hear advice regarding patience and tolerance in response
to anger, do you think that this is suggesting that
we should simply submit ourselves to abuse and exploitation
As we will see Shantideva did not advocate passive
abuse or simple, unquestioned acceptance of suffering and pain.
What he is advocating is a resolute stand against adversities.
In his commentary, the Dalai Lama draws a distinction
between meekness and tolerance. He suggests that genuine tolerance
can only arise where one has consciously adopted a stance not
to retaliate against an actual or perceived harm. The crucial
point here is the "consciously adopted stand."
What is patience? According to the Buddhist understanding
of the principle, is "a resolute response against adversity
stemming from a settled temperament unperturbed by either external
or internal disturbance." Far from a passive submission,
it is an active approach toward adversity.
Shantideva presents the practice of patience in several steps”
- First we have to be determined to tame our
anger. Anger is not just one of our feelings. It can become
a state of being and a way of doing things that affects our
whole life. So we must begin by recognizing the destructive
power of anger and the need to practice its antidote, patience.
Shantideva then presents three approaches to practicing patience.
- We will benefit greatly by becoming more tolerant
of the pain and hardships that life brings. This requires a
re-framing of our attitude toward discomfort and learning to
consciously accept life’s
vicissitudes. Denying that pain and suffering are natural facts
of existence only compounds our misery. Just being able to internalize
this fundamental truth of our existence can profoundly affect
our day-to-day life.
As difficult as it may be for those
of us in a modern 21st society to see any positive about suffering,
Shantideva teaches that it is our experience of suffering that
enables us to identify with others' pain, thus allowing us
to generate genuine compassion for them.
- Our narrow view of the reality of our
life situations results in blind anger. By understanding the
complexity of our situations we can become more patient of
others, even if they harm us. If we are unable to recognize
that the actions of people and events are determined by a network
of many factors. – often outside their control – we are more
likely to find ourselves gripped with anger fact. If we can
develop the insight that recognizes that it is illogical to
isolate from the complex conditions only the person harming
us and hold him or her alone responsible for the act of harm,
we are better able to respond with patience rather than anger.
- Finally Shantideva, recognizing that
our most destructive anger is in response to the actions
urges us to develop tolerance toward injuries (real
or imagined) from others. Until we learn to interact with others
in a way that is not tainted by strong negative emotions such
as anger, no genuine development of patience can take place.
If we can learn to see that the actions of others usually stem
from a state of ignorance. we can learn that it is more appropriate
to have compassion rather than anger toward those who cause
harm to us.
Note: Commentators divide Shantideva’s teaching
on patience in a variety of ways. While following the steps outlined
above we borrow in this lesson Bob Thurman’s elegantly simple
- Tolerant Patience
- Insightful Patience
- Forgiving Patience