Day 3: Summoning the World to Buddhahood

On Mon, 20 March, 2023 - 22:55
Vidyamala's picture

Day 3

Day three brings us to chapter 6: The Perfection of Forbearance.

After introducing the perfections of Generosity (Dana) and Ethics (Sila) yesterday in chapter 5, today we moved onto the Perfection of Forbearance (Ksanti).

Following our daily format, we listened to the text at 10.30 before Saddhanandi gave an excellent and clear commentary drawing on Shantideva’s words, Bhante’s teaching and her own experience of this aspect of practice.

She unpacked how Shantideva looks at forbearance in three main ways: forbearance towards suffering (verses 11-21), forbearance as a result of reflecting on the teaching (verses 22-32) and forbearance of the endurance of injuries from others (verses 33-75). The rest of the chapter is devoted to how we can view our enemies as our friends and how we should honour them! Of course, this is very challenging and counter-intuitive stuff, but it is our enemies who show us our mental afflictions and where we need to do the work of transformation. The correct attitude to those that provoke us, according to Shantideva, is profound gratitude.

Shantideva also chooses to spend a lot of the chapter giving teachings on anger. It is very strong medicine! He sees anger and forbearance as opposites: anger being the poison and forbearance being the antidote. [Read my notes here]

It seems fitting that we have entered this territory on Day 3 of the retreat. It’s a well-known phenomenon that this is the day when things often start to ‘bite’ for people in the ‘energetic arc’ of a retreat. Day 1 we are just arriving and settling – and often getting in touch with tiredness as we start to relax a little. Day 2 we are opening to the retreat conditions more deeply and energy starts to arise, and Day 3 is often when we become more aware of our habitual tendencies – regrettably, many of them unhelpful - as our awareness becomes more sensitive. Things bubble up and it can be a rather uncomfortable day for people, often accompanied by habits of seeing the faults of others: “why do they have to bang the door so loudly? Why do they have to use the shower at 6 am?” and so on…As Shantideva says – these people can be viewed as our friends and Day 3 can provide us with many friends!

Shantideva also goes straight to the heart of the matter in this chapter, like all the others. He stresses again and again how everything arises in dependence on causes and conditions and no one – self or other - has any autonomous existence. He shows how foolish it is to have anger towards a magical display (the illusion of fixed identity) and what a ridiculous, self-defeating way of going about life. The only outcome is to add to suffering in the world. How futile!

The atmosphere on the retreat is becoming very deep. We are all softening and opening in the remarkable conditions provided by Adhisthana along with the powerful medicine of the Bodhicaryavatara. It really is wonderful to be here with the other retreatants – both those here and those joining online.

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