Shantideva, in Chapter Six of his Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life gives one example after the next of all the horrible things people can do to us and how we could possibly respond in compassion and wisdom. Six-hundred years later, Togme Zangpo condensed these into nine of the Thirty-seven Practices of a Bodhisattva. Here are a few of them (this is Ken McLeod’s translation):
Even if someone, driven by desperate want,
Steals, or makes someone else steal, everything you own.
Dedicate to him your body, your wealth and
All the good you’ve ever done or will do — this is the practice of a bodhisattva.
Even if someone broadcasts to the whole universe
Slanderous and ugly rumors about you,
In return, with an open and caring heart,
Praise his or her abilities — this is the practice of a bodhisattva.
Even if someone humiliates you and denounces you
In front of a crowd of people,
Think of this person as your teacher
And humbly honor him — this is the practice of a bodhisattva.
Really? “Dedicate your body, your wealth and all the good you’ve ever done or will do, to him … with an open caring heart, praise their abilities; think of them as your teacher, humbly honor them…” We know that they’re establishing the causes of their own suffering, by what they’re doing. And if we get in there with them, trying to get even or something like that, we establish the causes of our own suffering. But, if we respond with forbearance, with compassion and kindness then we’re establishing the causes of our own happiness and understanding. We actually can develop wisdom.
Sylvia Boorstein says that “patience depends on remembering that everything is always changing, so the current, unavoidable challenge will eventually end… I need patience whenever the demands of the moment are overwhelming my capacity to handle them easily. If I am in a sustained amount of pain in my mind or in my body – too tired, too worried, too sad, too confused – I become frightened and feel impatient for my situation to end. If I remind myself, “This will end. There is nothing I can do. I am uncomfortable, but I can, at least be kind to myself in my discomfort, “I feel better. I relax. My patience is restored. The rope that I thought I was at the end of disappears. It turns out to be imaginary. The kindness though, is not imaginary. It makes a difference. The kindness steadies the mind. And in circumstances of high vigilance, which is what moments of impatience are, the possibility exists – if the mind is balanced – for learning something new… Patience is the quiet moment-to-moment adjustment to unpleasant circumstances done in the knowledge that they cannot be other. It is wisdom.”