The next three perfections we will explore are patience, effort and concentration. Before we do so, I wanted to give a brief overview of their meaning and how they mutually support one another.
First we will examine at length training in patience, patient acceptance. We currently feel as if our lives are filled with imperfect people and imperfect situations that are the causes of our problems and suffering. The reality is we are mentally unhappy because we are poor in virtue, and then we mistakenly look for reasons for our unhappiness outside of ourselves and we blame others and our situation. Because we are convinced that our happiness depends upon our external situations and others acting as we wish them to, when they don’t, we become frustrated and angry. We become angry because things don’t go the way we want them to, not because things go the way they do. So the real problem is thinking things are not perfect. Whether things go the way we want them to or not depends upon what we are trying to accomplish or do. If what we are trying to do is find a comfortable place in samsara, it is inevitable that some things will not go the way we want. If instead what we want is to develop spiritually, then everything and everybody is exactly perfect for us because they provide us so many opportunities to practice.
The mind of patient acceptance is a mind that has the ability to see how everything, even the most adverse conditions, is extremely useful and indeed precious for the accomplishment of our spiritual goals. So no matter how things go, for us it is perfect and we can happily accept the situation. Therefore, there is no basis for anger to arise. Just because we see things as perfect for our practice doesn’t mean we think things are perfect the way they are. Suffering is perfect for our practice, but the point of our practice is to eventually transcend all suffering. It does mean, however, that we no longer feel like our happiness is dependent upon things going in any particular way, so no matter how things go, it is not a problem for us. We still try to make things better through all the external and internal means we have. The main conclusion of the mind of patience is a wholehearted welcoming of whatever happens without the slightest resistance because we realize how it is completely perfect for our practice.
THEN on the basis of a mind patience we can develop effort. Normally we think effort is working hard. But according to Dharma, the mind of effort is one that takes delight in engaging in virtue, in other words takes delight in engaging in our practice. Because we naturally and effortlessly do what we enjoy doing, if for us engaging in virtue is playtime, then we will naturally and effortlessly engage in our practice. This will be what we want to do. With the practice of patience we are able to see how every moment and every situation is absolutely perfect for our practice. With the practice of effort we thoroughly enjoy being able to practice. With these two, we can thoroughly enjoy every moment of our life. We can enjoy a spiritual life. If we enjoy our spiritual life, our enlightenment is just a matter of time. We will truly enter the Joyful Path and go from joy to joy to the citadel of enlightenment and we will bring countless others with us both now and for the rest of eternity.
On the basis of joyful effort, we then train in concentration. Concentration is the ability to single-pointedly place our mind on virtue. At present we have enormous difficulty keeping our mind centered in virtue because it naturally goes out to contaminated objects of attachment, etc. Why does our mind go out to contaminated objects? Because we are convinced that happiness arises from mixing our mind with these objects. Shantideva completely shatters this notion and shows us how going out to these objects of attachment just creates suffering and problems for us and deceives and betrays us. We become no longer fooled by samsara’s deceptions and so are not drawn into its lies. When thoughts of attachment arise within our mind, we see it as mental spam and don’t pay it any heed. Because, on the basis of joyful effort, we are taking delight in the luxury of a virtuous mind, we cannot be bothered with contaminated objects which we know will only bring suffering. We become like a child who has outgrown their toys. Samsara’s toys no longer interest us, we have found much more sublime enjoyments, the meditations on Lamrim, Lojong and Vajrayana Mahamudra. When we let go of this mind of attachment to the pleasures of samsara it means we no longer look to these things for our happiness, it doesn’t mean that we avoid them. We just no longer look to them as causes of our happiness.
The mind of non-attachment gives rise to two very special minds: First, the mind of contentment. Shantideva says the greatest wealth is the mind of contentment because it lacks nothing. Ordinary wealth leaves us wanting more, so the more we have the more we feel poor. But with contentment, we can enjoy everything and never feel any lack. Second, the mind of being in love with everyone. One of our biggest attachments is to relationships. The honey we chase after is the feeling of ‘being in love.’ This feeling is a mind that is delighted just to see and think about others. When we have a mind of non-attachment we are able to have this feeling of being in love with everyone every moment of the day, like a sun that shines on all before it. Our relationships will then become sources of infinite pleasure and happiness instead of the constant stream of problems they are now.