Patience (Maṅgala Sutta – Protection with Blessing)

revised on 2020-05-29

By Venerable Uttamo Thera(尊者 鄔達摩 長老)

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

There are ten perfections (pāramīs) 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 and highest levels. The hermit Sumedha (the past life of Buddha Gautama) went to a quiet place and contemplated on the ten perfections one by one after he received the prediction from the Buddha Dīpankara.

Khanti pāramī was the 6th one. It was like the earth whatever good or bad things discarded on it and it did not have any reaction of love and hate. So, it is the mental factor of non-hatred (adosa). Sīla, samādhi and 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 and noble beings was patience.

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

Ledi Sayadaw continued to explain the perfection of equanimity (upekkhā pāramī). Upekkhā means; not taking pleasure and affection to someone who praises, respect and offers things to oneself. Or not displeasure and hate to someone who blames, doing wrong, harm and defame to oneself. Does not has these double minds on these two persons mean upekkhā. With the stability of khanti and upekkhā pāramīs, the other pāramīs 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 and would die there. Therefore, patience is like the mother and upekkhā is like the father. Some Buddhists formulated six perfections, which not included upekkhā. Maybe they were confused with the equanimity of the four Divine Abidings (Brahmavihāra Dhamma). With the two qualities of patience and equanimity will develop wholesome actions smoothly.

The wholesome actions which looked after and protected by the perfection of renunciation (nekkhamma pāramī) can become perfected actions or perfected wholesome actions. Without the protection of nekkhamma pāramī and taking pleasure in the wholesome results and 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 and medicines.

They were getting sick with foods and drinks. Trees can be grown up and developed by soil and water. So, patience is like the soil and equanimity is water. The equanimity comes from the Brahmavihāra Dhammas is a little different from the perfection of equanimity. Brahmavihāra upekkhā not concern for the welfare of beings. Upekkhā pāramī 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 Jātaka story. Explained one by one of them in this story. For patience and 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 and suffering.

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

Tipiṭakadhara Yaw Sayadaw gave a talk on human strength and mentioned about patience (Sayadaw was the 5th one who could recite the three piṭakas by heart). Patience is the foundation dhamma of sīla, samādhi and paññā. Only with khanti and 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 and sacrificing. Patience is strength and make someone noble and outstanding. There are five benefits of patience;

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

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

With mindfulness is the way of living alone, and with mettā is the way of living with others. Bodhisatta wanted to develop the perfection of patience, he had to take rebirths mostly in the human world. If he had the chances to take rebirths in heavenly and brahma god worlds with merits and jhānas, he would never stay there very long. With resolution (adhiṭṭhāna), he 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 and samādhi. With patience and sīla and 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 and 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 and nobility in worldly and 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 and happiness to oneself and others. Therefore, the Buddha said that patience and 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 five faults without any patience. These are; hate by others; has dangers; with many faults arise in this present and future lives; a bad dying; and 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, and to solve them. Because of ignorance and foolishness, small problems become bigger and worse.

We can see all these things in each country and international levels, as examples: Syria Civil War, Israel and Palestine Problem, terrorists and terrorism, etc.. We cannot achieve peace, harmony and 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 and forbearance, tolerance, love, sympathy, compassion, kindness, concern for others, etc. Interference by some superpowers also made things worse and destroyed the involved countries and citizens. They exploited the situations for political or economic purposes.

In the Saṁyutta Nikāya, there is a sutta called “Vepacitti or Patience” (SN. 11.4 Vepacittisuttaṃ). 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 and political leaders to deal with conflict.

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

Did Sakka from fear and weakness, endured Vepacitti patiently by listening to his harsh words? Sakka replied that he was neither through fear nor weakness and patience with the asura. He was a wise person and should not engage in combat with a fool. Mātali continued that if no one would keep the fools in check and 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 and 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 and 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 and 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 and one wins a battle hard to win. Someone should practice for the welfare of both, for himself and others. If the enemy is in anger and one should maintain his peace with mindfulness. In these ways, someone solves the problem for both his own and others. If people take him as a fool, then they are unskilled in Dhamma.

The quality of patience and forbearance is not only difficult to practice and 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 and rightly. There are two kinds of enemy or foe; i.e., internal and external.

The internal enemies are more dangerous and harmful than the external ones. Even the external ones come from the internal ones. This is not difficult to see. External pollution are the outcome of internal pollution 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 and 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 and the winner has enemies. (See the Palestinian and Israelis conflicts—the process is never ended, because of impatience and intolerance, tit for tat policies).

The loser suffers in this life and 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 and 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 and tolerance is the real strength. Only with non-hatred and non-violence can overcome hatred and violence, and solve the problems and 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 and paññā.

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

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

In the Khantivādi Hermit story (Jāt. 313 Khantivādi Jātaka), the bodhisatta was a hermit and 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 and legs. The bodhisatta bore all these physical sufferings with patience, forbearance, endurance and tolerance and still declared his Doctrine of Patience. At last, because of the nobility and greatness of the bodhisatta and the evilness of the king, the earth opened up and swallowed him to the hell realm.

Prince Temiya Story was very remarkable (Jāt. 538 Mūgapakkha Jātaka). In this bodhisatta story, we can read the perfections of resolution (adhiṭṭhāna), patience (khanti) and renunciation (nekkhamma). His patience and endurance to all the difficult tests were awe-inspiring. It seems to me except a highly developed bodhisatta would bear and succeed them.

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

The best known Mahaghandhayone Sayadawgyi U Janakabhivamsa had this saying: “Someone has patience with good and 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.

revised on 2020-05-29; cited from (posted on 2019-11-21)

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