Balance

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Balance (samatta or samatà) is a situation in which different things exist in equal and mutually beneficial amounts. Having one virtuous quality counterpoise another is an essential element in the development of a healthy and growing spiritual practice. The Buddha specifically recommends maintaining a balance between faith and wisdom, and between effort and concentration (samàdhi). Faith opens the mind to the possibility of things that cannot be immediately experienced or understood. But if faith does not go hand in hand with caution, questioning and even a healthy scepticism it can be very misleading. However, balance has a place to play in other aspects of the Buddhist life too. There should be a balance between fellowship and solitude, study and meditation, seriousness and light-heartedness, self-concern and helping others, etc. Once, a monk named Sona was practising walking meditation with such determination that he cut his feet. The Buddha came to know of this and asked Sona, ‘Before you became a monk weren’t you skilled in playing the lute?’ ‘I was, Lord.’ ‘And when the strings were too tight or too tuned to the middle pitch was the music pleasant and tuneful?’ ‘In the same way, when too intense effort results in agitation and when too weak it results in slackness. Therefore Sona, keep your energy in balance, be sensitive to a balance between the faculties, and you will attain your goal’ (Anguttara Nikaya 3. 373).

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