Monthly Archives: November 2019

The Paramita of Patience

His Eminence Khentin Tai Situ Rinpoche teaches that there are three ways to practice patience: (1) to refrain from hurting those who have caused us grief and pain, (2) to deal with any suffering we experience without fighting it uselessly or feeling intimidated, and (3) to have confidence in the ultimate truth.

The first type of patience is the patience of not being moved by those who hurt us. Now this is such a challenge. Shantideva says the way we learn to do this is by practicing in “little ways,” then we will have gained enough skill in patience that when the big things happen we may be able to handle them as a bodhisattva might. It’s like being stuck in traffic and being anxious and angry because you’re going to be late for your appointment or work and saying to yourself, “how would a bodhisattva handle this? Would she curse and smack the steering wheel and be angry at all these people in all these cars or would she say … oh all this suffering, let me suffer for us all while the rest sing and car dance.” That’s where we start. Then we practice this in each of those small situations… when we are insulted, when we are snubbed… uninvited… when we’re threatened… Tai Situ says that “By practicing patience and forbearance in the wake of irrelevant matters, one will eventually be able to master much more crucial situations and events.”

The second type of patience is the patience of enduring any suffering we experience without fighting it uselessly or feeling intimidated. OK so this doesn’t mean we seek suffering and pain and rejoice when we’re in agony. He says “Since time that has no beginning until the present every sentient being living in one of the six realms of existence has been suffering in one way or another.  During the entire expanse of time it is a fact that everyone has endured billions of centuries of suffering in the hell realms… and in all other realms of our world system, which is therefore referred to as  “the Saha world – the three thousand fold universe – of endurance.” In one way, all past suffering can be helpful in that one appreciates that one doesn’t suffer much at this point, yet in another way it hasn’t really helped much.”

The third type of patience is practiced by having confidence in the ultimate truth… the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, the four noble truths, understanding impermanence and dependent origination – inter-connectedness or emptiness – karma. We gain confidence in the teachings, in the dharma, by watching it work in our lives. The more we practice and then take a moment to notice the effect of our practice on ourselves internally and then how that effects others, the more we can trust that the dharma is working in our lives.


stars and clouds at nighttimePhoto by Arnie Chou on

This is from an article I’m reading by Norman Fischer. I love the way he speaks of emptiness as something that can be felt and experienced moment to moment. I also love his enthusiasm and easy way of talking about a topic that is so often misunderstood.

“From the first time I encountered the word in English, I liked the sound of it: emptiness. Some would find  it chillingly abstract, even scary. But I took to it immediately. I chanted the Heart Sutra (“form is emptiness, emptiness form …”) alone and with sangha every day for years before I ever bothered to find out what the great teachers of the past meant by emptiness. It didn’t matter to me what they meant. I knew what emptiness was.

“Of course I had no clue. But intuitively I knew… The logic of emptiness is wonderfully airtight. Like all simple truths, its clarity is immediately self-evident: we are. And there is no moment in which we are separate and apart: we are always connected—to past, to future, to others, to objects, to air, earth, sky. Every thought, every emotion, every action, every moment of time, has multiple causes and reverberations—tendrils of culture, history, hurt, and joy that stretch out mysteriously and endlessly.

“As with us, so with everything: all things influence one another. This is how the world appears, shimmers, and shifts, moment by moment. But if things always associate with and bump up against each other, they must touch one another. If so, they must have parts, for without parts they couldn’t touch (they’d melt into one another, disappearing). But the parts in turn are also things in their own right (a nose, part of a face, is a nose; an airplane wing, part of a plane, is an airplane wing) and so the parts must have parts (nostrils, wingtips), and those parts have parts and so on: an infinite proliferation of parts, smaller and smaller, clouds of them. (This is true of thoughts and feelings as well as physical objects.) If you look closely enough and truly enough at anything, it disappears into a cloud, and the cloud disappears into a cloud. All is void. There is no final substantial something anywhere. The only thing real is connection: void touching void.”


Working with Difficulties

logs surrounded by body of water during daytime

Photo by Pixabay on

Sylvia Boorstein tells a story of being at a two-week mindfulness retreat on the coast of Hawaii in 1986. During a meditation period, the teacher Joseph Goldstein, rand the bell only after about 10 minutes to announce that there had been an earthquake near japan that had caused a tidal wave. The wave was headed toward Hawaii and since they were in such an isolated location, there was no time to evacuate. They would have to move to higher ground–the second floor of the facility.

She continues the story, “We were living in two-story bungalows on a beach ringed by thick jungle. The best we could do to “take high ground” was go upstairs. We collected matches, crackers, fruit, and flashlights and brought them to the second-floor room we were using as our communal meditation space. We filled the bathtubs with fresh water lest the water pipes burst. When we had finished preparing, we took our seats around the room. Most of us, facing our teacher, were also facing a wall-to-wall window that looked out across the sea to the flat horizon.

“Joseph Goldstein, told the story of a Zen master of long ago who was asked, “What would you do if the waters of the north and the south and the east and the west all rose around you?” The Zen master, Joseph continued, was reported to have said, “I would just sit.” Joseph said, “Let’s sit.”

“I closed my eyes and then opened them again, checking the horizon. I felt my heart pounding. Imagining what a wall of water moving toward us would look like, I was terrified. I closed my eyes and noticed that the room felt unusually quiet. I took a breath and felt it enough to have it catch my attention.

“Out of habit, I began to name my experience to myself: Breath in, breath out. Breath in, breath out. It’s very quiet. My hands are cold. My heart is pounding. I am trembling. I heard my mind saying, “I don’t want to drown,” and also, “Take a breath, Sylvia. Now another one.” I noticed my mind quieting down as I named breaths. “In. Out. In. Out.” I remember feeling surprised to find that my hands felt warmer and my heart had stopped pounding. “Maybe the tidal wave will happen,” I thought. “Maybe not. I don’t know.”

“Realizing that I didn’t know provided a moment of relief.”

Objective Existence

cropped-19105569_10154552872441053_8176465848795085116_n.jpgSogyal Rinpoche wrote in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, “Self-grasping creates self-cherishing, which in turn creates an ingrained aversion to harm and suffering. However, harm and suffering have no objective existence, what gives them their existence and their power is only our aversion to them. When you understand this, you understand then that it is our aversion, in fact, that attracts to us every negativity and obstacle that can possibly happen to us, and fills our lives with nervous anxiety, expectation, and fear. Wear down that aversion by wearing down the self-grasping mind and its attachment to a nonexistent self, and you will wear down any hold on you that any obstacle or negativity can have.”