the Supreme Medicine of Dharma
~ Shantideva on Patience
“Patience is a mind that is able to accept, fully and happily, whatever occurs. It is much more than just gritting our teeth and putting up with things. Being patient means to welcome wholeheartedly whatever arises, having given up the idea that things should be other than what they are. It is always possible to be patient; there is no situation so bad that it cannot be accepted patiently, with an open, accommodating, and peaceful heart.
Geshe Kelsang Gyatso in How to Solve Our Human Problems
As mentioned above, the main reason we become unhappy is because our wishes are not fulfilled or we have to deal with an unpleasant situation. However, as as Shantideva says in Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:
If something can be remedied,
Why be unhappy about it?
And if there is no remedy for it,
There is still no point in being unhappy.
If there is a way to remedy an unpleasant, difficult situation, what point is there in being unhappy? On the other hand, if it is completely impossible to remedy the situation or to fulfil our wishes, there is also no reason to get upset, for how will our becoming unhappy help? This line of reasoning is very useful, for we can apply it to any situation.
Patient acceptance does not necessarily mean that we do not take practical steps to improve our situation. If it is possible to remedy the situation, then of course we should; but to do this we do not need to become unhappy and impatient.
There are many benefits to be gained from patiently accepting suffering. Not only does it enable us to maintain a peaceful and positive mind in the face of distressing circumstances, but it also helps us to gain a clear and dispassionate view of the nature of our samsaric situation. There is a certain mental stability to be had merely from recognizing that every experience of pain or discomfort is the fault of our being caught up in samsara – of our being born, living, and dying in a state of unknowing and confusion.
Our real problem is not the physical sickness, difficult relationship, or financial hardship that we might currently be experiencing, but our being trapped in samsara. This recognition is the basis for developing renunciation, the spontaneous wish to attain complete freedom from every trace of dissatis- faction, which in turn is the foundation of all the higher spirit- ual realizations leading to the boundless happiness of liberation and enlightenment. But this recognition can only dawn within the clear and open mind of patient acceptance. For as long as we are in conflict with life’s difficulties, thinking that things should be different from the way they are and blaming circumstances or other people for our unhappiness, we shall never have the clarity or spaciousness of mind to see what it is that is really binding us. Patience allows us to see clearly the mental habit patterns that keep us locked in samsara, and thereby enables us to begin to undo them. Patience is therefore the foundation of the everlasting freedom and bliss of liberation.
Geshe Kelsang Gyatso in How to Solve Our Human Problems”