Mangala Sutta: Patience

Venue: TIMS

Ven Kumara continues with the next blessing of the Mangala Sutta

Patience, which is the ability to keep calm when oppressed by unpleasant objects and feelings, is an important virtue. It has the qualities of forbearance, forgiveness and tolerance. Patience is not a weakness although fools may deem it so. It is a strength often practised and praised by the wise. The following two verses from the Dhammapada support this:

He who without resentment endures abuse, beating and punishment; whose power, real might, is patience — him do I call a holy man. (Dhp 399)

Patient endurance is the foremost austerity. (Dhp 184)

How is patience a blessing?

  • one stays happy even when scolded
  • it is good kamma, which brings only good results
  • it gives one a pleasant countenance (Ever seen a good-looking angry person before?)
  • it helps one to maintain good health, as the stress from impatience can shorten one’s life
  • it can lead one to a heavenly rebirth
  • it leads one to Nibbana, being an indispensable element in meditation

When does one need patience?

When one is verbally insulted, such as being teased or abused, can one have patience?

There is a story told of a fight between devas and asuras. The asura king, Vepacitti, instructed his subjects to bring to him Sakka, king of the devas, tied and bound if the asuras won. Likewise, Sakka told the devas to bring Vepacitti, tied and bound, to him in the Suddhamma Hall if they won. When the devas won the fight and Vepacitti was brought to Sakka, the former shouted abuse at Sakka.

His charioteer asked him: “How can you tolerate such abuse? Are you afraid of him?

Sakka answered, “No, but being wise, I do not quarrel with one who is mad.”

The charioteer disagreed, saying, “If we do not keep him in check, he’ll become worse.”

Sakka then said, “When one knows that one’s enemy is angry, one should keep one’s composure.”

The charioteer replied, “This sort of tolerance is wrong; it is a sign of weakness.”

Sakka then said, “Of all that can culminate in one’s own good, none is better than patience.”

The Buddha said that just as Sakka has patience, so too should bhikkhus.

Sometimes when one is given unflattering nicknames or hurtful labels (shorty, fatty, etc.), or subjected to other such forms of verbal abuse, one tends to lose patience and retaliate likewise. Physical pain, such as that brought about by one’s own carelessness, another’s actions, sickness or old age, can also cause one to lose patience.

When these unpleasant things happen to us, we tend to react in ways that lead to further suffering for oneself and others. Patience is a virtue that can save us from such unnecessary suffering.

Patience is also necessary in removing our bad habits of committing unwholesome actions. For example, in one’s effort to deal with an addiction to drugs, coffee, tobacco, etc., one needs a lot of patience.

How can we cultivate patience?

  • Meditation
    When one has a habit of cultivating one’s mind, one would naturally have patience. When provoked, one is even more keenly aware of the need to be patient.
  • Chanting
    Chanting a mantra, like “namo tassa”, or “amitabha”, etc. can also help. It is especially useful when we notice that we have lost our composure and are about to react with unwholesome speech and action.
  • Wise consideration
    Think of the consequences. If one has fear of a bad reputation or kamma, or shame of wrong doing, then one will exercise patience.

May we all be able to practise patience at all times. May this blessing always be ours.

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