Here, in the chapter on patience, Shantideva is highlighting the connection between the worldly concerns and our anger. We need to abandon the worldly concerns as triggers of our anger. Who helps us to overcome our attachment to worldly concerns? Of course, we can say our spiritual guide, holy beings, enlightened beings, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas. True. True. But what about those who obstruct our worldly happiness? Those who obstruct our worldly happiness, those who damage our good reputation, those who do not acknowledge us in any way, or when they do speak to us they criticize us: these are the people we need in our lives. They help us as spiritual practitioners to overcome our attachment to worldly concerns. So we should develop deep appreciation for them.
Please read the section in 8SH where Geshe-la gives the commentary to the verse “Even if someone I have helped, and of whom I had great hopes, nevertheless harms me without any reason, may I see him as my holy spiritual guide.” These people are like Buddhas teaching us the spiritual path. We should see them as such. They are emanations of my Spiritual Guide. Geshe-la gives several examples of people acting like Buddha, supreme spiritual guide, blessing our mind to purify our negative karma, blessing our mind to develop renunciation, blessing our mind to increase our patience, yeah, and in this way leading us along liberating paths. It is mainly the difficult people in our life that will help us to become holy beings. The people who are kind to us, who are always happy and never make problems are actually generally only helpful for feeding our worldly concerns; it is the difficult people in our life who are our real spiritual benefactors. They basically force us to practice, and if we are honest, without them pushing us as they do, we would quickly become lazy and practice much, much less. They will help us become the perfect teachers that our spiritual guide wants us to be. Rather than getting angry with them, why cannot we learn to appreciate them? Why cannot we learn to appreciate how important, how necessary they are for our spiritual development.
(6.102) “Don’t they obstruct your virtuous practice?”
No! There is no virtuous practice greater than patience;
Therefore, I will never get angry
With those who cause me suffering.
I think it’s good to imagine actually what transformation would take place in our mind if we stopped pushing things away out of anger or hatred, if we stopped pushing things out of our mind. Imagine what transformation would take place if we stopped distancing ourselves, separating ourselves from objects of anger, objects of hatred. What transformation would take place if we were to accept wholeheartedly everything we presently find difficult. Welcoming into our heart not just the good but the bad too. Equally. We can imagine and then we could ask ourselves, what do I need to protect myself from? I think now we can understand how it really does function to weaken our self-cherishing, to weaken our self-grasping. What would we need to protect ourselves from? Self-cherishing serves to protect our I.
Can you imagine if we were to welcome wholeheartedly, welcome into our heart without any hesitation, without any resistance, all things that we presently find difficult? So how can there be any virtuous practice greater than patience? “Therefore I will never get angry with those who cause me suffering but I will welcome them.”
When people are worried about something bad happening, the normal reaction is for people to say, “that is unlikely to happen” as a way of consoling ourselves or others. It is true, all worry and all anger tend to exaggerate the so-called bad, and part of that often involves exaggerating the probability of something bad happening. Different people process risk in different ways, and for some, even a 1% chance of something happening is experienced as if it is a 100% certainty to happen. To helping reduce the perceived likelihood of something bad happening does indeed lessen our worry. There is nothing wrong with that.
But is that good enough? No, because we still think, “but it might happen,” and worry. Why do we still worry? Because we are still grasping at the thing we are worried about as being inherently bad – if this happens, it would be “bad.” Patient acceptance is the opposite way of thinking. It stares straight into the abyss saying, “even if XYZ happened, it is not only not bad, it is something I would welcome wholeheartedly.” We can welcome it wholeheartedly, we feel no need to push it away, because we know we will be able to transform its arising into a cause of our own or others’ enlightenment. It is not a bad thing, it is rocket fuel for our spiritual progress. So we don’t fear it happening, we can accept it wholeheartedly without feeling any need to push it away. If we have this mind, then all worry disappears. Yes, it might happen, but that is OK too. No problem. We fear nothing.