Today I will continue the Ten Perfections series with Khanti, or Patience. The word also brings with it the idea of forbearance and tolerance, particularly in the face of adverse conditions.
My last post about Easter had me thinking about this — and it is only by serendipity that this subject is the focus of my writing immediately following a post that is somewhat connected. The word Khanti doesn’t relate to simply patience in getting what you want (like a 2 year old vying for a piece of candy), but a more generalized sort of patience with the world and with oneself.
Patient forbearance is the highest austerity.
Unbinding is highest: that’s what the Buddhas say.
He is no monk who harms another;
nor a contemplative, he who oppresses another.
I think of this sort of patience as the kind that puts up with all manner of inconvenience and stress in order to attain the highest goal. In practice, one way I take this to heart is by being willing to respect (and observe, to a certain degree) the holy days associated with my family’s religion, but this is clearly a most extreme example. Another perfectly valid mode of practice would include restraining one’s anger or irritation when one’s children are noisy or at the sight of some uncleaned mess or something being broken. The point is realizing that, in effect, these things are simply nature and these happenstances are, in reality, as they ought to be.
In other words, with the practice of patience arises wisdom that things are as they are, naturally. None of it has to have an affect on your mind.
If your house is flooded or burnt to the ground, allow that threat to affect only the house. If there’s a flood, don’t let it flood your mind. If there’s a fire, don’t let it burn your heart. Let it be merely the house — which is outside — that is flooded or burned. Ajahn Chah, Food for the Heart, Page 324
This means that even if you or a loved one is ill, dying, we can choose to bear that mindfully. Not necessarily without pain, mind you, but let that pain be outside, don’t let it infiltrate your mind. Know that it is as it is and that can’t be helped, and that you don’t have to cling to the way you wish it would be.
Surely each perfection exemplifies different challenges, but this one with which I think everyone with children can relate. Kids demand a certain type of patience — especially if one’s kids are much like themselves. I don’t think I can find anymore more irritating and frustrating than myself!
Patience with one’s own practice is also a part of this. If you are overly harsh with yourself when you make a mistake — fail somewhere in your spiritual life — you will find it difficult to overcome your failings. Likewise, if you practice with the expectation of seeing certain results (or attainments) and you become disappointed because you haven’t seen that result, you are not practicing patience. That doesn’t mean you can be without at least vague goals, but knowing the difference between self-punishment and self-discipline in one’s progress is important.
Think about how you can better exercise patience in your life. May you find the patience to practice ardently for as long as necessary to reach your goals. Please be well, friends.