Thursday, August 21, 2008

Patience - the greatest prayer

The greatest prayer is patience, said the Buddha. Not surprising since, as we have seen in my posts on anger, Shantideva tells us some striking things with regard to patience and the lack thereof:

Whatever wholesome deeds,
Such as venerating the Buddhas and (practicing) generosity,
That have been amassed over a thousand eons,
Will all be destroyed in one moment of anger.


There is no evil like hatred,
And no fortitude like patience.
Thus I should strive in various ways
To meditate on patience.

Therefore, to pray for patience if we have none, or fear we may run out, is the greatest prayer we can offer.
Just as I was taken aback to realise the all-importance of humility in philosophy, I was equally amazed to discover the abhorrence of anger and the ‘essentiality’ of patience. As we shall see, patience is a cure or at least a fortitude for many ills and sorrows, a protection against wrongs, the companion of wisdom, and the secret of genius. I knew patience was ‘a good thing’, a very fine virtue. But it occurs to me that patience is practically the entire goal of philosophy. I would have said humility also, but there is such a connection between humility and patience as to blur the edges between them. A humble person is necessarily patient because he does not put his interests before those of others. I found this confirmed in a quote from Simone Weil:

Humility is attentive patience.

And in my posts on humility I used the following quotation from the Dervy edition of the Tao Te Ching (page 156), which I do not scruple to give again here:

The truly patient man does not examine who is testing him, whether it is his superior, his equal or his inferior, a good man or a bad man. But, treating all indiscriminately, he receives from God’s hand, gratefully, and as often as He likes, everything contrary that happens to him, and considers it a great benefit.

The truly patient man is, I think, a man who has faith. Faith that everything is grist for the mill. Faith that God, the Tao, the universe will ‘see him right’ in the long run if he tries earnestly to do the right thing. Faith in himself and his ability to lift himself up and come through. The truly patient man has philosophy! What do you think?
Photo by Rodolfo Clix

1 comment:

kevin chau said...

I find myself agreeing to what you've wrote here... wholeheartedly. After years of struggles with my short-tempered self, I start realizing that things are "how" you see them to be. If you believe the world is evil then it will be, if you see the world as full of joy and love... then that's what you will get. It's hard to believe that these words are coming out of me, but I think if you're patient with anything you're trying to accomplish, then one day the tides will be on your side. Now see how those famous people came to be famous, maybe it was their ingenuity and talent that pushed them forward to success a bit faster, but ultimately it's their "patience" that got them to the top. Just my 2 cent from my own little life, hope it will encourage those like me :)

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)
Kiyomizudera Temple has a large veranda looking out over Kyoto and beyond