Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The Third Paramita is called Kshantí Paramita (Sanskrit) (Khanti in Pali) which variously translates as patience, forbearance, forgiveness, tolerance, endurance, acceptance, etc.
When we practice exercising patience or tolerance towards situations, circumstances or behavior which may not necessarily deserve it, we are practicing Kshanti. The practice of Kshanti should be seen as a conscious choice to actively and wholeheartedly give our patience and acceptance – as a gift – rather than to do so out of some feeling of social or personal obligation. Kshanti stems from feelings of compassion and love rather than oppression, and we therefore practice Kshanti as a voluntary action, and not because we have been forced or manipulated into acting in such a way.
To exercise patience in the sense that is implied by the practice of Kshanti doesn’t mean to simply ‘put up’ with something... it means having some balance, a sense of restraint. Often, when confronted with unpleasant or difficult situations or people, we react rather instinctively (and often negatively!) rather than respond appropriately. To exercise Kshanti is to open our heart to the world.. to life.. to others... being patient instead of being totally irritable and reactive. It means persevering through whatever twists and turns the path requires. Life most often does not unfold according to our pre-planned expectations. Often, our expectations are not even realistic, and yet, when we fail to realize them, we become frustrated, irritable, and unhappy. This unhappiness brings unhappiness to us, and to those around us. Practicing Kshanti, we freely accept that we will face obstacles, difficulties, failures, problems.. this is life.. and this is what it is to be a human being. What truly matters is what actually happens, however, since this is, in fact, our life and our story. So; although we naturally hope to achieve all of our goals and to meet with success in every venture that we undertake, it is a wise person who realizes and accepts that often life simply does not go according to plan, so, we must be patient not only with others and with circumstances, but, more importantly, with ourselves. To truly practice Kshanti is to start by having patience and tolerance with our inability to meet our own expectations, to accept our weaknesses, faults, hang-ups, and neuroses – to love ourselves, and to accept ourselves, just as we are. Once we can practice Kshanti towards our self, we can open our heart to others, and to the world, the universe, the cosmos. Accepting oneself in this way, totally and completely, gives us access to the vast open spaces of our own heart; space in which we may live and grow.
Whatever happens as our life unfolds is our story, so, why not simply accept this gift of life, whatever it happens to be?? In actuality, regardless of what we may hope for or expect, the truth is that we are all here for the whole show, so we should exercise Kshanti Paramita, and willingly see it through, wherever it ultimately takes us. It is our story. It is our life!! To avoid it or to miss it is not only a shame, and a waste; it is a crime!.
The simple (or not so simple!) fact is this: What life offers us is what we have to work with, period!
We are not going anywhere else; this is it! Very often, wisdom comes to people as they get older and this realization sets in. They realize that no matter what they do, they are going to keep on keeping on. That's the most secret, mystical meaning of the Kshanti Paramita.
People have often pointed out at this point that there are many who have decided to commit suicide.. and they ask me, “What about so and so who committed suicide?” Well, each of us is struggling with something, and, often our suffering and pain drives us to act in ways that are not in keeping with our true nature, or with our innate wisdom. Even then there is a type of flow, continuity or ‘on-going-ness’. We are all in it for the whole journey. Don't be deceived by mere appearances. Throughout nature, no matter where you look, death always results in new life and new beginnings, and I suspect that the ‘big picture’ is too big for me to understand. So, I am left with the decision, with each breath, to practice Kshanti Paramita... or not. We are always dying.. in every moment... we carry the seed of our own destruction within us... or, more accurately, the seed of our own destruction *IS* us... and not a separate thing or quality. We are also being born in every moment... always arriving... and never reaching our destination. Life is a process... and it is constantly flowing, and evolving, and happening. Life does not wait. Life simply is. We cant fold it up and put it neatly into a labeled pigeon-hole. We must exercise Kshanti.. be patient, accept what life unfolds in the eternal and ever-changing moment.
Whatever life confronts us with.. whatever we may be forced to engage, we will do it more skillfully and more artfully with a calm, clear, serene and tranquil mind. No matter *what* comes to us... if we have the presence of mind to call our wisdom and experience to bear, even if we have few options other than to endure what comes... we will do it better if we respond with forethought, wisdom, and an open, accepting, tolerant, loving, and patient mind than if we simply react out of irritability, fear, frustration, and anger.