Patience (Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing)

By Venerable Uttamo Thera(尊者 鄔達摩 長老)

Patience is in Pali called khanti. In English, if you have patience, you can stay calm & not get annoyed. But this English meaning is not completed. The Buddha’s teaching on patience was not only with unpleasant things & matters but also with pleasant things & matters. So it has a connection with equanimity (upekkha). The Buddha praised this quality highly. With the following of all the explanations & we know why it is so important?

There are ten perfections (paramis) for the candidate of a Buddha to be (i.e., bodhisatta). One of them is patience (khanti). Each of the perfections has three levels; these are basic, middle & highest levels. The hermit Sumedha (the past life of Buddha Gautama) after he received the prediction from the Buddha Dipinkara, he went to a quiet place & contemplated on the ten perfections one by one.

Khanti parami was the number 6th one. It was like the earth whatever good or bad things discarded on it & it did not have any reaction of love & hate. So it is the mental factor of non-hatred (adosa). Sīla, samādhi & paññā can be possible only with patience. All the wholesome dhammas can progress with patience. In the Aṅguttara Nikāya, there was a sutta mentioned some of its power. The power of wise, sages & noble beings was patience.

Ledi Sayadaw mentioned about Khanti Parami in the following way, in his “Uttamapurisa Dipani”. Patience has two kinds; patience with living beings; & patience with unpleasant phenomena, such as heat & cold, etc. So the Buddha taught patience with many things. The main point is in the world if we encounter internal & external phenomena not let these things soil our mind, without complaining & facial expression. And we are just doing our tasks of merit & welfare without affecting them, with a clear & determined mind.

Ledi Sayadaw continued to explain the perfection of equanimity (upekkha parami). Upekkha means; not taking pleasure & affection to someone who praises, respect & offers things to oneself. Or not displeasure & hate to someone who blames, doing wrong, harm & defame to oneself. Does not has these double minds on these two persons mean upekkha. With the stableness of khanti & upekkha paramis, the other paramis can progress smoothly. It was like children born from the mother’s womb looked after or protected by the parents would grow up.

If not looked after or protected by them & would die there. Therefore patience is like the mother & upekkha is like the father. Some Buddhists formulated six perfections, which not included upekkha. Maybe they were confused with the equanimity of the 4 Divine Abidings (Brahmavihara Dhamma). With the two qualities of patience & equanimity will develop wholesome actions smoothly.

The wholesome actions which looked after and protected by the perfection of renunciation (nekkhamma parami) can become perfected actions or perfected wholesome actions. Without the protection of nekkhamma parami & taking pleasure in the wholesome results & it will not become the perfected merit. These kinds of merit are bound with becoming. It was like the children who were looking after by parents but without protecting by doctor & medicines.

They were getting sick with foods & drinks. Trees can be grown up & developed by soil & water. So patience is like the soil & equanimity is water. The equanimity comes from the Brahmavihara Dhammas is a little different from the perfection of equanimity. Brahmavihara upekkha not concern for the welfare of beings. Upekkha parami concerns for the welfare of all without any distinction good or bad to oneself.

Ledi Sayadaw continued the ten perfections with the example of Mahākappina Jataka story. Explained one by one of them in this story. For patience & equanimity as follow: The monkey (i.e., bodhisatta) head was smacked by the evil brahman with a big stone. Blood streamed out with the severe pain. But the monkey bore the pain without concern for the pain & suffering.

Without soiled his mind with complaining & anger. His mind was in a normal & clear state. This was khanti parami. If the monkey did not have patience, with the severe pain & everything was spoiled. Even the monkey was helping to save his life with a lot of difficulties & effort & did not has any disappointment & anger was upekkha parami. At that time if he had anger & disappointment in the brahman, it would spoil his goodness.

Tipitakadhara Yaw Sayadaw gave a talk on human strength & mentioned about patience (Sayadaw was the 5th one who could recite the three pitakas by heart). Patience is the foundation dhamma of sīla, samādhi & paññā. Only with khanti & has progressed. Winning or not winning, good or bad has to be patient with them. With patience is a noble quality.

Even dāna-giving is connecting with patience. It is giving up & sacrificing. Patience is strength & make someone noble & outstanding. There are five benefits of patience;

(1) Love by people
(2) Calm & without dangers
(3) Free from the faults of anger
(4) Die with a clear mind
(5) Good rebirth (sugati).

Patience & right exertion (sammā-viriya) can destroy the mental heat (i.e., kilesa heat). It can burn out kilesa defilements & called tapa-austerity. The source of metta (loving friendliness) is patience. Anger (dosa) has three stages; killing, disturbing & happening in mind. And its results are; short life span, have illnesses & look ugly. Non-anger (adosa) also has three kinds; doing merits always with non-anger, non-hatred comes from patience, & non-hatred comes from metta bhavana (meditation on loving kindness).

With mindfulness is the way of living alone, and with metta is the way of living with others. Bodhisatta wanted to develop the perfection of patience had to take rebirths mostly in the human world. If he had the chances to take rebirths in heavenly & brahma god worlds with merits & jhanas, would never stay there very long. With resolution (adhithana) & came down to the human world for rebirth.

The human world was the best place for fulfilling the ten perfections. The human world is the best place for doing all kinds of wholesomeness. We must sacrifice the human body with Dhamma. The calmness of mind relates to patience. It means complete with sīla & samādhi. With patience & sīla & samādhi develop.

In the Buddhavagga of Dhammapada, Ven. Ānanda raised the question to the Buddha on the Fundamental Instructions to the monks by the past Buddhas. The Buddha answered with three verses & one of them was including patience.

Verse 184: Khanti paramaṁ tapo titikkha,
nibbānaṁ paramaṁ vadanti buddhā;
na hi pabbajito parūpaghāti,
na samaṇo hoti paraṁ viheṭhayanto.

“The best training in austerity is patience,
“Nibbāna is the Supreme,” said the Buddhas;
A monk does not harm others,
One who harms others is not a monk.”

Therefore patience is the cause of progress & nobility in worldly & supramundane matters. Patience is not reacting to any bad thing someone has done to oneself. So it is a quality difficult to practice. This is a Dhamma leads to peace & happiness to oneself & others. Therefore the Buddha said that patience & forbearance was the noblest practice. In the Aṅguttara Nikāya, the Buddha mentioned the five results of patience, which I have already mentioned before.

But also there are 5 faults without any patience. These are; hate by others; has dangers; with many faults arise in this present & future lives; a bad dying; & after death, not has a good destination, i.e., the woeful planes of existence. In the world, people encounter problems are the same. The differences are in the ways to deal with problems, & to solve them. Because of ignorance & foolishness, small problems become bigger & worse.

We can see all these things in each country & international levels, as examples: Syria Civil War, Israel & Palestine Problem, terrorists & terrorism, etc.. We cannot achieve peace, harmony & happiness with the ways of tit for tat, aggression, violence, hatred, ill-will, etc. The many ways to solve problems are wholesome dhammas.

The most basic one is wholesome education, patience & forbearance, tolerance, love, sympathy, compassion, kindness, concern for others, etc. Interference by some superpowers also made things worse & destroyed the involved countries & citizens. They exploited the situations for political or economic purposes.

In the Saṁyutta Nikāya, there is a sutta called “Vipacitti or Patience.” There the Buddha mentioned the teaching of Sakka (king of the 33 gods) to Mātali (the charioteer). It was about the qualities of patience which all people should follow it. This discourse is especially important for politicians & political leaders to deal with conflict.

Sakka was not an ordinary deva king. He was an intelligent, wise & noble being & asked some important questions to the Buddha. His teaching on patience was as follow. Once in the past the devas & asuras were in battle. In that battle, the devas won & the asuras were defeated. The Tāvatimsa devas bound Vepacitti by his four limbs & neck brought him to Sakka in the Sudhamma assembly hall. When Sakka was entering & leaving the hall, Vepacitti, abused & reviled him with rude & harsh words. Mātali, the charioteer, saw this & said to Sakka.

Did Sakka from fear & weakness, endured Vepacitti patiently by listening to his harsh words? Sakka replied that he was neither through fear nor weakness & patience with the asura. He was a wise person & should not engage in combat with a fool. Mātali continued that if no one would keep the fools in check & they would express their anger even more.

So the wise should restrain the fool with extreme punishment urgently. Then Sakka responded wisely. In his view, the only way to check the fool was when one’s enemy was angry & not responded to him. Instead, one maintained one’s peace mindfully. Mātali said to Sakka that this way of dealing with the enemy was faulty.

Because by practicing patient endurance at that time, the enemy would think; “He endures me out of fear.” Then the fool would harm you more. At last Sakka taught Mātali the qualities of patience & the outcomes of anger.

Whether or not someone thinks; “He endures me out of fear.” For one’s own good nothing is better than patience. When someone has strength & should patiently endure a weakling, this is the supreme patience. The weak person also must be patient. The strength most people think is not the real strength, but the strength of the fools. Guarded by Dhamma that a person is strong, and no one can reproach him.

Respond to anger with anger makes things worse for oneself. Not respond anger with anger & one wins a battle hard to win. Someone should practice for the welfare of both, for himself & others. If the enemy is in anger & one should maintain his peace with mindfulness. In these ways, someone solves the problem for both his own & others. If people take him as a fool, then they are unskilled in Dhamma.

The quality of patience & forbearance is not only difficult to practice & develop but also difficult to appreciate them. Most people want to react instantly without tolerance. This is not surprising, because in the world there are more fools than wise. Not understanding the Dhamma, we do not know how to deal with problems properly & rightly. There are two kinds of enemy or foe; i.e., internal & external.

The internal enemies are more dangerous & harmful than the external ones. Even the external ones come from the internal ones. This is not difficult to see. External pollutions are the outcome of internal pollutions of the mind, i.e., greed, hatred, delusion, etc.

External enemies only can harm us in this life. But the internal ones not only this life, but many lives to come. Therefore patience, forbearance, tolerance are stopping the inner enemies from creating dangers & problems for us.

The Buddha also said in the Dhammapada verse 103: “A man may conquer a million enemies in battles, but one who conquers himself is the greatest of all conquerors.” Even one defeats one’s enemy with reaction; the outcome does not benefit for both. The loser suffers in this life & the winner has enemies. (See the Palestinian & Israelis conflicts – the process is never ended, because of impatience and intolerance, tit for tat policies).

The loser suffers in this life & the winner has to bear his unwholesome kammic results in the future. There is also the loser has a strong grudge towards the winner, which will follow to saṁsāra for a long time to come. This was evident in the strong grudge (hatred & ill-will) Devadatta had towards the Buddha started from a long distant past.

The strength of the fools is not real strength. The power of patience, forbearance & tolerance is the real strength. Only with non-hatred & non-violence can overcome hatred & violence, & solve the problems & make peace. There was a saying that the quality of patience could realize Nibbāna. This is on the spiritual matter. This is true because patience is the foundation of sīla, samādhi & paññā.

In the Aṅguttara Nikāya, the Buddha instructed the monks on the 10 Dhammas as protectors, & one of them was patience. The Buddha usually taught the monks to have patience with the following things; heat, cold, weather, hunger & thirst, bitten by insects, criticism by others, unpleasant feelings of the physical body, etc. Therefore patience is a protector & the power of strength to overcome mundane matters & to overcome difficulties in spiritual endeavor.

We can see this in the lives of political leaders such as Mahatma Gandhiji, Martin Luther King & Nelson Mandela. The bodhisatta cultivate the perfection of patience to the highest level, and we can read them in the jataka stories, such as – Khantivadi Hermit & Prince Temiya Jatakas. These stories make the Buddhist readers awe-inspiring & hair raising phenomena & will never forget them.

In the Khantivadi Hermit story, the bodhisatta was a hermit & taught the Doctrine of Patience. The evil king was the past life of Devadatta who had a strong grudge towards the bodhisatta from one of his past lives. Now, he had the chance to torture the bodhisatta to test his patience. He cut off his limbs one by one to test his patience, from nose, ears, arms & legs. The bodhisatta bore all these physical sufferings with patience, forbearance, endurance & tolerance & still declared his Doctrine of Patience.

At last, because of the nobility & greatness of the bodhisatta & the evilness of the king, the earth opened up & Swallowed him to the hell realm. Prince Temiya Story was very remarkable. In this bodhisatta story, we can read the perfections of resolution (adhitthana), patience (khanti) & renunciation (nekkhamma). His patience & endurance to all the difficult tests were awe-inspiring. It seems to me except a highly developed bodhisatta would bear & succeed them.

Even though most Buddhists cannot imitate the bodhisatta to the higher levels, at least should cultivate the basic levels. If we imitate & learn from popular worldlings such as tycoons, politicians, actors, actresses, pop singers, etc. & increase our defilements or polluted our minds. Therefore let us cultivate patience for peace to oneself & others in daily life. Here we have to remember that we have to be patient with not only unpleasant things & matters but also with pleasant things & matters.

The best known Mahaghandhayone Sayadawgyi U Janakabhivamsa had this saying: “Someone has patience with good & bad worldly conditions is an outstanding one.” The worldly conditions are the eight loka dhammas; gain and loss, status and disgrace, censure and praise, pleasure, and pain. Indeed, the quality of patience is the highest protection with a blessing.

cited from (posted on 2019-11-21)

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