(6.16) I should not become impatient
With heat and cold, wind and rain,
Or sickness, confinement, or beatings;
For, if I do, the pain will only increase.
We try then to increase our capacity to experience suffering with a patient mind. We all have to start somewhere, build and increase that capacity, until eventually we are able to accept all the sufferings of human life. When we have patient acceptance, it is not that there is a hardness of mind, we become so tough that nothing gets through to us. Rather, it’s that there is no longer any resistance, any rejection in our mind. There’s actually an openness of mind. Accommodating. Open, accommodating, and peaceful. And in this way, our mind becomes stronger.
How do we reconcile renunciation and patient acceptance? It seems that acceptance says we should accept whatever suffering, whereas renunciation says we need to reject all suffering. Actually, the mind of patient acceptance is the foundation of renunciation. How so? Renunciation can only arise in the mind of somebody who has accepted, fully and completely, that samsara is the nature of suffering. As long as we are holding out that happiness can be found within it, we will not be sufficiently motivated to get out. It is by fully accepting samsara is the nature of suffering that we become prepared to leave it behind. Not accepting suffering is the same as thinking samsara should be giving us happiness.
Renunciation is developed with a very simple mathematical formula: patient acceptance + correct identification of the problem = renunciation. If we grasp at “samsara” as being some inherently existent external world, then we will develop aversion for everything in our lives. Aversion is not renunciation, it is a delusion. We have to correctly identify what our problem is, namely our delusions. Samsara is not the world, it is the world as seen and experienced through the lens of our delusions. More precisely, it is the world projected by our delusions. The mind of renunciation is a wisdom that understands delusions can never fix the problems created by delusions. It is a wisdom that understands deluded, impure glasses will perceive a deluded, impure world; but pure glasses will perceive a pure world. By purifying our mind and abandoning all delusions, the world created by our delusions will simply cease to appear; and in its place, a new, pure world will appear.
The world we currently perceive is the karmic echo of our past delusions. This karma is ripening, so we must accept it for what it is. What gives us the power to accept is our ability to use everything, good or bad, for our spiritual progress. Each contaminated appearance is another reminder to abandon our delusions. If we are pushing away our suffering, or rejecting it, then we are not using it. I would go so far as to say the mind that can patiently accept everything is, functionally speaking, liberation since if we can accept our difficulties they are no longer experienced as “suffering.” A mind that can accept everything is a mind free from all suffering.
(6.17) Some, when they see their own blood,
Become even stronger and braver;
While for others, just seeing someone else’s blood
Causes them to become weak and even to faint!
(6.18) Both these reactions depend on the mind –
Whether it is strong or it is weak –
So I should disregard any harm that befalls me
And not allow myself to be affected by suffering.
We need to make a clear distinction between what is hard to do and that which is worth doing. Many people when they hear about the path and overcoming delusions object saying, “but it is so hard.” Yes, it is hard. But what does that have to do with anything? Just because it is hard does not mean it is not worth doing. The real question is, “what is harder: doing the path or not doing the path?” It is far harder to not do the path because then we remain in samsara forever. Following the path is hard, but it has an end to it and will deliver us from all suffering. Not following the path might be easier in the short-run, but is infinitely harder in the long-run. In short, we have no rational choice to not practice.
I’ll admit it, I like war movies and I like the Rocky movies. These movies always follow the same pattern. An underdog confronts nearly insurmountable odds, but through the force of their perseverance and ingenuity, they overcome and emerge victorious. There is always some point where they face the prospect of defeat, then dig deep and give it that extra effort which pushes them through. Samsara will knock us down – again and again. Sometimes really hard. Just as we get up, it will knock us down yet again. But the hero never gives up, they keep getting up as many times as it takes. In World War II, in the darkest days of the Battle of Britain, Winston Churchill famously came out and simply said, “Never give up! Never give up! Never give up!” and then he went back inside. That is the mind we need.
I believe to attain enlightenment we only need two things: armor-like effort and the power of perseverance. Armor-like effort is a mind that the more it is hit the more determined it is to keep up the fight. The power of perseverance is a Winston Churchill like mind which will never give up, no matter how long it takes and no matter what the cost. If we have these two, the mind of patient acceptance comes easy. With patient acceptance, problems are no longer “suffering.” On this basis, nothing can stop us from completing the path.