Generosity, Self-Discipline and the Patience of Not Being Bothered by Harm

Peace of Mind and Its Causes

What is a happy mind? It is a satisfied, relaxed state of mind that has a long-term, broad perspective and so is not much disturbed by anything. This leads to a more efficient state of mind, with the ability to discriminate how to deal with problems effectively by seeing everything more clearly. 

Peace of mind is not a state of simply not thinking. Though not thinking provides some sense of relaxation, it is not special. Even a rabbit, after being fed, will relax and almost sit in the seven-part Vairochana posture. However, a rabbit is easily disturbed. Therefore, not thinking about problems is not a solution. 

On the other hand, accumulating material goods has its limitations. Even if we were to possess all the material objects in the world, we would still not be satisfied. We would want even more. Another limitation of material objects is that when we die, we lose everything we’ve gathered throughout our life. So, it’s best to develop a sense of contentment from the start regarding accumulating material things. But with something that has no such limitations, such as mental development, we must never be content with what we have, but continue to develop ourselves further until we reach enlightenment. 

If we experience a severe trauma, we should not let it stop us from continuing to work on developing ourselves. When we analyze what we’ve experienced, we can see that it was the result of our karmic potentials. As we reflect on conditioned suffering, we see that as long as we continue to be reborn in samsara because of our ignorance and disturbing emotions, which are the true enemies, we will continue to experience traumatic events. We are actually fortunate that we experience great suffering on the basis of a human life, rather than in one of the other realms. 

As Geshe Potowa explained, “Nothing is surprising about that fact that we have suffering. After all, we are born with disturbing emotions, having been born from them.”

Far-Reaching Generosity

To develop ourselves further, we need to adopt and expand the six far-reaching attitudes. Generosity, the first of the six, is emphasized in all religions. In Buddhism, there are three types:

  • Giving material aid
  • Giving the Dharma
  • Giving freedom from fear.

Generosity is the willingness to give – to give, for instance, material objects. It is not merely the absence of miserliness, but also an awareness of the benefits of giving and the faults of grasping. Shravakas and pratyekabuddhas have developed generosity but without the broad awareness that bodhisattvas have. 

These three types of generosity are practiced primarily by three types of persons. Giving material support is primarily the practice of laypersons, while giving Dharma teachings is primarily the practice of the monastic community. For those lay people with more power and wealth, their main form of generosity is to save lives, for instance by buying animals headed to slaughter. 

We can also be generous with our bodies, for instance, by donating our organs when we die. Even while alive, we can donate a kidney or cornea, and not only to our relatives. At the same time, when we offer anything, we should know the purpose as well as the appropriate object to give and time to give it. Therefore, we wouldn’t offer supper to a monk or nun – they have vows not to eat after lunch – or oily food to a person with hepatitis. In other words, it is important not to give what might harm others, such as weapons or poison. In some cases, of course, poison can work as medicine for a sick person, as with snake venom. In the same vein, it is improper to sell land that will be used for raising animals for slaughter, like for a fishery or poultry factory.

If it were possible to donate our brain to someone who can benefit others more, then that would be fine. This only works, however, if we have reached the stage where the brain or the whole body can be given, and it doesn’t cause mental suffering or make our bodhichitta decline at all. But if we are not at that stage, we can excuse ourselves from such extraordinary acts of generosity. 

Giving Dharma teachings is not restricted just to when sitting on a throne, but includes, as well, counselling people with good advice and educating others in any type of school, but with a pure motivation. In counselling or teaching others, for instance about kindness and responsibility, it is essential that we embody these qualities ourselves. This makes a strong impression.

Preparing and publishing books is also an important aspect of the generosity of giving Dharma. But when we teach the Dharma to someone, we must make sure that what we teach is relevant and suits their disposition. One Buddhist master taught a king that all phenomena are void, which the king misunderstood as an accusation that he himself was nothing. Taking it as a challenge to his authority, he had this master beheaded for treason!

Giving freedom from fear includes releasing those who have been unjustly imprisoned, saving endangered species, supporting Amnesty International, working to stop capital punishment, joining peace movements, establishing no-hunting and no-fishing sanctuaries, and supporting human rights groups. Being a vegetarian, out of compassion for sentient being’s lives and not just for our own health, is generous as a practice of non-violence. Working as a doctor, nurse or social worker in a nursing home for the elderly, or a school for the blind or disabled, is also a practice of generosity. We can help take care of hospice patients dying from AIDS or cancer, and so on, and support relief for victims of earthquakes, famines and floods. 

However, all these acts of generosity depend on the motivation. If we give with pride, or with a sense of competition, then all of the positive force, the “merit,” built up is utterly wasted. Likewise, if we only ever give to friends and family, and never to enemies or those we don’t like, then our motive is obviously biased and improper. If we were to give Dharma or save lives solely with the aim of wanting thanks, acknowledgement or to be repaid, that would be wrong. If we desire fame, like wanting to win the Nobel Prize, then our practice of generosity is totally wasted. If we give something small with the hope of receiving something larger in return, we just have the mind of a businessperson. Even if we give with the hope that the karmic result will be our own wealth and prosperity in future lives, this is another example of having an ulterior motive. 

When we give, we should dedicate not just the object but also the fruits of giving it to the future benefit of all limited beings. We should give without any expectation of a good result. Give with respect to the recipient, without looking at them as being lower or higher than ourselves. When giving to someone who thinks they are special, keep in mind how we often think how we are special. With utter joy, give to the ten types of recipients of our generosity: friends, strangers, enemies, those with good qualities, those with faults, those higher, lower, or equal to us, those who are happy, and those who are afflicted with suffering.

When we give to our enemies or those we don’t like, we should do so without hostility but with special loving kindness; when to friends and relatives, without attachment; when to strangers, without indifference; when to those with good qualities, without envy; when to those lower than us, without looking down on them; and so on. We should give to each with an appropriate attitude. 

In short, we precede any act of generosity with an altruistic motive, maintain an altruistic attitude during the act and complete it by dedicating the positive force. We do all this while keeping mindful of the lack of self-established existence of the giver, the recipient and the object given. 

We can establish our altruistic motivation each morning, especially if setting our motivation is difficult before we do each action. We think, “Today, I will make my life meaningful,” and then during the day we try to recollect, maintain and remain mindful of our altruistic attitude.  At night, we review and rejoice in the positive, altruistic things we have done during the day, and regret and try not to repeat any negative, selfish ones that occurred.  

Far-Reaching Ethical Self-Discipline

Ethical self-discipline is the mind to restrain ourselves from generating the attitude to cause harm to others and to refrain from actually engaging in actions that in fact cause them harm. Instead, it is the mind to engage in positive actions that bring them some benefit. Thus, we restrain ourselves us from having a self-cherishing attitude. Doing so doesn’t mean that we neglect fulfilling our own aims. Refraining from having a self-cherishing attitude serves to further our own aims of reaching enlightenment. 

There are three types of ethical self-discipline, encompassing the entire practice of bodhisattvas:

  • The ethical self-discipline to refrain from destructive behavior 
  • The ethical self-discipline to engage in constructive acts
  • The ethical self-discipline to help others.

The order of the three is definite. As a bodhisattva we practice the ethical self-discipline to help all others fulfil their own aims. To help all beings to do this, we need to develop our own faculties and capacities as much as possible; just having a good motivation alone is not enough. We can help others achieve temporary happiness, that of a human rebirth, as well as ultimate happiness with liberation and enlightenment. But to help them to achieve any of these goals, we need to know the process for reaching these goals. This is not just knowing the lineage and history of these teachings; we need to know the process from our own personal experience of practicing the methods. We do this by developing good qualities that we have not yet developed and strengthening those that we already have developed. This is the ethical self-disciple to engage in constructive acts.  

To do this, we need to rid ourselves of negative qualities that we have already developed and not develop those that we have not developed. This is the ethical self-discipline to refrain from destructive behavior. 

In Four Hundred Verse Treatise, Aryadeva advised:

(VIII.15) First, turn away from demeritorious actions.

This refers to actions that arise as the result of our disturbing emotions. Therefore, first we need to refrain from thinking, speaking and acting with disturbing emotions. This is the ethical self-discipline to refrain from destructive behavior. On the basis of that, we then need to develop the opponent factors that will counter and remove the disturbing emotions – namely, the three higher trainings. Developing them requires the ethical self-discipline to engage in constructive acts. Then to help others, we need to know their needs and how to help them: what they need to adopt and what they need to rid themselves of. To know this, we need to develop discriminating awareness so that, with that, we can employ the ethical self-discipline to help others.

The Ethical Self-Discipline to Refrain from Destructive Behavior

The ethical self-discipline to refrain from destructive behavior entails taking and keeping the pratimoksha (individual liberation), bodhisattva and tantric vows. Both the pratimoksha and bodhisattva vows share in common the vow to abandon acting destructively. Without pratimoksha vows, we would not give up engaging in the ten destructive actions. For laypersons, there are one-day pratimoksha vows and upasaka or upasika vows for life. For monastics, there are full ordination and novice vows. 

We can see the importance of pratimoksha vows by considering the great Buddhist masters who have held them. For example, among the Five Sakya Masters, the Three White Masters [Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, Sonam Tsemo and Dragpa Gyaltsen] were laymen with the five upasaka vows, but the Two Red Masters [Chogyal Phagpa and Sakya Pandita] were bhikshus (full monks). Marpa, Milarepa and Rechungpa were laymen, but Gampopo and the First Karmapa, on the other hand, were, monks. At Nalanda in India, there were probably some lay students, though most students there were monks. Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, the close disciples of the Buddha and so on were all monks. Shantarakshita and Kamalashila were also monks, and Dromtonpa was a celibate upasaka. 

To uphold the Dharma means to uphold the Tripitaka and its contents. The most complete and fullest way to do this is as a fully ordained monastic. At the minimum, you need to be a layperson upholding all the upasaka or upasika vows. In both cases, you need to be someone upholding all three sets of vows: pratimoksha, bodhisattva and tantra.

With Dharma practice, we aim for liberation from suffering and take refuge in nirvana. To attain nirvana, liberation, we need to overcome all our disturbing emotions. They are our real enemy. To rid ourselves of our disturbing emotions, we need these three vows – pratimoksha, bodhisattva and tantra – all of which have as their target the elimination of disturbing emotions. We need to understand that the destructive actions we do arise from our disturbing emotions, and when we understand this, we can at least refrain from the ten destructive actions. 

The Ethical Self-Discipline to Engage in Constructive Acts

The ethical self-discipline to engage in constructive acts entails building up the two networks (two collections) of positive force (merit) and deep awareness (wisdom). This means developing method and wisdom. The method side entails the development of love and compassion, the wisdom side an understanding of voidness and also impermanence. As for the disturbing emotions to be eliminated, some arise based conceptually on a distorted view and some automatically arise without such a view. 

Those that arise based on a distorted view include grasping for a static, partless, independently existing self, an extreme outlook, holding a deluded outlook as supreme and an outlook of holding deluded morality or conduct as supreme. They arise based, in addition, on incorrect discriminating awareness. They are stronger, in a sense, than those that are not based on a distorted view since they have some degree of certainty and conviction to them, as we feel they are based on reason. 

There are antidotes for those with and without views, some which reduce the disturbing emotions and some that eliminate them completely. For instance, love and compassion reduce anger. When we see the flaws and faults in the objects that we conceptualize as being so beautiful, seeing their ugliness reduces desire, and so on. But it doesn’t work like that for disturbing emotions based on a distorted view. To counteract them, we need a correct view with a mode of apprehension that is the exact opposite toward the same object. The opponent that eliminates completely our disturbing emotions is the non-conceptual total absorption (meditative equipoise) on voidness. Seeing things differently – for example seeing what we consider beautiful as ugly – is something that we can only apply during a subsequent realization phase of meditation (post-meditation). By itself, it is not sufficient. We need the deep awareness of voidness in the total absorption phase.

Meditation, then, is one of the essential practices of the ethical self-discipline of engaging in constructive acts. Meditation is a method to habituate ourselves to a beneficial state of mind through effort. Gaining a beneficial state of mind will not happen just naturally without exerting effort. In the context in which we’ve been discussing, this beneficial state refers to gaining a correct view, with non-conceptual meditative absorption on voidness. 

There are two ways to discipline our undisciplined mind to generate this beneficial state of a correct understanding of voidness. One is through gaining full conviction in the truth of the correct view; the other is based on just presuming it to be true. But just presuming it to be true is not enough. Only through thorough examination and analysis can our understanding and conviction in it not be swayed. Once we gain firm conviction, we can then focus single-pointedly on the correct view. 

But how do we describe the mind that we seek to manifest in meditative absorption on the correct view of voidness, especially in terms of the clear light mind? Until we reach the advanced stages, we must let books be our teachers for this. We can only access the “realization Dharma teachings” (rtogs-bstan) after we have relied on the “scriptural Dharma teachings” (lung-bstan) in the Tripitaka

The Sakya school explains clear light in terms of the “causal continuum that is the alaya foundation for all” (kun-gzhi rgyu’i rgyud, the causal everlasting continuum of the all-encompassing foundation). 

[The causal continuum alaya is an “essential factor for a Thusly Gone One” (de-gshegs snying-po, Skt. tathagatagarbha; literally, “womb for a Tathagata), a Buddha-nature factor. It refers to the clear light mind; and, when unmanifest, it gives rise to all impure appearances. As such, it is the basis to be purified.] 

Khyentse Wangchug in the lobshay (slob-bshad, explanations for advanced disciples) transmission of the lamdre (path and its results) teachings, asserts that this causal continuum alaya is a conventional, superficially true phenomenon that is both an affected (conditioned, nonstatic) phenomenon and a way of being aware of something. Clear light as an object is very difficult to reach and, being beyond words and concepts, never manifests as an “object.” Although the causal continuum that is the alaya foundation for all is manifest as the clear light mind when the clear light state is manifest, and in this state gives rise to pure appearances, it is not something that can be transformed and used as a path. 

Mangto Ludrub Gyatso, who like Khyentse Wangchug, was also a disciple of Tsharchen Losel Gyatso, explained that this causal continuum alaya is an ultimate phenomenon, and referred to it as an ultimate all-encompassing foundation (mthar-thug-gi kun-gzhi) since it is ultimately the source of all appearances, impure and pure.  

The Nyingma master Longchen Rabjampa, in Wish-fulfilling Treasury (Yid-bzhin mdzod) considered the clear light mind, referring to pure awareness, rigpa (rig-pa), as ultimate, and when it is obscured by adventitious taints, as conventional. In the Guhyasamaja tradition, the clear light mind is taken as a deepest truth and illusory body as conventional. So here are three different ways in which the term “ultimate” or “deepest” is used in reference to the clear light mind; and some Indian and Tibetan masters don’t give a conclusive explanation of it at all. 

Therefore, although we need to keep a pure view of such great persons, we need to examine what they teach. In other words, we need the support from the four reliances (ston-pa bzhi):

  • Do you not rely on the person, but on their teachings
  • Do not rely on their words, but on their meanings
  • Do not rely on their interpretable meanings, but on their definitive meanings
  • Do you not rely on ordinary consciousness, but on deep awareness.

It is difficult to practice meditation in society, not due to society itself but because of our own lack of familiarity with meditation. After all, seasoned great practitioners are able to meditate perfectly well while living in society and are able to gain new insights while practicing there. But for those of us who are not yet at that level, we need proper, conducive circumstances for developing the ethical self-discipline of engaging in positive acts such as deep meditation. We need to safeguard our senses, so we don’t meet with objects that cause our disturbing emotions to arise. Therefore, it is advised to meditate in isolation. 

Having a caring attitude (bag-yod) of being careful doesn’t mean give up or curtailing our freedom. We need a caring attitude toward ourselves to take care and be careful, just as when we are sick. Therefore, exercising self-discipline is not a useless restriction. Just as when we are sick, we refrain from certain foods and so on, in the same way, we apply self-discipline by seeing the long-term and short-term benefits. Ethical self-discipline is not something imposed externally, rather we see its purpose and exercise it ourselves. 

To exercise ethical self-discipline, we need to maintain our mental hold on it with mindfulness (dran-pa) so as not to drop it, and we need to know what to adopt and what to discard. We also need the power of alertness (shes-bzhin) to see if the actions of our body, speech and mind are appropriate or not. To do this, we should think that we are Buddhist practitioners, and that we wish to destroy our disturbing emotions. With this resolve, we can then develop mindfulness and alertness; otherwise, when we act badly, we’ll only realize afterwards and then feel ashamed. 

We need to be moderate with food, as overeating dulls the mind. Also, of course, if we overeat, we’ll gain too much weight that we have to then carry around like a heavy load! So, we need self-discipline. It is helpful to engage in some yoga practice, but not if we sleep late. It is best to use the early morning for practice, when the mind is clear. Of course, in order to get up early, we need to stop wandering around late at night! 

In An Anthology of Special Topics of Knowledge (mNgon-pa chos kun-las btus pa, Skt. Abhidharma-samuccaya), Asanga classified sleep as a changeable factor: it can be constructive or destructive depending on the motivation. We can go to sleep with a positive motivation, perhaps thinking, “I’ll get up early tomorrow and do prostrations.” In tantra, we can do certain practices in our dreams through the force of our motive or the force of the subtle energy-winds. But to be able to maintain the clear light of dreams, we must first recognize the dream as a dream. If we can recognize the clear light of dreams, we’ll be able to identify the clear light at the time of death more easily. 

Then in our day-to-day practice, including our dreams, we can make everything into a constructive practice. We can offer our food and drink to the Three Jewels, give our leftovers as gifts to insects, and our spit and urine as offerings for the preta ghosts. To make our lives meaningful, the most important thing is maintaining mindfulness of bodhichitta and voidness. All scriptures are witnesses to this point. All of this is the ethical self-discipline of engaging in constructive acts. 

The Ethical Self-Discipline of Helping Others

As for the ethical self-discipline of helping others, there are eleven ways of doing this. There are many scriptural sources for them, including Engaging in Bodhisattva Conduct and Compendium of Trainings (bSlab-btus, Skt. Shikshasamuccaya) both by Shantideva, and the Ethical Self-discipline Chapter of The Bodhisattva Stages (Byang-sa, Skt. Bodhisattvabhumi) by Asanga. All of which contain many quotable verses. I’m now looking at the list of the eleven in the Fifth Dalai Lama’s Lam-rim, Guideline Instructions of Manjushri (‘Jam-dpal zhal-lung). The eleven ways are:

  1. In general, help those who are suffering, protect their homes, their possessions, provide medical assistance to the sick, glasses to those with poor sight, prosthetics and wheelchairs to the disabled, and so on.
  2. Teach people constructive skills for gaining a right livelihood, and not, for example, for running a poultry factory.
  3. Give material gifts and invitations, for instance for meals.
  4. Help those facing fear of wild animals.
  5. Help and console those tormented by misfortune, such as those separated from their parents, those who have lost dear ones, or who have been robbed. Also, help those who complain a lot. Atisha’s cook, Ame Jangchub, complained to Dromtonpa saying, “I have to cook all the time. I have no time to practice,” and so Dromtonpa replied, “I have to translate all the time.” Dromtonpa went on to say that while Atisha was alive, the best practice, however, was to serve him. In this way, he gave Ame Jangchub encouragement. Therefore, we can help those who complain to us by sharing our complaints with them, but then concluding, “however…” and providing advice. If we just look down on those who complain, that is arrogance. These, then, are ways to help the tormented.
  6. Provide food and drink to those in need and give material aid and Dharma to the deprived. Don’t tell them, of course, to cheat others in order to make money.
  7. Give advice to those who seek our support, so that they will be able to take care of themselves. This entails using the four ways to gather others to us.
  8. If others are discouraged with their constructive practice, share their concern and help to remove their discouragement. 
  9. Praise the good qualities of others, even if they have many faults. This helps encourage them to further enhance their good qualities.
  10. Punish those who are always intentionally destructive, as a way to help them, and be stricter when needed.
  11. Resort to performing miraculous acts, if helpful and we’re capable, although maybe now all we might be able to do is some magic tricks! 

In short, the ethical self-discipline of helping others is to benefit them in accordance with their situations, dispositions and so on.

Far-Reaching Patience

The far-reaching patience that we need is best described by Shantideva in Engaging in Bodhisattva Conduct. There, he explains three types:

  • The patience of not being bothered by harm
  • The patience of readily accepting suffering
  • The patience of bearing hardship while engaging in Dharma practice. 

The Patience of Not Being Bothered by Harm

Describing patience, Shantideva wrote:

(V.13) Where could I possibly find the leather to cover with leather the whole surface of the earth? But with leather just on the soles of my shoes, it's the same as having covered the entire earth's surface.
(V.14) Likewise, although it's impossible for me to ward off external events; if I would ward off my mind, what need to ward off anything else?

In other words, patience will not eliminate all enemies and troublemakers, but rather it is the state of mind that eliminates anger and keeps us calm in the face of adversity. Just as covering our feet with leather would be the same as paving the whole world with leather, likewise, if we safeguard our minds with patience, we will not be bothered anywhere by harm or those who cause harm. 

Shantideva gives many methods for developing the patience of not being bothered by harm. For instance, he wrote:

(VI.87) Even if your enemy lacks any joy, what's there in that for you to take delight? The mere wish in your mind won't become the cause for (any) harm to him.

Patience is free from anger even when the harm is done to us or our relatives. If our enemies prosper, we are usually unhappy, and if they suffer, we’re happy. For our friends and relatives, it’s the opposite; we are usually happy when they prosper and suffer when they’re sad. But our happiness at our enemy’s suffering is food for our anger; and, as the effect of anger, we are the ones who become unhappy and suffer.

Shantideva spoke of the need for compassion toward those who are angry:

(VI.37) When people kill even their beloved selves from coming under the power of disturbing emotions, how can it be that they wouldn't cause injury to the bodies of others?
(VI.38) When I can't even develop compassion, once in a while, for those like that, who, with disturbing emotions arisen, would proceed to such things as killing themselves, at least I won't get enraged (with them).

Other people hurt us because they are under the power of anger. If they are extremely angry, they may even harm themselves. Angry people even victimize weaker members of their own family. Such people need to be objects of our compassion, not our anger. We should also realize that we do exactly the same when we are angry. Self-control is of utmost importance. We must know that when people are in the grip of anger, they act like a crazy person and are helpless. 

Also, when we get angry, we are getting angry at the wrong object. Shantideva explained:

(VI.41) Having set aside the actual (cause of my pain), a staff or the like, if I become enraged with the person who wielded it, well he, in fact, was incited by anger, so he's secondary (too). It would be more fitting to get enraged with his anger.
(VI.43) Both his weapon and my body are the causes of my suffering. Since he drew out a weapon and I a body, toward which should I get enraged?

If someone strikes us with a weapon like a long, heavy stick, consider this: when a long stick is used to beat a stone, the stone experiences no pain. But if our body is hit with a long stick, we experience pain and suffering. Since we provided the body and the other person the long stick, both we and they are equally responsible for our pain and suffering.   

Furthermore, why don’t we get angry at the long stick that is hurting us? We say it’s because the long stick is being manipulated by the person. But the person is also being controlled by disturbing emotions. Yet we still get angry at the person rather than the weapon or the disturbing emotion.

Shantideva also explained:

(VI.39) (Even) if acting violently toward others were the functional nature of infantile people, still, it'd be as unfitting to get enraged with them as it would be for begrudging fire for its functional nature of burning.
(VI.40) And even if this fault were fleeting instead, and limited beings were lovely by nature, well, still it would be as unfitting to get enraged as it would be for begrudging the sky for the (pungent) smoke that was rising (in it).

If we think that human nature is something that will never change, then when someone acts badly in keeping with their nature, why get angry? It’s like getting angry at fire for being hot. And if acting badly is just something temporary, why get angry at people who act badly, since that’s not their nature.

There is no reason to get angry at others who damage our fame. Shantideva pointed out:

(VI.90) Praise and fame, (these) shows of respect, won't bring positive karmic force, won't bring a long life, won't bring bodily strength, nor freedom from sickness; they won't bring physical pleasure either.

If others have not directly harmed us physically, but are attempting to destroy our fame and status, there is no need to get angry. We need to understand that words of praise and fame are just empty words. If we become famous, unless we have control over ourselves, we get all puffed up. Dromtonpa said that even if the world’s population were to put us at the crown of their heads, we should still stay humble. 

In the lojong mind training, it is regarded as good to be defamed, because through this we can understand our own faults; otherwise, when we are praised, we simply become arrogant. Name and fame are obstructions to Dharma practice as they lead to distractions. Thus, if an enemy damages our fame, they are being kind and actually helping us. 

When enemies try to harm us, we would normally get angry, but through them we can practice patience. The Buddha, good friends and well-behaved pets do not offer us such opportunities to practice patience. We can only practice patience with naughty pets! Even our lamas don’t give us this kind of opportunity to practice. Therefore, we should be grateful to our enemies. 

Shantideva added:

(VI.109) Suppose I said, "But he had no intention for (me) to actualize patience, so this enemy isn't someone to be honored." Well, how is it that the hallowed Dharma is honored as suited to be a cause for actualizing (it)?

We might counter the above argument by saying that our enemies have the motive to harm us, rather than to help us. But then, we aren’t considering how the third noble truth or liberation can help us. Liberation also has no motive to help us, so why do we take refuge in it? When we suffer, true cessation has absolutely no motive to help us. But true cessation is important because it is useful and of benefit. That’s the same as with an enemy.

We might further counter that true cessation doesn’t have a motive to harm us, but that’s not the same with an enemy, so we think that with an enemy it’s all right to retaliate. But it is precisely because they have the motivation to harm us that such people are called “enemies” and enable us to practice patience. 

If we try to retaliate, it will never help us to overcome suffering. In Engaging in the Middle Way (dBu-ma-la ‘jug pa, Skt. Madhyamaka-avatara), Chandrakirti stated:

(III.4) When someone has harmed you, if you begrudge them, does your begrudging them reverse what has already been done? Therefore, begrudging definitely serves no purpose here in this life, and brings adversity even in the world beyond.

When we are angry with an enemy, the harm we’ve already experienced is not at all eliminated. In fact, if we are angry with harm already done, it doesn’t destroy suffering but rather just brings us more suffering to the point where we can’t even eat or sleep. We suffer more, and we are the ones responsible for that suffering we experience. If we practice patience, on the other hand, it becomes a cause for peace of mind. 

In short, when we are happy, think that it is the result of our past constructive acts and wish that it be the cause for the happiness of all others, as this will destroy arrogance. When we suffer, think, “By this, may I dry up all the oceans of suffering of others.” 

Having received these teachings, it is important to rejoice. As Geshe Chekawa wrote at the conclusion of Seven Point Mind Training (Blo-sbyong don-bdun-ma):

I requested the guideline instructions to tame my self-grasping. Now even if I die, I have no regrets.

Similarly, we should think, “I have received all the instructions for ridding myself of self-cherishing; so even if I die, I am satisfied that I have received all that I need.”