Khanti pāramī : patience, tolerance, forbearance, acceptance, endurance
—When is patience not patience but masochism?
—When there is no wisdom.
“Patience (or forbearing) is the state of endurance under difficult circumstances, which can mean persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting on annoyance/anger in a negative way; or exhibiting forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer-term difficulties. Patience is the level of endurance one can take before negativity. It is also used to refer to the character trait of being steadfast. Antonyms include hastiness and impetuousness.
…In Buddhism, patience refers to not returning harm, rather than merely enduring a difficult situation. It is the ability to control one’s emotions even when being criticized or attacked.”
These definitions form a useful starting place to understand the perfection of patience/khanti. Today’s question is: how do we recognize when we are no longer developing patience (as an internal training), but are in a situation that we need to do something about?
One guideline: patience is not synonymous with passivity.
The question of harm is relevant; when one person or the other in a relationship is being harmed, then something other than patience is called for – discriminating wisdom. We’re not talking about random name-calling on the street, but either physical danger or long-term psychological harm. We have the intention to not harm other living beings, but we must include ourselves in this circle of care. We are not better or worse than others, no more or less worthy of respect and care. And we are the ultimate guardians of our own physical safety, our psychological health, and our spiritual growth.
There are other situations that call for extra wisdom combined with patience. If we are waiting for something to happen, delaying other decisions or actions, at some point it may be wise to give up waiting. If we’re working hard on a problem that is frustrating us, sometimes it’s best to set it aside for a time, give it a rest, and come back to it fresh another day. I used to have a recurrent dream in which I would repeatedly throw my body-weight against a huge wooden door. Eventually I would look up and see that there was no wall or ceiling above the door, and discovered that I could simply back up and float over the door. ??? Clearly sometimes it’s best to stop pressing whatever we’re pressing on and turn in a new direction.