After his introduction to patient acceptance, Shantideva goes on to describe the three types of patience in which we should train. There are three kinds of situation in which we need to learn to be patient. One is when we are experiencing suffering, at which time we should practice the patience of voluntarily accepting suffering. Another is when we are practicing Dharma, at which time we should practice the patience of definitely thinking about Dharma. Third is when we are harmed or criticized by others, we should practice the patience of not retaliating.
The first type of patience we need to train in is the patience of voluntarily accepting suffering:
(6.12) In samsara, the causes of happiness rarely occur,
Whereas the causes of suffering are innumerable.
Without suffering, there would be no renunciation;
Therefore, mind, you should remain firm.
This is how it is. We have to accept this. “In samsara, the causes of happiness rarely occur, whereas the causes of suffering are innumerable.” We cannot change that. That’s what we have to accept within samsara. As explained in the previous post, the teachings on the nature of samsara are essentially a giant exercise in expectations management. We get angry because we expect things to go differently. When we let go of that expectations, we cease getting angry.
Recognizing samsara is the nature of suffering is the basis for developing renunciation. It can only dawn within the clear and open mind of patient acceptance. If we cannot accept the nature of samsara, we cannot develop renunciation. If we cannot accept suffering whilst in samsara, we cannot accept that samsara is in the very nature of suffering. For as long as we’re in samsara we will continue to experience suffering; if we cannot accept any of this, then we will not be able to develop renunciation. This is a very important point.
Without renunciation we will never find the freedom we seek. Without renunciation our suffering will never come to an end. The end of our suffering depends upon renunciation, which in turn depends upon acceptance of how things are within samsara. We still don’t accept, which is why still we have no renunciation. We haven’t developed authentic renunciation because there is a lack of acceptance in our mind.
In Transform Your Life, Geshe-la says, “patience allows us to see clearly the mental habit patterns that keep us locked in samsara, and thereby enables us to begin to undo them.” Change leading to the attainment of a pure mind and pure body takes place in dependence upon possessing a mind of acceptance. Or we can say such change can’t take place if there is no mind of acceptance. Then we remain a samsaric being. We remain a samsaric being for as long as there is no such acceptance in our mind. Change, improvement, depends very much on possessing patient acceptance.
There is still much rejection in our mind we need to look at. We ought to look at that rejection. We still reject that negative actions and self-cherishing are the causes of all our suffering. We still reject that samsara is the nature of suffering, that happiness can’t be found in samsara. We still reject that there are no external enemies or causes of our problems. We still reject our experiences of suffering. As long as there is a non-acceptance of the way things are, it will be impossible for change to take place and for us to get better.
(6.13) If some ascetics and the people of Karnapa
Can endure the pain of burns and cuts for no great purpose,
Why can I not endure hardships
For the sake of liberating everyone from their suffering?
We cannot tolerate unpleasant, painful things. Why not? If we look there’s no good reason. When we do experience pain, what happens? We identify with that pain. We think ‘I am in pain.’ Then we naturally exaggerate those painful feelings, don’t we? We are in real pain. I am in pain. I am really suffering. We are like children, always exaggerating whatever pain we experience.
If we are to make progress along the path, we must be willing to endure hardships, knowing that by doing so we are drawing closer to being able to liberate everyone else from their suffering. When we have a good reason for experiencing pain, we can accept it. We gladly accept a needle poked into our skin if we know it contains life-saving medicine. When we know that accepting and working through our suffering is bringing us to enlightenment, which will free all living beings, we will gladly accept it because it has so much meaning. A former student of mine has severe anxiety and psychotic tendencies. But his faith in Dorje Shugden is even greater. He views his situation as Dorje Shugden preparing him to be a Buddha in extremely degenerate times. He is being given extremely degenerate minds now so he can learn how to practice and transform such a situation, thereby giving him the realizations beings of degenerate times will need. This is perfect. As Shantideva says, “why can I not endure hardships for the sake of liberating living beings from suffering?” It’s a good question, why not?