Confidence, Patience and Courage

The title of the 7th chapter in Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara (“Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life”) is Virya-paramita. As it is used here, paramita means perfection or completion, referring to the progressive stages of practice that allow one to cross over the sea of suffering to the other shore of nirvana. Virya is often translated as energy, zeal, enthusiasm, or strength, while the Tibetan rendering of this Sanskrit word corresponds with “heroic perseverance.”

Buddha001dAll of these meanings are relevant to Shantideva’s message in this chapter, however I am partial to the last two because I feel that one of the prime points he makes is about the strength or courage it takes to ‘hang tough’ through life’s challenges. One translation of the opening verse reads, “Thus with patience I will bravely persevere.”

Patience is an adjunct to courage, as is confidence. The word that matches confidence here is mana, usually translated as pride. It also means arrogance and conceit. Shantideva discusses both the negative and positive aspects of the word, so in the constructive sense, confidence seems more appropriate.

Confidence is trusting the path, a determination to persevere through whatever challenges we may face, and having conviction about the benefits of the altruistic way. It is also self-confidence – not our ego but our self worth, and confidence about the preciousness of all life.

In verse 49 of the 7th chapter, Shantideva says ,

Self-confidence should be applied to virtuous actions, delusions and my ability to overcome them. ‘I alone should do it’ expresses self-confidence with regard to action.”

“I alone should do it” means looking within to ‘see’ your Buddha-nature and trusting yourself, and not relying of things outside of your own life. Believing in our own potential is how Shantideva says that we gain confidence to overcome problems.


2 thoughts on “Confidence, Patience and Courage

  1. Thanks for that, inspiring indeed.

    Other synonyms for Virya …valor, heroic warrior, bravery. Perhaps “brave warrior” comes closest.

    The word virya, viryam etc. Is still used in Indian languages…usually to mean brave+energetic.

    I do believe after certain point on the path one will start to see the full big picture, non-changing wisdom -> leads to virya, strong conviction. One might apply virya to get there…then one becomes.

    Everything changes except this windom of that.

    To “become”, there is no other way except to persistently, bravely, keep on ” doing” it. Do something that doesn’t change, eternal, then one becomes immortal so to speak.

    1. Hey, Red. Thanks for the info.

      I do think in this case, Shantideva is saying that we need bravery, strength, vigor, etc. to get along and that our delusions and the challenges we meet are no match for “virya” when it is nurtured and then earnestly applied.

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