Patience and humility

Khanti pāramī : patience, tolerance, forbearance, acceptance, endurance

Suzuki Roshi said “Everything is absolutely perfect exactly as it is — but there’s always room for improvement!”

The Buddha often praised his followers who possessed the quality of being “easy to admonish”. What does that mean? It means that some people take instruction more easily than others, and the ones who are most likely to make spiritual progress are those who have the humility to see that there’s a lot they don’t yet know. It’s worth considering where we stand on this scale.

How sensitive are we to being told what to do by others? Whether it’s a direct order, a strong suggestion, or a forceful request, many of us instinctively rebel when we feel subordinated. Even when it’s our manager telling us what to do, the ego often chafes at being directed. In the worst case, it’s a teacher we’ve sought out and asked for instruction, and yet, when instructed we still somehow think that we know better, that the teacher really doesn’t know any more than we do. Usually this is because the instruction includes something unpleasant or difficult for us. On the whole, whenever we’re asked to position ourselves as secondary in any way, the ego flares.

In this situation, the perfection we can bring to mind is khanti or patient endurance. If we are without humility, we can’t see that our suffering originates in our own misunderstandings of how things are, and progress becomes difficult. With patient endurance, we gradually come to see that the things that we cling to (the things that upset us) are what bind us to painful states.

Even something as wonderful as a long, happy, and satisfying partnership contains the seeds of enormous suffering – along with the obvious benefits. The arrogance is in thinking that, for us anyway, there is a free ride, that we can be attached to people or things without any corresponding pain.

Interestingly, there is only one sort of pleasure we can have that doesn’t have a corresponding painful side; that is, the feeling of release brought about by letting go of whatever it is we’re clinging to.

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