Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Superior Person's Tranquility and the Bodhisattva's Patience

Patience and Tranquility
The bodhisattva and the superior person both seek to act in the world for the sake of others, they both value gentleness in their action. But Shantideva urges that the bodhisattva cultivate patience to balance this sincere desire to enact change. This relationship of zeal and patience is essential for the bodhisattva to maintain equanimity and to avoid deviations that may occur from an over eagerness to ‘fix’ the world. To steep oneself in patience, to return to simplicity, to make the most of rest, to achieve a balance of action and non-action is an essential key for the superior person as well. Confucius himself took up the study of the I Ching and its principles of action and non action. The later tradition greatly valued the balance of tranquility and movement, or tranquility in movement. Tranquility is closely related to loyalty to one’s self for the sake of benefiting others. To maintain a deep rooted connection to one’s own essence of humanity is essential for effective action. The superior person should return to themselves continuously until the habit of remaining true to one’s self is natural. This deep abiding is tranquility.
From tranquility, akin to equanimity, the superior person can remain centered, grounded while acting for the benefit of others. This tranquility of mind is the discipline of remaining true to one’s humanity, loyal to one’s self, without becoming distracted or disoriented by outside stimuli. This tranquility, like patience, is the continuing practice of allowing distractions to dissipate without grasping at them. Erroneous thoughts and desires are continually abandoned so that one is deeply connected to what remains, our essential humanity. Practicing tranquility means that the superior person will always act effectively, mindful of the goal of helping others to achieve themselves, helping them to flourish. Acting from vast inner tranquility allows the superior person to detach from ineffective confrontation, argument, and other distractions from the goal of nourishing one’s self and others. The bodhisattva’s patience is, like the superior person’s practice of tranquility, a cautious, guarded, practice of waiting, waiting for tranquility to arise. Once tranquility arises one can act mindfully, focused on the effectiveness of one’s action.
The patience to wait for tranquility is essential in avoiding mistakes in the work of the bodhisattva. With tranquility the superior person can avoid petty, angry speech. With the patience to wait for tranquility to arise the bodhisattva can avoid the ‘single flash of anger’ that can destroy the accumulated merits of the past in a single instant. The superior people, the bodhisattvas, understand the immense danger of acting without patience, without tranquility, and have trained themselves thoroughly to wait in silence for the right response to emerge. This tranquility is what separates a superior person from others. Others react blindly without patience, without waiting, while the superior person waits for the appropriate response to arise. When we wait and see the appropriate response, each instant becomes an opportunity to perform the profound transformative work of the bodhisattva and the superior person, the work of benefiting others. Patience is the ground of the strong enduring will of the bodhisattva, and of the ability of the superior person to keep going with joy. When the superior person has waited and established their own tranquility, they have learned to endure the fleeting inner states. Just so, the bodhisattva can differentiate the essential from the non-essential emotions in the actions, motives and stature of others. The superior person, practicing inner loyalty to the essential within them, enduring the inessential within, awaiting the re-establishment of tranquility, can then do the same with others. This allows the superior person to see that which is best within others and helps guide others in nourishing their humanity. Whenever we practice tranquility in action we can be superior people. Whenever we can patiently allow fleeting anger to pass out, tranquility arises, and with it the equanimity and true insight essential for performing the work of a bodhisattva.

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