Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: Patience is the foundation of Renunciation

Now we reach the concluding verses in which Shantideva gives some final encouragement in practicing patience:

(6.127) Practising in this way pleases all the Buddhas,
Is a perfect method for accumulating good fortune,
And gives me the ability to dispel the sufferings of the world.
Therefore, I should always practise the three types of patience.

(6.128) If, for example, a king’s minister
Were to cause harm to many people,
Far-sighted people would not retaliate
Even if they were able to do so

(6.129) Because they would see that he was not alone
But was supported by the might of the king.
In the same way, we should not retaliate
To those who cause us a little harm,

(6.130) Because they are supported by the compassionate Buddhas –
And by the guardians of hell!
Therefore, we should be like the subjects of a powerful king
And try to please other living beings.

(6.131) Even if such a king were to get angry,
He would not be able to subject me to the sufferings of hell,
Which is what I shall experience
If I harm other beings.

(6.132) And, no matter how benevolent that king might be,
He could not bestow upon me the attainment of Buddhahood,
Which is what I shall experience
If I please other beings.

The choice finally is a simple one: To serve or to harm others.  We can think of the compassionate Buddhas supporting all living beings. And we can join them in their Buddha lands by practicing patience and pleasing and serving living beings.  We can think of the guardians of hell harming all living beings. Our alternative is we can be with them in the hell realms by getting angry and harming living beings. It is our choice, we can please or we can harm.

(6.133) Why can I not see that my eventual attainment of Buddhahood,
And my success, good reputation,
And prosperity in this life,
All come from pleasing other living beings?

(6.134) Even while I remain in samsara,
Through patience I shall attain beautiful forms,
Good health, reputation, very long lives,
And even the extensive happiness of a chakravatin king!

We have now had a very extensive discussion of patience.  I would now like to explain how this mind of patience is the foundation for two key stages of the path:  renunciation and the perfection of effort.

On renunciation, the idea is simple:  In every moment, either you are moving deeper into samsara or you are moving out.  From an ordinary perspective, regardless of whether things go well or badly, externally or internally, our current deluded reactions move us deeper into samsara.  When things go well externally, we develop attachment to these external effects which causes us to think that samsara isn’t so bad and undermines our desire to wake up, and we decide to turn towards samsara for our happiness.  This moves us deeper into samsara.  When things go badly externally, we develop anger against these external things which causes us to try push them away or engage in negative actions towards them.  This also moves us deeper into samsara.  When things go well internally, we become complacent and develop attachment to the good feelings we are having.  This stops our progress and causes us to think we can find happiness within our ordinary mind.  When things go badly internally, such as us developing delusions, we respond with guilt and discouragement and we give in to our delusions, which also draws us deeper into samsara.  So in all the cases, no matter what happens externally or internally, our current reactions pull us deeper into samsara.

When we have the mind of patient acceptance, it is the exact opposite.  Regardless of whether things go well or badly, externally or internally, everything functions to push us out of samsara.  When things go well externally, we accept it as the result of our past actions of virtue but we are not fooled by it.  Such rewards remind us that samsara is deceptive, that these things are tempting us to remain in samsara, and so it reinforces our renunciation.  When things go badly externally, we accept that just as it is the nature of fire to burn, it is the nature of samsara to go wrong.  Seeing yet another example, our renunciation is increased and we realize the only solution to such problems is to wake up.  When things go well internally, we accept it as the result of our past virtue, which reminds us to take refuge in virtuous and pure minds, not in external things.  When things go badly internally, we accept that just as it is the nature of the body to fart, it is the nature of the ordinary mind to fart delusions.  We see that this will continue for as long as we identify with an ordinary mind, so it increases our determination to get out of contaminated aggregates.  So no matter what happens, externally or internally, instead of being dragged down into samsara by what happens, we are pushed out, literally shoved out of samsara.  Everything becomes a cause of our enlightenment.  In this way, we can see how the mind of patient acceptance accomplishes the same function as Dorje Shugden.

Some people wonder why Geshe-la’s book “How to Solve our Human Problems” is supposed to be about the 4 noble truths, but in reality it only has a few pages on the four noble truths and the rest is an explanation of how to overcome our anger.  The main subject of the four noble truths is developing the mind of renunciation – the wish to escape from samsara.  Gen-la Dekyong explained that in reality the mind of patient acceptance is the foundation for developing renunciation – if we accept things the way they are, that samsara is broken, only then can we develop the wish to actually leave.  But if we are still holding our hope that samsara is different than it actually is, it is impossible for us to develop renunciation.

This concludes the sixth chapter of Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, entitled “Relying upon Patience”.

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