|The following article is from the Autumn, 2011 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.|
by JETSUNMA TENZIN PALMO
Patience may not be the flashiest of all of the virtues, but it's one that allows us to get through each day with some measure of grace. In this excerpt from Into the Heart of Life, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo offers a fresh look at the importance of being patient, in the deepest sense of the word.
In Buddhist cosmology there are many levels of beings. But the human realm is considered ideal because we supposedly have intelligence and we also have choice. We have the balance between pain and pleasure: enough pain to keep us awake
Patience isn't something passiveit is very active and very intelligent. It is important, in all circumstances, to have this kind of openness, so that when things go well we can be happy, but when things don't go so well we can still be okay. We can deal with it. We learn through patience to be as stable as a mountain. We don't shake, whatever winds are blowing against us.
Usually we live our whole lives trying to avoid pain and attract pleasure; we are afraid that we will experience more pain than pleasure. This creates a very insecure and fearful mind, because we know that we cannot have one without the other. But we can face everything within a spacious yet grounded mind. When we deal skillfully with both the pleasure and the pain, where is the fear? There is no h'ope and fear in that kind of mind. Whatever comes, we can deal with it; whoever comes, we can deal with them.
I want to express this clearly because I don't want you to think that cultivating patience just means being weak and passive and unable to answer back or stand firm. It's not that. Someone who is patient and doesn't hit back is much stronger than the person who hits. Movies unfortunately tend to model a very macho culture where, if someone annoys us, we just bash him, or kick him in the face, or blow him up, and that's the solution. But of course that is not the solution to anything, as we know very well. If something upsets us and annoys us, maybe we should really look into our own mind. In the movie Star Wars, there is one scene where Luke Skywalker gets angry as he faces the Dark Emperor. He begins to verbally abuse him, saying that he would always be against him and his evil ways and so on. And the Dark Emperor says, Yes, go for it. Get angry. Hate me. Work to destroy me because as long as you are angry toward me, as long as you hate me, you are on our side.
Now when we are cultivating the practice of taking the Dharma into our everyday life, where better to exercise this practice of patience than with our family, our colleagues, and people we deal with every day? On the whole it's easier to be patient and understanding with strangers, but our real challenge comes from the people who are close to us. Some of you, I am sure, get on beautifully with your families. You never have any arguments, everything is complete bliss and joy, and it is as if you were in the realm of celestials. That is wonderful, but for the rest of us....
Relating to the Guru illustration by Gary Waters
Gary Waters has exhibited paintings extensively in Europe and is represented in public and private collections. In 1991 Gary left the U.K. and moved to southwest France where he continues painting and doing illustration work. For more information see: http://garywaters.fr and illustrations at http://ganfwaters.e-monsite.com
One of the problems in families is that we do get locked into unhealthy patterns from which we are unable to extricate ourselves. So it is really important to develop the quality of standing back and observing the situation by seeing and hearing ourselves. But to see and hear ourselves accurately we have to take into account the tone of our voice. We may think later, Oh, but I only said this and this and this. Yet perhaps it wasn't what we said but rather how we said it that brought difficulty. We need to be aware of our tone of voice, the way we act, our body language. And we need to pay attention to the way we relate to children, and how we may affect the way children relate to themselvesit is all interconnected. This is our field of practice. This is where we have to transform.
It's no good having love and kindness for the rest of the world if we cannot deal with those who are closest to us. We have to start where we are. For some reason, we have some karmic relationshipswe are interconnected, we are responsible for each other. Sometimes, there are partners who are mismatched and it would obviously be better if they parted. I don't mean that couples have to stay together forever and ever, just because it is a way of practicing patience. But nonetheless, while one is in any kind of relationship, even if one is going to separate, this is the opportunity to learn and develop, to cultivate and create something more positive, even when a situation has become very negative. We do not necessarily need to ditch the whole thing and say, Let's try again somewhere else, nor just carry on because we are too tired and worn down to think of how to get out of it.
We all have the possibility for change. It does not matter how long something has been going onour ways of acting and speakingwe can change. When something is not right, when something is negative, when something is out of balance, then this is our opportunity to really try to bring it back into balance again. After all, if there is estrangement between two people, originally there must have been some care involved. So then, what went wrong? This is our area of practice. This is where we can really learn what is going on within us. We do not need to put the blame all on the other, nor do we need to put the blame all on ourselves. We just need to see the situation clearly. Then we can decide whether or not something can be done.
We all have the possibility for change. It does not matter how long something has been going on our ways of : acting and speaking- I we can change.
Every situation we meet in life is an area for our practice. It is where we have to work. It is not glamorous. It is not romantic. It is not esoteric and exotic. But it is where we can learn in this lifetime. We are all where we are right now because of causes which we ourselves have created. And so what are we going to do? It is up to us.
adapted from Into the Heart of Life by Tenzin Palmo