In September’s, we talked a bit about the Six Perfections of Buddhism. Briefly, as a quick reminder, these key points were addressed:
1. Giving – sharing one’s talents, mentally giving to others and more.
2. Ethics – Keeping one’s vows, restraining from negative thoughts, speech (gossip) and more.
3. Patience - Having patience in understanding Dharma and gaining faith.
4. Joyous Effort/Perseverance – delighting in the accomplishments of others, avoiding postponement and craving for worldly pleasures.
5. Concentration – Having few wants. Developing stability and firmness of mind.
6. Wisdom – Generating wisdom (emptiness) to achieve freedom and more.
This month, we have chosen the Third Perfection – Patience (Kshanti in Sanskrit and Patientia in Latin) - upon which to focus. The quote ‘Patience is a virtue’ is said to date back to a list that was developed in a poem by a Christian governor named Aurelius Prudentuis who died around 410 AD. This poem proposed seven virtues to directly counteract the seven deadly sins. The virtues were chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness, and humility.
My, the more that one studies world religions, the more one discovers that they are the same!
On a personal level, I have chosen Patience as a quality that I would like to grow in my own life. I was born under the astrological sign of Aries which imbued me with the following traits:
Adventurous and energetic. Pioneering and courageous. Enthusiastic and Confident. Dynamic and quick-witted. All well and fine!
However, on the dark side....Selfish and quick-tempered, Impulsive and Impatient, foolhardy and dare-devilish!
Now, I seem to be able to resist urges to sky dive or crawl along the ocean floor in search of sunken treasure....but the impatient thing is the struggle for me! Yes, I am adventurous...but I would like the adventure to be happening NOW and not a second later!
When researching Kshanti, I came across a talk that was given in six parts by the Buddhist teacher Dharmachari Ratnagosha. His fifth talk on Patience deals with the aspect of Creative Listening as a way to practice Patience. How many times have you found yourself developing an answer to someone’s conversation BEFORE they have even stopped talking? How many times have you been interrupted by someone who has not allowed you to finish what you have been saying?
Ratnaghosa begins this talk by saying that Patience is not a passive virtue. It requires energy. An effort is required in order to be patient. To be open, receptive, to what one is hearing (or reading, for that matter) requires conscious effort. Being actively engaged in whatever is being heard or read.
When we actively learn to engage, when we open to what is being said or read, this is one of the ways in which we can make progress on a spiritual level. We learn to not immediately shut out/or close off incoming information by judging or denying.
Initially, we can learn to be receptive in an ordinary sense to our friends, or colleagues, who may point things out to us - or give us a different perspective - especially when we are in a mood. We can practice learning from all sorts of people and situations if we are receptive enough, if our responses are creative enough.
There are lessons about impermanence and suffering confronting us all the time, if we care to look. What can you learn by observing your parents? What can you learn by observing your children? What can you learn from your responses to various stimuli as you walk down the street? What can you learn about yourself from your attitudes to food, money, sex, clothing and so on? If you are listening creatively, the world is always teaching its lessons. Receptivity presupposes that something is worth receiving and that someone is capable of expounding it.
Underlying this process is the need for faith – faith that everything is as it should be – that we are exactly where we should be – every day, every minute, every second. We are all on our path – our Dharma. We don't need to be in contact with someone who is vastly more spiritually developed in order to make spiritual progress. We just need someone who is a little bit more experienced than us, who can give us a helping hand. But it is especially helpful to have someone to look up to, someone we consider more spiritually developed.
To be Patient, to be receptive, one needs to have faith in the Dharma, faith that it does emanate from a higher state of consciousness or a higher realm, and also faith in spiritual hierarchy, faith that there are those who are more spiritually developed than we are, who have understood and experienced the Dharma more deeply.
When we feel lost, or ungrounded, or when the way is dark, practicing Patience is the way to finding the light again. It is the key to being in the NOW. To knowing that you are where you are meant to be.