Tolerance Part 1 from a prose translation by Stephen Batchelor of the sixth chapter of Acharya Shantideva’s A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life (Bodhicharyavatara).
Whatever good such as acts of generosity and worship of the Sugatas I have amassed during a thousand aeons will all be destroyed in a moment of anger.
There is no evil comparable to hatred and no practice as noble as tolerance. In all manner of ways will I earnestly learn to be patient.
If my heart is tormented by hatred, my mind will never be at peace. I will find neither joy nor wellbeing, neither sleep nor repose.
A worthy man, when possessed by hatred, will even be murdered by those very people who honour his beneficence with wealth and acclaim. Such a person distresses his friends. Although he draws them to him with his generosity, they do not trust him. In short, no one lives at ease with anger. It is an enemy which only creates suffering. But whoever makes an effort to overcome it, will be happy both here and elsewhere.
Fuelled by the discontent which stems from the frustration of my wishes and the occurrence of what I do not want, hatred flares up and destroys me. So I must overcome the fuel of my enemy — there is no other foe who can hurt me as much as this. Whatever happens I will not allow my inner contentment to be disturbed. For I cannot accomplish what I wish, by becoming upset, and my wholesome qualities only disintegrate. If something can be remedied, then why be annoyed with it? And even if it cannot be remedied, what good is it to be annoyed?
For myself and for those I love I want no suffering, no disrespect, no insults and no bad tidings; but for my enemies I want the opposite.
The causes of happiness rarely occur, whereas the causes for suffering are abundant. Yet without suffering, there is no renunciation. Therefore, mind, stay firm!
For no good reason, followers of Durga and the inhabitants of Karnata endure the sensations of being burned and cut. So, for the sake of liberation, why should I be timid? There is nothing at all which cannot become easier through practise. By getting used to slight discomforts, I can learn to tolerate greater hardships. Who has not seen this to be so, with such trifling pains as insect bites, pangs of thirst and hunger, and itching? Thus, do not be faint-hearted in the face of heat and cold, wind and rain, sickness, imprisonment or even torture; if you are, then the suffering they cause you will increase.
Some people become especially brave and resolute at the sight of their own blood, whereas others faint upon glimpsing the blood of someone else. This is due to their having either an intrepid or a timid disposition. Thus, one should try and disregard the injury and not be affected by the pain. When the sage experiences suffering, his mind remains clear and undisturbed. For, while waging war against the emotions, there is considerable pain at the times of conflict. And it is those who ignore the suffering and subdue such enemies as hatred that are the truly victorious heroes. The others are mere slayers of corpses.
First published in the June 1990 Buddhism Now.
Click here to read the other parts of Tolerance, chapter Six of Bodhicharyavatara (Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life)
To read more of the Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life from Stephen Batchelor click here.
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