(5.72) I should not behave in ways that disturb others,
Such as moving furniture noisily
Or opening and closing doors loudly,
But always delight in humility.
Shantideva here is encouraging us to be thoughtful, considerate. We need to be especially mindful of what might disturb others. Taking care to not disturb others is a real discipline that we must try to improve until we become just like Geshe-la, caring about everything and everyone. It goes without saying we should be considerate to others who are meditating and try not to disturb them by making loud noises, etc. But being quiet is much more than just not making noise.
A very senior practitioner once had as their email name “stillnesswithin.” I love that. While it didn’t work out too well for that particular practitioner, it is still a perfect name we should strive for. Just as we should not disturb others’ meditations by making a lot of noise, we also shouldn’t disturb our own meditations with a bunch of internal noise. In the teachings on engaging in retreat, we are encouraged to find a quiet place, free from distractions, and of course that is very important. But it is far more important that we create within our mind a quiet place, free from distractions. We need a stillness within.
How do we achieve such stillness? Through the practice of humility. All noise comes from our ordinary mind. That’s all our ordinary thoughts are – a bunch of noise. Kadam Bjorn was somebody who was never far from the clear light. He spent virtually all of his time centered in it, and would come out only just enough to help people realize they need to let it all go. He said if we find things complicated, it is because we are complicating them. There is no complication in the clear light. Our ordinary mind races from one complication to another unnecessary elaboration, and what good has this ever done us? None. But when we allow our ordinary mind to settle down and we can enjoy the silence of stillness, true wisdom can begin to arise. Samsara is, fundamentally, the elaborations of our non-humility.
We need a humility we’re moving in towards our heart. We gather inwards, where the five root and branch winds gathering into our heart. When we are gathered inwards, humble, it is easy to concentrate on virtue. We are not trying to prove anything or get anybody to think anything in particular about us. There is no one there thinking anything about us anyways.
Please don’t overlook the importance of this practice. In Eight Steps Geshe-la gives three reasons why we need to practice humility. We don’t use up our merit on worldly attainments. If we have such attainments, we need to use them for others, in particular their spiritual welfare. We accumulate merit because we always put others first, serve them, etc. There is no inherently existent I. He says we should view our self or I, the object of our self-cherishing, as the lowest of all. In this way, our self-cherishing will become weaker and our love for others will increase. Ghandi said his goal was to make himself zero.
(5.73) Just as a stork, a cat, or a thief
Accomplish their aims with skill and patience,
So should I accomplish my spiritual goal
Of attaining the state of enlightenment.
What is it about a stork, a cat, or a thief? They certainly don’t make a big noise about things. There is a subtlety, grace, stillness, as their body and mind work together in harmony. We need to be like that walk in to people’s lives, touch their minds, make an impression, and then leave.
The person who first awakened spiritual aspirations in me, a good friend from college, gave me a book on the mind of the ninja. The essential point was the ninja operates from the shadows. Shadows here does not mean darkness or negativity, the real meaning was operating from the silence of realizing emptiness. The ninja engages in their actions silently, unseen, without imposing themselves on the world. A bodhisattva acts in the same way. Buddha’s have perfected this. Buddhas are helping each and every being every single day. Yet we don’t see them. Our not seeing them does not mean they are not there, helping us walk in the paths of virtue. Without Buddhas in this world blessing our minds, this world would quickly fall into spiritual darkness.
Help when no one is looking. Pray when no one knows. Give without leaving a trace.