Mind, be strong!

Shantideva in Chapter 6 of “A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life” (Bodhicaryavatara) wrote,

There is no evil like hatred, and no fortitude like patience. Therefore, one should earnestly cultivate patience in various ways.”

This work by Shantideva work is perhaps the definitive text on the path of the Bodhisattva, and many consider Chapter 6, Kshanti-paramita (“The Perfection of Patience”)  the most important chapter of the book.

Kshanti is one of the Six Paramitas (Perfections), the crucial steps on the path.  Kshanti is derived from khamati, a Pali word that according to the A.P. Buddhadatta Mahathera’s Concise Pali-English and English-Pali Dictionary means “to be patient, to endure, to forgive; to forgive a fault.”

Our basic nature tends to view difficult people in our lives as “the enemy.”  However, Shantideva tells us that anger and hatred are the true enemies, and he urges us to understand their destructive effects.  He states that the perfection or practice of patience is the most effective antidote to anger and hatred.  Anger has no real purpose.  Often the person we are angry with is also a victim, driven to their actions by the same poison of ignorance that inflicts us.  All the more reason, to practice patience.

Throughout the Bodhicaryavatara, Shantideva points out that patience, and indeed the path itself, requires great strength and endurance.  Later in Chapter 6 he says,

Happiness is obtained with great difficulty, whereas suffering occurs easily.  Only through suffering is there release . . . Therefore, mind, be strong!”

In Buddhism, when we talk about “happiness,” we are not talking about happiness sans suffering, but rather happiness in the midst of suffering.  This kind of happiness leads to wisdom or prajna.  The 9th chapter of the A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life is “The Perfection of Wisdom,” which begins with these words:

Wisdom is the only true final antidote to all suffering (the whole path aims at this).”

The perfection of wisdom (prajna-paramita) is said to be the vessel capable of ferrying all beings across the sea of suffering to the shore of Nirvana.  The Heart Sutra tells us that “Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, while practicing deep Transcendent Wisdom  . . . crossed over all suffering.”  One cannot really leap from one shore to the other in a single bound.  The journey of the raft known as Transcendent Wisdom over the sea of suffering is a long, hard voyage.  Without weighing anchor and navigating the rough sea, without the experience of being tossed by great waves or being buffeted by strong winds, ravaged by storms – there is no meaningful happiness, let alone useful wisdom.

If, as Buddhism teaches, the mind determines everything, then achieving happiness, perfecting patience and wisdom, requires a single-minded determination to grind through the hard parts of life.

Therefore, as Shantideva says, mind, be strong!

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Quotes from A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life by Santideva, Vesna A. Wallace and B. Alan Wallace, Snow Lion Publications, 1997.

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2 thoughts on “Mind, be strong!

  1. “He states that the perfection or practice of patience is the most effective antidote to anger and hatred. Anger has no real purpose.”

    I think a lot of the time, anger and impatience come from misunderstanding. We get frustrated because we don’t understand why someone does what they do (or why we do what we do), and we personalize other people’s actions. Being patient with others and ourselves is very difficult sometimes!

    1. Thanks, Bethany. To underscore your point about misunderstanding, we need to remember about the importance of dialogue. Too often when we feel slighted or hurt, we close the “iron door” behind us, cutting off any possibility for dialogue that might clear up the misunderstanding. I am guilty of doing this myself. Of course, a big part of dialogue is simply listening, what Thich Nhat Hanh calls “deep listening,” listening to people with our heart not our head.

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