Tolerance part 3 from a prose translation by Stephen Batchelor of the sixth chapter of Acarya Shantideva’s A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life (Bodhicaryavatara).
Although we childish people do not want to suffer, we are greedy for the causes of suffering. So why are we resentful to others when this harm is no fault but our own? It is just like the protectors of hell and the forest of razor-sharp leaves; it is the product of our very own actions. To what then should we direct our anger? Incited by our own deeds people come to cause us harm. But if as a result they should fall into hell, would we not be responsible for their destruction? In dependence upon them we can cultivate tolerance and thus purify our evils. Yet in dependence upon us, they will suffer in hell for a very long time. When it is we who cause harm to them and they who benefit us, why, deluded mind, do you turn everything around and become incensed with anger? If we respond with a nobility of heart, we will not proceed to hell. But although we will thus be protecting ourselves, what will become of them? And if we return the harm, that will not protect them either. It will only damage the integrity of our conduct and thereby destroy our practice.
The mind is not physical. Hence no one can destroy it. But since it is strongly attached to the body, the body can be inflicted with pain. Now if disrespect, insults and bad tidings do not hurt my body, why, mind, do you get so angry? Although others may dislike me, their ill-will cannot devour me either in this or another life. So why am I so averse to it? Perhaps I do not want it because it will interfere with my prosperity. But I will have to leave my wealth behind: only my evils will stubbornly remain. So it would be better for me to die today instead of living out my years in a self-destructive manner. For even if I should live long, an agonising death will surely await me.
Imagine that one person wakes up from a dream in which he experienced a hundred years of happiness and another wakes up from one in which he experienced only a brief moment of happiness. For both of these people their happiness will never return. Likewise, at the moment of death, it is just the same for one who has had a long life and one who dies young. Although you may acquire a great deal of wealth and enjoy it for a long time, finally you must go forth destitute and empty-handed as though you have been robbed of everything by a thief.
First published in the February 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.
To read more from Stephen click here.