the verb tong found in tonglen, the mahayana practice of sending and taking. Tang has been explained as giving up our aggression to enemies and our attachment to friends. Nyom means to be “even” or “equal” and is related to a word for meditation, nyam- shak, which literally means “to rest evenly” and has been translated in various ways: to rest, to meditate, to rest in meditation, or to rest in meditative equipoise. So equanimity is giving up our hold on duality and resting evenly in meditation, without the prejudice of holding those we like near and those we dislike away.