Andrew Rooke – Australia
The Taoist master, Lao Tze, said that the second of the three ‘treasures’ he had come to teach was to develop Patience. As he put it:
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
How strange of him to say that ‘you accord with the way things are’ because patience is so rare to find in this modern world. Perhaps he was referring to the natural order of the universe which seeks to establish harmony and the ‘flow of grace’ from the higher aspects of ourselves and the Spiritual Hierarchy of Light into our personalities and the chaos of a world dominated by the Lower Self. As the Gods reach down to help us, we must reach up to them with the best of ourselves to establish a state of higher vibration here in the world of everyday life. In order for this to be achieved we must have loads of patience as that day is far off and we will be sorely tested in all sorts of ways in the days between. How can we learn patience of this high order?
For most people, we learn patience in the world of ‘hard knocks’ in the community, at work, and especially in family life. There is nothing like the stresses and strains of family life to teach you patience if you accept that challenge. Every parent knows what it is like to be woken up continually at night by restless kids and rebellious teenagers who are likely to test every inch of patience you have when you are most vulnerable! If this is hard for most of us ordinary folk, imagine the patience required of the Masters of Wisdom and the Gods as they watch the follies and rebellious nature of humanity! Yet, they continue to help us in a spirit of love through the centuries and millennia waiting for the day when we will awaken to a more enlightened way of living. Patience indeed! Progressing on beyond the tests of family life, spiritual students are required to live what the Mahayana Buddhists call the ‘Paramitas’ or the qualities required that may reach the ‘other shore’ of enlightened living.
WHAT ARE THESE PARAMITAS OF WHICH PATIENCE IS A MAJOR PART?
The Paramitas or Perfections. We find seven listed in The Voice of the Silence by H. P. Blavatsky:
1. DANA, “giving”, concern for others, being altruistic in thought, speech, and act.
2. SILA, “ethics”, the high morality expected of the earnest disciple.
3. KSHANTI, “patience”, forbearance, endurance, is the kindly perception that others' failings are no worse and perhaps less severe than one's own.
4.VIRAGA, “dispassion”, non-attachment to the effects upon us of the ups and downs of life: how difficult we find this and yet, if in our deepest self we cherish the ‘Bodhisattva ideal ‘(The ideal of helping others before considering ourselves), the cultivation of viraga by no means condones indifference to the plight of others. Rather, it demands a wise exercise of compassion. It is interesting that to our knowledge this paramita is not given in the usual Sanskrit or Pali lists. That HP Blavatsky’s classic theosophical book, The Voice of the Silence, includes viraga has significance in that the fourth position is pivotal, midway in the series of seven. We are reminded here of the seven stages of the initiatory cycle, of which the first three are preparatory, consisting chiefly of instruction and interior discipline. In the fourth initiation the neophyte must become that which he has learned about, that is, he must identify with the inner realms of himself and of nature. If successful, he may attempt the three higher degrees, leading to suffering the God within to take possession of his humanity.
5. VIRYA, “vigor”, courage, resolution; the will and energy to stand staunch for what is true, and as strenuously oppose what is false. One proficient in virya is indefatigable in thought and deed.
6. DHYANA, “meditation”, profound contemplation, emptying oneself of all that is less than the highest, comes a natural awakening of latent powers, to culminate eventually in oneness with the essence of Being.
7. PRAJNA, “enlightenment, wisdom” — “the key to which makes of man a god, creating him a bodhisattva, son of the Dhyanis.” We will have become ”god from mortal”, as the Orphic candidate describes this sacred moment of the seventh initiation when transcendence and immanence become one.
From To Light a Thousand Lamps, by Grace Knoche
Explaining these necessary qualities of enlightened living and how patience fits into the picture, the great Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Tsong Khapa, said:
To achieve the aims of others for spiritual understanding you must first help them with material goods as they won’t appreciate spirituality if they have an empty stomach! Since no benefit will come from Generosity accompanied by harmfulness towards living beings, you need Ethical Discipline, which has great purpose for others; this is the state of desisting from harm to others and the causes of harm. To bring this to its full development, you need Patience that disregards the harm done to you. You need to develop the ability to fix your mind on your ideals so you need to develop Meditative Stabilization. Calmness and single-mindedness in the service of others lead to Wisdom. None of this is attainable by laziness, so you need Joyous Perseverance in pursuit of wisdom through service to others and so this quality is the basis of the other Perfections.
These comments are based on Tsong-Kha-Pa, from his Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, 3 vols.
Does That Mean You Are a Pushover?
It is clear that Patience is central to all the other qualities in that it demonstrates your sincere understanding of the law of karma, desisting from the causes of harm to yourself and others. The related qualities of acceptance, forbearance and resilience are all necessary if we are to cope in a balanced way with stressful situations and demonstrating a deep an abiding love which is characteristic of spiritually advanced people. Because you are a patient person doesn’t mean that you are a pushover or lack character. It doesn’t mean that you lack a point of view if you have a patient open mind. As the old saying goes: ‘An open mind doesn’t mean a hole in the head’! It does mean that you are willing to listen to others and give them the latitude to put their perspective before making up your mind. Sometimes patience has its limits with ill-intentioned or unenlightened behaviour and a little tough love is needed within the family or in the outside world to reinstate harmony, or at least our understanding of what that may mean.
Simplicity and Patience, two ‘treasures’ which form a background to the exercise of ‘Compassion’.
To be continued
Note from the editor:
This article was also published in Theosophy Downunder, the magazine of the Theosophical Society, Pasadena, Australasian Section. [No 146, December 2022] Its editor and author of the article above, ANDREW ROOKE, kindly granted permission to publish it in Theosophy Forward, the e-Magazine.
For more issues of Theosophy Downunder click HERE