We begin by recognizing and acknowledging that pain and suffering
are natural facts of existence. This being so, our denying this
reality can only cause additional misery. Accepting and internalizing this
fundamental truth of our existence frees us in
our day-to-day lives.
Unwanted for me and my friends
Are suffering, contempt,
Harsh words and disrepute;
For enemies it is just the opposite.
Shantideva is teaching in an eighth-century
Indian monastery, yet some things never change! He presents
another situation that fuels our anger: not wanting insults
or humiliation for ourselves or our loved ones, but being
glad when bad things happen to those we dislike. Both extremes
are kindling for the fire of remaining ornery.
Just remember what anger is, how it
relates to injury and suffering. It's amazing how things that
make me angry, that cause me suffering, pain, discomfort, and
embarrassment, still please me when they happen to someone I
consider an enemy. I want them to have the very suffering I
When you or
a loved one are injured by someone else, insulted or
humiliated, does your anger feel justified? Your have
been hurt, right? But, Shantideva asks us, do we not
take pleasure in seeing someone else suffer exactly
what so makes us miserable? Can you see Shantideva’s
point, that not wanting our own pain and enjoying someone
else’s pain are equally destructive?
Pointlessly, penitents and flagellants
Endure the sensations of cuts and burns;
Why then, my mind, are you afraid
To suffer for the sake of
To develop patience, we must change our attitude toward discomfort.
Like any major change in our lives, it requires practice.
There is nothing which does not become
Easier to bear through constant practice;
Thus, by practicing with little pains,
You should learn to endure great pains
Practice experiencing pain
and suffering? Ask yourself, how much tolerance do you
or those you know have for mental or physical discomfort?
To learn to live with patience and not be drawn
into anger you must let go of the notion that you can—yes,
you can—live without pain, suffering,
disappointment, injury… But here we are asked, encouraged, to
practice living with life’s discomforts.
Who has not experienced this with accidental pains,
Bites of insects and of snakes,
Pangs of thirst and hunger and so on,
And irritations such as rashes?
I should not become impatient
With such as heat, cold, rain, and wind,
Sickness, death, bondage, and blows;
For it only adds to the hurt.
Have you ever gotten angry
at the weather? Do you get angry when a mosquito bites?
Do you become furious when the train is late?
What is the point? Are you not adding
misery to the pain?
And why is Shantideva bothering
to talk about the rain and insect bites?
Start with the easier stuff he is advising us. Learning to
be patient with life’s smaller difficulties prepares us
to remain composed when we are challenged with major disturbances.