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.


More from my Dalai Lama notebooks

I’ve been leafing through notes I’ve taken at the various Dalai Lama teachings I’ve attended. This is from May 2001 and the text being discussed is Shantideva’s “Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life”:

“If you wish to overcome hatred you must cultivate loving-kindness just as you turn on heat to dispel cold or turn on a light to illuminate darkness.

In itself the mind is neutral and can take either the form of mental affliction or insight into true reality.

Samsara has a powerful antidote and the power of this antidote can be increased infinitely.

Dharmakaya is the state when we are free from mental afflictions plus their propensities and imprints.

When the mind is free from mental afflictions, the mind can then permeate and perceive both conventional and ultimate truth simultaneously. This is rupakaya.

[Trikaya or Three Bodies of the Buddha: Dharmakaya or truth body, the principle of enlightenment; Sambhogakaya or body of perfect enjoyment, Buddha as an eternal archetype; Nirmanakaya (also rupakaya) or physical body, the body of the historical Buddha. Tibetan and Vajrayana schools add a fourth body, Svabhavikakaya or essential nature body, the inseparability of the first three kayas.]

There is no explanation of the Four Kayas of the Buddha in the Pali canon.

We who recite the Heart Sutra should accept the Buddha as the embodiment of the Four Kayas, which is the object of ultimate realization. Bodhicitta [‘thought of awakening’] is the aspiration to attain the four Buddha bodies for the welfare of all beings. When bodhicitta arises, all the actions of the individual are those of a bodhisattva.

If you have insight into emptiness but no bodhicitta, you will not realize full awakening. If you have no insight into emptiness but have bodhicitta, you are on the way no matter what. Bodhicitta is a benefit both temporary and long term. You should practice bodhicitta as an antidote to pride. It is also powerful when you are depressed.

Bodhicitta cannot be realized merely by making a wish or offering a prayer, but you can practice to a point where you make a simple thought and this causes a spontaneous arising of bodhicitta within you.

To develop compassion first cultivate a sense of closeness to all sentient beings, then a real empathy with them. A practice that is very powerful for cultivating compassion is seeing others as your mother, who symbolizes the one who has shown you the greatest kindness.

It is important to have some understanding of what kind of sufferings you wish others to be free from. The wish to free oneself from suffering is true renunciation. To wish others to be free is true compassion.

Bodhicitta has two elements: 1) closeness to others and 2) understanding of suffering.

To achieve the kind of liberation we are talking about requires great courage.

Three elements to attain Buddhahood: 1) bodhicitta, the heart of the practice, 2) compassion, and 3) understanding of emptiness (through tranquil abiding and penetrative insight).

The purpose of the Buddha’s teaching is to transform negative aspects of the mind and mind training.

Both the Buddha and Nagarjuna had unobstructed vision. One should think that in their presence, ‘I have nothing to hide, I have no guilty conscience.'”

I will post more from this teaching in a future post. I hope you find the offering beneficial, and thanks for visiting The Endless Further.