Bodhisattvacharyavatara: Chapter VI, Patience – verses ; embroidery

Embroidery, chapter VI, verses 12-21

The Patience of Accepting and Enduring Suffering is the first of the three layers of practising patience as response to one’s own personal suffering.   This is the suffering born from the wanting-what-you-cannot-have and not-wanting-what-you’ve-got of verse 7, and the related-to-oneself part of verse 11.   (The French translation of) Togmé Zangpo (‘s commentary headings – I pray that someone will translate the full commentary someday within my lifetime) has it as ‘Acceptance’; in Meaningful to Behold as ‘Voluntary Endurance’.   This is the initial dealing with one’s anger so it is fairly unsophisticated.   It doesn’t stop anger, it just deals with the results of my having previously set up so many causes for whatever current shower of sufferings are happening in this life,

How (Skt. kathaṃ) can I attain happiness (Skt. saukhyaṃ) when the causes for happiness are obtained (Skt. cil labhyate) only through great effort and very rarely (Skt. ayatnataḥ), and when the seeds­ of pain and sorrow (Skt. duḥkhaṃ) are so prevalent, relentless and multifarious that they are realised easily and without any effort (Skt. sthitam)?

– transglomeration VI, S12a/T12ab

Accepting and/or enduring the suffering happening in one’s life is the first step in just recognising what is going on here.   What is going on here is that I am experiencing this whole shower of binds and knots from a million big and little tangles that I made in a million separate acts and a million separate words and a million separate thoughts in a million different situations at a million different times during a million different lifetimes all of them clustered around a million individual whorls of what I wanted/didn’t want at those million different times.   And these are tangles in what?   They are tangles in the flow of cause and conditioning of the million different wants/don’t wants of the million other beings with their million different whorls of identity in their million different worlds.   And those millions of millions of millions of binds and knots that I have created are constantly pulling, so many of them; any million of them will be pulling one way in one moment, another in the next.   Binds and knots of them getting tighter and tighter, many of them strangely familiar by now, many of them having that strange pattern which somehow shapes my life.   And every once in a while some of the knots get entangled with other knots that just get in the way and then there is yet another bind, oceans of it, long since drowned, long since I knew what was what.

This is just accepting karma.   The practice of accepting and enduring suffering just dampens the overwhelm of this.   It stops the tendency to ‘why does this all happen to me?’, feeling sorry or anxious or persecuted or despairing for or about or of oneself.   It balances ones reaction to ‘my life’ by seeing it for what it is – the causes and situations for happiness are few, those for suffering and frustration are many – and it gives one the ownership of why it is like this, of why ‘my life’ is like it is.   So accepting/enduring suffering dampens the effects of life by holding one from going into a reactive head-in-the-sand (or head-in-the-hand) self-pity.   And it also empowers one by enabling the perspective that it (one’s experience of life) is constructed around those millions of tangles you create every time you flex your self’s want/don’t want: all this stuff is not happening to you, there is not something or someone ‘out there’ dealing you a fair/unfair hand, there is no implacable destiny (no cackling witches stood around a pot) over which you have no possibility of influencing.   The dampening gives you a bit of space to breathe, the empowering gives you a bit of wisdom to do something about it …,

And yet it is only from suffering (Skt. duḥkhenaiva ca) that the thought and longing for escape and liberation from the suffering of conditioned existence will come about (Skt. niḥsāraḥ), therefore (Skt. tasmād), O my deepest mind (Skt. cetas), hold yourself strong, patient, steadfast (Skt. dṛḍhībhava)!

– transglomeration VI, S12b/T12cd

… and so this verse sketches that what can be done is the conception that all of these binds and knots could be untangled – I snagged them all up, I could untangle them all, or even, at the very least, I could stop making them any more tangled by just accepting and enduring the already-tangled binds and knots as they are, that this is how they came about.

This is phrased as ‘the thought and longing for escape and liberation’, or ‘renunciation’, otherwise translated as ‘definite emergence’, or ‘getting out of this tangle’.   This first ‘layer’ of practising patience is not full-blown renunciation, but it is the start of it.   Acceptance of suffering with this level of understanding of one’s inextricable involvement in the binds and knots of life open up the possibility that if my life is just one huge tangle then it could be untangled – it can be untangled.   Enduring the binds and knots of life for what it is, is not a gritted-teeth endurance of an implacable pre-ordained life for which there is no purpose, it is the birth of a wisdom, the threads of a life that can be untangled placed right in the palms of your hand.

If the devotees of Durgā, the people of Karnāta (Skt. durgāputrakakarṇāṭā), can pointlessly (Skt. vṛthā) endure the torment and agony (Skt. sahante) of self-inflicted burns, piercing, mutilation and the like (Skt. dāhacchedādivedanām) in order to free the atman (Skt. muktyartham), then why (Skt. kasmāt) am I so timid, weak and faint-hearted (Skt. kātaraḥ) when my aim is for the Great Liberation of all?

– transglomeration VI, 13

Enduring life is the first exercise of that wisdom, and so this verse is encouraging one to practise that endurance for all your life’s worth; the example Śāntideva gives is of (then contemporary) ascetics who endure all sorts of mortifications in worship of a goddess, some of which mortifications involve having many hooks (like fishing hooks) inserted through the skin of one’s back, all attached to wire, enough to spread the weight over a wide-enough area of the back, so that when the devotee is gently hoisted above ground, his – and yes, it is usually a ‘he’ that got to practise this sort of austerity – back will not rip from his body as long as he is in a state of devotion to the goddess offering his controlled suffering for her delight, her devotion or for reward.   Now that is endurance, but it is questionable whether that endurance will reap the hoped for reward, however that reward was conceived.   Alright, modern examples could be working for days without sleep, fasting until illness to lose weight, training to injury to be the best of the best of the best.   It is endurance for questionable gain, and yet if people can superhumanly endure for questionable gain, then we could at least humanly endure the suffering in our life for the definite gain of being able to untangle it … ‘yeah, I could do ‘enduring’ for that, I could probably take it quite far for a good reason’.

And so how do I endure, how do I do it right, where do I start (‘where are those fish hooks, where are those amphetamines’)?   Verses 14-19i are the instruction: familiarity/acquaintance, (or as Pema Chodron titled her book on training the mind, ‘Start Where You Are’).   It’s familiarisation with what?   It’s with that glimpse of seeing that you are implacably woven in to the experiences of the life of which you are the experiencer and the co-creator, that you reap what you sow, that what goes around comes around, that you lay in the bed you made, that the shit that happens in life you probably defecated yourself if you really think about it.   The practice of ‘Accepting’ that the suffering is happening, the familiarisation with it, is the renewing of this realisation again and again: you cannot be completely innocent from any of the experiences you yourself experience.   And that familiarising oneself with this again and again and again and again, is … endurance, wise endurance, overview endurance, practical endurance, responsible endurance, calm endurance.

Verse 14 then specifies how you launch the practice of endurance by starting with the small sufferings and building up to the larger ones:

There isn’t anything whatsoever (Skt. na kiṃcid asti) that can remain difficult by itself (Skt. duṣkaram) and that doesn’t become easier to accomplish (Skt. tad vastu) through familiarity, through practice, through acquaintance (Skt. abhyāsasya).   And so (Skt. tasmān) through tolerance and habituation with slight pain and difficulty (Skt. mṛduvyathābhyāsāt) even great suffering and adversity (Skt. mahāvyathā) is gradually rendered bearable (Skt. soḍhavyāpi) as I learn to practise acceptance, endurance, forbearance.

– transglomeration VI, 14

… standard training advice really: start where you are, do what you can do naturally, easily, and then minutely push it, just a bit, almost by nothing, hardly noticeable, again and again and again.   If you go ALL OUT and try to endure everything from the start you’ll break yourself and end up able to endure even less than when you started.   So, yes, the aim is to build up one’s endurance to the extent that the ascetics of verse 13 can build up their endurance for-no-good-reason, but you start from where you are, and where you are is only just having realised that there is something to endure here at all.   And for a really good reason.

You are just on the threshold in verse 14, so verses 15-16 step it out for you:

Do you not see (Skt. paśyasi), it is pointless suffering through various (Skt. ud) discomforts acquired from (Skt. danām) bites (Skt. dive) of bugs (Skt. daṃśa), gadflies (Skt. daṃśa), mosquitoes (Skt. maśaka), (snakes, animals …), from feelings of thirst (Skt. pipāsā) and hunger (Skt. kṣut?), from the irritation of rashes and the like (Skt. mahatkaṇḍvādiduḥkhaṃ), all of these rendered of little importance or trivial (Skt. anarthaṃ) through a modicum of familiarisation and forbearance.

– transglomeration VI, 15

… starting with everyday slight annoyances (in 8th century India in the Gangetic plain) of bites, hunger, rashes (maybe repetitive adverts, late trains, tight shoes now).   These are all illustrative, but what needs to be identified and started with is one’s own annoyances, just ‘tut’-level annoyances and endure those, then ‘ngnh’-level annoyances, then ‘snort’-level annoyances, then ‘not again’-level annoyances, then ‘oh come on’-level annoyances, then ‘you’ve gotta be kidding me’-level annoyances, then ‘wtf’-level annoyances … and so on.   And, probably, notice that these higher level events all remain ‘annoyances’ and not ‘catastrophes’ or ‘calamities’ or ‘tragedies’ because you have, in the meantime, been building up your endurance (and if you do find yourself gritting teeth through ‘catastrophes’ or ‘calamities’ or ‘tragedies’ then you’ve probably reached too far here) …,

Cold, heat (Skt. śītoṣṇa), rain (Skt. vṛṣṭi), wind (Skt. vātā), arduous travel (Skt. dhva), illness (Skt. vyādhi), captivity (Skt. bandhana), even beating and torture (Skt. ḍanaiḥ), should not induce in me (Skt. na kartavyam) a sense of vulnerability and defeat (feeling sorry for myself like some lost child) (Skt. saukumāryaṃ), otherwise (Skt. anyathā) the distress (Skt. vyathā) will only aggravate and increase (Skt. vardhate), (rather I should become hardened to them by practising patience).

– transglomeration VI, 16

… so that by the time you get to the ‘cold, heat, rain, wind…’, sickness, bondage and beatings (all, in extremis, quite significant ‘catastrophes’ or ‘calamities’ or ‘tragedies’, or so it would seem to one still on the threshold at verse 14) you are ‘endured’ enough (= patient-enough) to treat them as annoyances, no biggie.

[17] Some [warriors] (Skt. kecit), seeing (Skt. dṛṣṭvā) their own blood (Skt. svaśoṇitaṃ) are emboldened in their advance (Skt. vikramante) showing especial determination, strength and courage (Skt. viśeṣataḥ), while others (Skt. eke) lose heart and collapse (Skt. mūrcchāṃ) within their own footsteps even as they advance (Skt. vrajanti yat) at the sight (Skt. dṛṣṭvā) of others’ blood (Skt. paraśoṇitam).   [S18a/T18ab] These reactions [of the warrior] (Skt. tac) come from (Skt. cāgatam) the set of the spirit, the disposition of the mind (Skt. cittasya), whether it be resolute and brave (Skt. dṛḍhatvena) or weak and faint-hearted (Skt. kātaratvena).

– transglomeration VI, 17-S18a/T18ab

By this time (time that you have spent building up your wise endurance, however long or short that time needed to be for you) you are ‘endurable’, you are quite indomitable, you don’t get knocked sideways by much, you don’t duck and dive about in life.   When you see yourself gashed by life – ‘aah, this could be the end’, blood and entrails everywhere –  you don’t waver, you see this as an annoyance, you’ve got much bigger things to be concerned about, much further horizons to disentangle.   You, by now, are inexorable, you are a lion, your mind is steady.

[S18b/T18cd] In this way (Skt. tasmād), I should become (Skt. bhaved) the master, invulnerable to all sorrow, harm and injury (Skt. duḥkhaduryodhanas), not allowing discomfort and hardship (Skt. vyathām) to throw me off, not allowing it to become unbearable, insurmountable (Skt. abhibhaved).   [S19a/T19ab] Not even when (Skt. ‘pi naiva) in pain or distress – not even in the thick of battle – (Skt. duḥkhe), should I, using my wisdom (Skt. budhaḥ), let my mind become troubled or disturbed (Skt. kṣobhayed), my spirit retaining its tranquillity, its lightness, its composure, its balance, its confidence, its joy (Skt. prasādaṃ).

– transglomeration VI, S18b/T18cd-S19a/T19ab

There is no whingeing or wining anymore because your wise endurance has matured to such an extent that you have significantly extracted any reference to, and protection of, ‘me, me, me’ from your view of life and you now see the much wider (or deeper, or both) picture wherein the ‘me, me, me’ had made such a tangle of it all in the first place: not so much now, not such a biggie now.

Now (verses 19ii-21) you are a warrior … a silent warrior, an in-dominatable warrior, a warrior…

For those who engage in (Skt. saṃgrāmo) the struggle (Skt. saha) with the kleśas (Skt. kleśair), when in battle (Skt. yuddhe) there will be much hardship, pain and injury (Skt. vyathā), for these are plentiful during struggle.   What battle is fought without the experience of suffering (Skt. sulabhā)?   It is quite unimportant.

– transglomeration VI S19b/S19cd

… who stands and faces the hordes that come your way, swiping and slashing with their maces and swords, spittle and blood spattering from their mouths, eyes stark and make-up-outlined, focussed on you and carnage, no room for any other consideration at all, gangs of them, waves of them, horizons of them, all coming your way …;

There are those who take their enemies’ blows upon their chests, (taking them on the chin) (Skt. uras-ārāti-ghātān).   It is they who are the victors, the heroes (Skt. te te vijayinaḥ śūrāḥ śeṣās), they who courageously disregard all suffering and pain in vanquishing the enemies such as hatred and so forth (Skt. pratīcchanto jayanty arīn).   Ordinary warriors are just killers of the dead (Skt. mṛta-mārakāḥ).

– transglomeration VI, 20

… and by this time, again, in the face of them all before you, you let out the sigh – ‘still they come’ – with the hint of indulgent smile behind your grizzled beard (and we’re deep in metaphor, here, so we’ve moved way beyond notion of ‘me, me, me’, let alone whether ‘me’ is male or female).   You set your sword-point upon the ground and rest your hands on the hilt, and with a slightly deeper in-take of breath you let them come, these annoying little hooligans with their chipmunk voices.   They reach in for the kill and … ssmungpph, ‘wheredeego’, ‘pheeyoo, I’ve lost me pucker, need to sit down for a rest … ooh, me bunions, I’m getting too old for all this’.   These are the māra-demons amassing around the Bodhisattva Prince sat under the Bodhi Tree, brandishing every imaginable weapon of threat, torture and intimidation – even boulders from the hills above, pestilence, pillage and razing to the ground – and they let them all loose in a thrashing cloud – arcs in the sky – and … they turn to a sprinkle of flowers falling, ever so quietly, about the Buddha’s lap and feet.   The enemy is not met, it is understood with boundless and bottomless wisdom, its unravelling to behold.   There is no fighting here, there is no killing, only release.

And more so (Skt. ‘paraś ca), there is further worth and benefit (Skt. guṇo) that arises from sorrow (Skt. duḥkhasya): hardship and despair will fell one’s puffed-up arrogance (Skt. madacyutiḥ) and ignite the desire for emancipation (Skt. yat-saṃvegān); it will nourish compassion for migrators who wander in saṃsāra (Skt. saṃsāriṣu ca kāruṇyaṃ); one will come to loathe un-virtue (Skt. pāpād bhītir), have joy in virtue and direct one’s deepest thought to the Conqueror (Skt. jine spṛhā).

– transglomeration VI, 21

Endurance of suffering has moved far beyond just ‘taking it’, endurance has built-up a wisdom which has infiltrated the endless binds and knots, which has travelled along the many strands with clear-eyed understanding, which sees why this is so and how that came to be and when they got tangled with the other and how ‘I’ made it worse.   And it has straightened out these many strands like fabric conditioner leaving your clothes ‘fresh, soft and ever so bouncy’.

And endurance has carefully worked out this thorny ‘I’ from the tangle, very carefully, meticulously carefully, each and every million of them, working it backwards out of its bind, with no impatient tugs.   And it has re-spun any tears or frays and smoothed the threads with its coarse and gentle hand.   And it did all this with plain and simple endurance.   It just lets it all come and smiles slightly on it all like a grandchild running out of school.   Wisdom is not complicatedly clever and sophisticated, it is simply clever with a dash of love and perspective, because it accommodates what is.

And this is only the first layer of three in the practice of patience related to one’s own suffering, let alone relationships with others, let alone following patience through to its only logical conclusion … infinite love and compassion.


Bodhisattvacharyavatara: Chapter VI, Patience – verse 25; reflectionary

Bodhisattvacharyavatara by Acharya Śāntideva

Chapter VI– verses 22-23

Transglomeration: Whatever offends, is faulty, makes mistakes, has shortcomings, transgresses, and whoever commits misdeeds or evil, whoever acts negatively, errs or commits crimes, in whatever various and diverse ways, all of these arise through the force of implacable causes and conditions and do not operate under their own power, nor do they just happen on their own, spontaneously or self-directed; independence is not known.

~~~ “BCA” ~~~

Reflection: nothing happens by itself; nothing is evil in itself, everything just reacts to conditions; this is a wondrous verse; this applies to all mistakes, all degenerations, all faults, it makes these things easier to be patient with because they do not obviously act by agent, they just happen, there is no one to blame; it applies to actions of creatures (a bit more difficult to be patient with because there is the possibility that the damage might have been avoidable, ‘it might not have been’, ‘the creature needn’t have acted as it did, but, really, the tendency to fear, and react to it, is a stronger impulse); it applies to all (seemingly) wilful actions of people, that people seem to be able to choose what they say and do and can therefore be held accountable for what they choose (they could have chosen otherwise – therefore it is very easy to bear judgement on others and have a strong sense of righteousness about that judgement, therefore the anger can be strong and atrocious), but the force of the verse is that, nevertheless, even the most ‘evil’ are subject to the most complicated macro- and micro- conditions of their/our own making;

Reflection: this observation (everything is caused and conditioned) muddies things up – everything happens because of causes and conditions, everything is just so much more complicated and webbed ‘behind’ the event than just the happening of the event itself; whereas a quick judgement, a quick clearing out of all the complicating considerations (in fact a snap-ignoring of all the complicating considerations), makes it all so much clearer and straight-forward to act with anger; considering the muddy web takes so much time and never arrives back at a beginning point from which to start assessment or reaction – making a snap-judgement makes immediate action (or re-action) possible; anger is just lazy, anger can’t be bothered with all this consideration because itjustneedstoact in order to preserve its own sense of identity and worth, especially as an unhappy state of mind was making it feel unsteady and worthless in the first place; and anger is so quick, like a flick of a switch, almost before the echo of the event has had a chance to die down, someone skilled at dropping-all-else-to-be-angry can be in a state of full-blown anger: judged, raged, threat and punishment already delivered … wh’; it is so quick, and makes life so clear; therefore, abstaining from anger requires a lot of slowing down so that that switch isn’t just flicked without thought, and it requires taking the much bigger picture into consideration, which requires that your precious and squeamish self not be so afore-committed to any situation that requires any sort of self-defence or damage-limitation on its behalf – slow and steady; and you don’t need to know all of the intricacy of each web that leads up to each bark, you just need to know, on the moment, that there ‘are reasons’ for why whatever-is-happening is happening … bigger picture, karma, don’t join in, don’t get in the way, but then, don’t flinch away from it, don’t be callous, care and say “I’m sorry” (it’s come to this)

Practice: this leaves a world barren of enemies and evil, a world in which there is nothing to blame, but only the realisation that nothing and nobody is in control of itself; there is just the under- and over-weave of flow – view the world as such, view others as such

– creak —


, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

                in St. Ludwigskirche again
                      five years on

                for the quiet of mind free of overlapping conversations
                      passing like pedestrians

                explained something quietly echoing
                      across the dome

                                                so I listened
                to the German vowels and consonants
                      proliferating everywhere

                nothing, I sat comfortable in the pew
                       – creak —


a return to: St. Ludwigskirche all those years ago




church & mind wormhole: The Boats of Vallisneria by Michael J. Redford – Sky
echo wormhole: breakfast
listening wormhole: Lapping Reflections [Deep Within Waters] – valley
passing wormhole: distance
quiet wormhole: The Boats of Vallisneria by Michael J. Redford – Rain
sitting wormhole: eyes like petals
sound & time wormhole: The Boats of Vallisneria by Michael J. Redford – An Old Piano
talking wormhole: ‘don’t look at it …’


Bodhisattvacharyavatara: Chapter VI, Patience – verses 22-23; reflectionary

Bodhisattvacharyavatara by Acharya Śāntideva

Chapter VI– verses 22-23

Transglomeration: [22] So, I do not get angered and enraged when my body feels out of sorts, such as jaundice of the liver (which is inanimate), even though they are a major source of quite intense sorrow; then, why get angry at those (things which happen to be animate, sentient beings)?   They too are impelled and provoked by circumstance and conditions.   [23] Just as acute pain comes about, although in no way wanted or expected, so anger (and the other damaging kleśas) are strong and quick to arise in beings quite automatically, although equally not desired.

~~~ “BCA” ~~~

Review: the same as for inanimate things; conditions for anger arise including both animate and inanimate things (why get angry at one but not the other – although I personally can get frustrated so much with things that it verges on anger; why not not get angry with either?); get angry with kleśas instead

Text: [23] Sanskrit talks about anger arising unwantedly (in others, established from verse 22), the Tibetan has it as (also) more generally as the kleśas arising unwantedly

Reflection: this begins moving deeper into the problem of anger, firstly by analysing that bad conditions and circumstances just come about, because of circumstances – the hip bone is connected to the thigh bone; there is no intention behind them arising, there is no maliciousness against which to get angry – shit just happens when you’re stepping in it; this is deeper than just putting up with it (because the alternative, anger, is so destructive, as in the last section), this is dispelling that there is anything to get angry about in the first place – things is just what it is, what the great web of circumstance has weaved to be at this moment and at this time – with you at the centre; but it’s people, they got minds, they have intent: no, they have minds, and they have intent, but these minds and the intents that come out of them are too conditioned and circumspect, they don’t just act randomly and independently of any rule or consideration, they are as conditioned as an illness which works its way through a body;

Reflection: it seems these verses are exploring the non-independence of peoples’ intent, it’s putting peoples’ intent on the same level of activation and wilfulness as non-conscious things, like illnesses; it is the believing that people chose to do what they did to hurt us that fuels our anger (as per verse 11 – believing that people chose to do what we didn’t want or chose to hinder what we want), and so these verses are deconstructing this belief that fuels our anger, and dissimilates our phantom presumed-enemies into just the wave and froth of conditioned existence – there’s nothing there to get angry with; stuff, including people getting angry, just happens

History/Biography: why did Śāntideva chose ‘bile’ (translated, also, as ‘liver disease’, ‘jaundice’, understood as one of the humours … according to … Ayurvedic medicine?) as the illustration of something non-conscious which just arises due to causes and conditions: he needed a readily-recognisable-example and an example which clearly establishes something which gives a lot of discomfort and suffering and pain, but which just arises by itself, it doesn’t have the intention to hurt – was there a lot of dysentery or food-poisoning at Nālandā which a lot of his audience will have readily experienced and which, presumably, Śāntideva himself would also have experienced?

Reflection: actually, I think we do get angry with illnesses that happen, as well as the weather, and stubbed toes and pinching doors, but we get angry because it hurts and we weren’t expecting it, and even the most self-involved-and-paranoid person would find it hard to chew out and belittle a door for pinching the finger, to hold a grudge against it, try to undermine it, plan revenge which strikes right at the heart of its sense of identity, that’ll show it; we might get angry at a person for not doing something that they should have been doing with the door which resulted in us getting our finger pinched in it, but we wouldn’t get angry at the door itself – it just wouldn’t make sense because we know, bottom line, the door closed (as it does, you can’t fault that) and our finger was in the way of where the door shuts (for whatever reason, it was just there at that time) and, pinch.   When we acknowledge the facts of what is what, there’s nothing to get angry at; a door can’t not shut over its own hinge, or against the jamb, and still be a door.   And yet we will get angry at people because we hold that they have consciousnesses – they are animate and wilful, they decide to do things – whereas doors do not.   So we do something quite quirky and magical here, we anthropomorphise … humans, by presuming they have intention when they cut across us, and this gives us an ocean of excuse to engage in self-defence, in self-aggrandisation, in loudness, in spite, inspite of the fact that human wilfulness is as much determined and conditioned as a closing door – there is little room for manoeuvre

Practice: see all peoples’ anger (and other kleśas) as arising from conditions only, it’s just ‘stuff’ that makes them act so – this cultivates an understanding; … see everything, whether it affects you or not, as just the weave and flow of cause and conditions, again, an understanding, a perspective on the world, events and people

Bodhisattvacharyavatara: Chapter VI, Patience – verse 123; reflectionary

Bodhisattvacharyavatara by Acharya Śāntideva

Chapter VI– verse 123

Transglomeration: Just as there could be no joy, no alleviation in their mind, for someone being offered whatever sort of exquisite delicacy when their body was completely engulfed in fire, likewise, when beings are in torment, whether I directly perpetrate it or not, there is no joy to be found for the Compassionate Ones.

~~~ “BCA” ~~~

Text: still 4-liner verses in the Sanskrit (started verse 120), still haven’t figured out why this might be

Text: there is some riffing around the word ‘pleasure’ in this verse: no pleasure (for those burning) with objects of pleasure; no pleasure for those Beings of Ultimate Pleasure when beings suffer: no p in p when burning; no p for Ps when suffering

Text: It is only Berzin, so far, who has made this part read ‘there is no way to delight the Compassionate Ones’ (i.e. transitive, one making the Buddhas happy (with ones virtuous deeds etc.) cf. the previous verse) rather than ‘the Compassionate Ones cannot find joy when…’ (passive – suggesting, as phrased, a lack in the Compassionate Ones’ finding skills(!?), even less than the phrasing ‘there is no joy to be found here when …’); I think the transitive inflection fits better with what was established in verse 122, that of the incompatibility of pleasing the Buddhas with formal worship when, at the same time, causing harm to other beings in one’s everyday life

Text: Sanskrit tends to the generalised ‘when beings are in pain’, whereas Tibetan tends to the specific ‘when I give beings pain’: in both cases the point is the same (i.e. Buddhas – the Compassionate Ones, the Ones who have exchanged self-concern completely for other-concern and have exponential-ised that exchange through full realisation of the emptiness of any self of ‘one’ or the ‘other’ to be concerned about, so there is just Compassion – these ones cannot be happy (= there is no happiness to be found) as long as a sentient being is in pain), whether it was me (who is doing the offering/devotion to the Buddhas) who caused their pain or not, it’s just that it is wholly ironic if it is me doing the hurting while I am making worship to the Buddhas to try to better myself; it would be far better if I stopped doing this false worship and sort out my behaviour with other beings, in fact it would be an offering to the Buddhas if I behaved decently and well with all beings (in deed, in speech, in my mind)

Stitch: this an illustration of what was established in verse 122, and more specifically from the phrase ‘and as I bring pain to beings, likewise do I bring pain to the Munis’: and so, in the second half of verse 123, wherein it is shown that the Compassionate Ones can find no joy when beings suffer, it is already read and established that this means if I am all along ‘bringing pain to beings’; the Tibetan bevels this out a little more explicitly in its translation, but it is there clearly if the verses are being read ‘stitched’

Trichotometric embroidery: emphasising, again, that I (’oneself’) cannot leave the state of being sentient to being Enlightened (‘the Buddhas’), (it’s not like joining a club), without incorporating all other beings (‘all beings’) in the transition because the Buddhas are as enveloped in the welfare of all beings as it is possible to be – the heart of being a Buddha is the boundless compassion experienced for the plight of all beings in saṃsāra (heartbreakingly mixed with the realisation of all their lack of inherent being which makes their whole plight so pitiful); the Buddhas don’t just have compassion for ‘oneself’ – it’s not all about just ‘me, me, me’ – they will not be gratified by my self-serving worship of them if I am neglecting the benefit of others; the way of being (‘yāna’) of Bodhichitta is, and can only be, universal (‘Mahā’) or it is, certainly not nothing at all (it’s still far, far more than remaining sentient in saṃsāra), but much less (‘Hīna’) than all

Practice: don’t be self-satisfied with your own spiritual development if it is independent from meeting the needs and happiness of others; my devotion to the Buddha or my study of the Dharma Teachings or my reliance on the Saṅgha mean little if I, at the same time, wreak havoc and discomfort on other beings … reminiscent of the LoJong precept ‘don’t practise with partiality’ …

Practice: and even more specifically, it means not getting worked up about the progress of my spiritual practice, studies and projects at the expense of my responding to the needs and happiness of those to whom I am married, to whom I am a father, with whom I have occasional contact, both near or far: if I am shying away from contact with people because I think I won’t get as much study or reading or mantras in, then I know I’ve gone wrong somewhere – correct it

The Boats of Vallisneria by Michael J. Redford – An Old Piano


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An Old Piano

It will not last much longer now, thought I as I gazed at our old piano standing proudly under a reproduction of ‘The Haywain’. Yes, despite its age it is still a proud instrument, even if it has lost one or two accoutrements such as the candle-sticks that were once hinged to the front panels and the tiny mother of pearl centre of a marquetry flower. Even so, it still stands firm and erect, defiant in its appearance of time. Of course it has been well looked after having been under constant attack from polish and duster and tuned with religious regularity ever since it came into our home.

The old walnut upright was bought for £6 just before the Second World War and although I was four or five years old at the time, I cannot recall its arrival in our midst. I can remember many things down to the age of three, but this piano for some reason had crept into my life so unobtrusively that it may well have been part of the family for generations. Mother had the ability to read music as easily as I can read a book, it was therefore a natural development that both my brother and I should undergo tuition. My brother was the first to sit scowling in concentration beside the music teacher every Thursday night, and I followed suit a couple of years later. Soon little hands were struggling stodgily through ‘The Bluebells of Scotland’ and ‘Minuet in G’, which was a great step forward from the time when my only contribution to the world of music came from putting the cat upon the keyboard.

One evening a year or so ago, while I was browsing through the keyboard discovery new chords and chord sequences, I hurled myself into an impressive arpeggio up the scale and finally landed on top E flat with a dull and toneless plunk. This had a most deflationary effect and I sat back in shocked silence. After composing myself, I explored the dark, humming interior of the piano and discovered a broken string that had coiled itself tightly around its neighbour in a final fit of frenzy, having succumbed at last to the continued battering of a felt-tipped hammer. Since then, the strings have been breaking at the rate of approximately one every three months. The pitch has dropped so much it cannot be brought up again, the tome has taken on a peculiar twang that is somewhat reminiscent of an Indian sitar and when the loud pedal condescends to operate (more often than not it seizes up completely), it does so in creaking protest which somehow doesn’t quite fit in with ‘La Mer’ or a nocturne in E minor.

It cannot last much longer now. This morning I lifted the lid softly and peeped in and saw that it needed re-felting, and in one dark corner was a tiny but ominous mound of sawdust. I do not know the age of our piano for it came into our possession second hand, therefore it may not be as old in years as I imagine. But even if it isn’t old in years, it is certainly old in use, for it has been played upon almost every single day for the past twenty five years. I will not, therefore, feel ashamed should a silent tear fall when that sad day of parting eventually arrives.

I have often toyed with the idea of keeping it even when every note has hammered its last, and retiring our faithful friend to the front room. But pianos are large instruments and I shall undoubtedly want another and there is certainly not enough room for more than one piano in this house. How is it that one can become so attached to an old piece of furniture? It is of course the associations and memories that bind them to us tighter than any cord, and what sort of memories can a piano bring but happy ones. Memories of distant family gatherings when no one thought of the inevitable days of parting to come; birthday parties that were once looked forward to; carols at Christmas. The piano on such occasions was the centre of all things, chairs, settees and stools were turned to face it and the congregation gathered around the walnut alter.

I remember the family gatherings twenty five years ago that brightened the dark, oppressive evenings of war. I hear father playing his banjo-uke and mother at the piano singing ‘Arm in Arm Together’ and reviving the then old songs ‘Chorus Gentlemen – Just Once More’ and ‘Shipmates O’ Mine. The strings of this old piano have vibrated to ‘Cornsilk’, through a feeble attempt at Rachmaninoff’s second to ‘Oo Bop Shebam’. During the war when this old instrument lived with us in London, the ceiling fell on it more than once and bombs showered it with glass from the windows. And yet it played on. It has been a wonderful friend but, like every member of the family, it has played its part and must soon leave us.

I feel kindly towards a house that has a piano for then a house becomes a home, but without a piano a house has an emptiness about it, to me it is incomplete. I know that this certainly holds true for my house, and each time I play upon its creaking frame, the increasing tenderness with which my fingers touch the keys must surely expose my feelings towards a dear friend who will very soon be gone.


read the collected work as it is published: here




childhood wormhole: Batman: Oddysey
family wormhole: Sheffield Park Gardens
history wormhole: looking for the right exit
house & London wormhole: Lapping Reflections [Deep Within Waters] – valley
music wormhole: Lapping Reflections [Deep Within Waters] – sooner; / and later
piano wormhole: weight of high sash windows – poewieview #33
reading wormhole: breakfast
sound & time wormhole: riders of the night


Bodhisattvacharyavatara: Chapter VI, Patience – verse 122; reflectionary

Bodhisattvacharyavatara by Acharya Śāntideva

Chapter VI– verse 122

Transglomeration: Whenever happiness is found amid the field of beings, the Munis, the All-Knowing Compassionate Ones, instantly know and are happy themselves of it, when they are pained, the Munis are likewise instantly immersed in pain.   And so, as I cultivate happiness in that field, the Munis themselves partake in that very happiness, and as I bring pain to beings, likewise do I bring pain to the Munis.

~~~ “BCA” ~~~

Text: the irony in the twist of the text (whichever words are chosen for ‘harm’/’gladden’): if I x beings, I also x the Buddhas

Text: the Tibetan translation adds in the reference to the ‘field’ (Tib. zhing) of beings (from verse 112) whereas the Sanskrit refers to them as ‘they’ … because the text holds, still, the reference made to the ‘field of sentient beings’ in verse 112; the Tibetan hasn’t added anything in here, it has just refreshed the subject-reference; all of which bevels up that the whole discussion since verse 112 is still and all about this trichotomous relationship between the Buddhas, all beings and oneself

Reflection: the first half of the verse establishes the link in general between the feelings and experiences of sentient beings with the feelings and experiences of the Sages (and that this epithet is used to refer to the Buddhas is emphasising that the experiences of sentient beings are known by the Buddhas, it is not suggested that the Buddhas likewise feel happiness or sadness themselves by proxy – they cannot, they are Enlightened, but they ‘feel’ it because they have totally exchanged self for other so that what beings feel, they feel, and they know it because of their omniscience); the second half completes the point by specifying that if I am to make pain or happiness for sentient beings, then that pain or happiness will be known so well by the Buddhas (the Knowers) that it would be as I if were injuring or pleasing the Buddhas directly because they (the Buddhas) have completely exchanged self for others and … whoever does it to these, the least of my creatures, does it to me

Embroidered Trichotomy: there is a mirroring going on here – what I do, good or bad, to sentient beings, I do to the Buddhas (why: because the Buddhas had exchanged self for others); I (‘oneself’) am wanting to forsake being a sentient being in order to become an Enlightened Being (‘the Buddhas’), but in order to do this I need to exchange my self-cherishing for others (‘all sentient beings’), so in order to ‘escape’ from being a sentient being I need to embrace all sentient beings as my own in order to become an Enlightened Being; I have a sense of myself as one in the infinite field of all sentient beings, Buddhas are beings who have completely let go their limited sense of self to encompass all beings and the worlds in which they live, they do not just escape from limitedness (saṃsāra), they know (Muni) (and ‘suffer’) the limitedness that deluded beings bring unnecessarily on themselves and are enveloped with great and ongoing and inexhaustible love and compassion for them (for us) because illusory limitedness still persists; the Buddhas will (do … always have, never stop) help this pitiful ‘me, me, me’ to become Enlightened and so I will become a Buddha, but in doing so, nothing will have changed, I will not celebrate with a party saying ‘I’m free, I’m free’, I will have relinquished all notion and activity of self (‘I’ will have long since totally dispersed) and, understanding and knowing everything with a completely unbounded mind, ‘I’ will be absorbed in the love and compassion for those same beings in the field of limitedness on whom I relied so completely to obtain my Enlightenment …

Practice: I should try to help and please beings, not so ‘I’ can be known as ‘nice’, but because I understand that it is not wasted (whether I receive the recognition of ‘being nice’ or not), and that it is not wasted because beings, thereby, to whatever great or small extent, will actually be benefitted by whatever help and benefit I proffer, and because the Buddhas are omniscient and a priori enfolded in compassion for all beings, they will know and they will accordingly be delighted: it will be my offering to the Buddhas

Bodhisattvacharyavatara: Chapter VI, Patience – verses 18ii-19i; reflectionary

Bodhisattvacharyavatara by Acharya Śāntideva

Chapter VI– verses 18ii-19i

Transglomeration: [S18b/T18cd] In this way, I should become the master, invulnerable to all sorrow, harm and injury, not allowing discomfort and hardship to throw me off, not allowing it to become unbearable, insurmountable.   [S19a/T19ab] Not even when in pain or distress – not even in the thick of battle – should I, using my wisdom, let my mind become troubled or disturbed, my spirit retaining its tranquillity, its lightness, its composure, its balance, its confidence, its joy.

~~~ “BCA” ~~~

Text: the Sanskrit phrases the result of enduring suffering as ‘overcoming’ suffering, the Tibetan as ‘not being affected’ by it … ‘plus c’est la même chose’

Summary Practice: the essential point of practice: keeping a happy mind, keeping the mind happy, keep on keeping on; and not despite the suffering that one may be experiencing – not with gritted teeth – but with wisdom (reference to the ‘wise person’), knowing the context and cause of the suffering, knowing the faults of adding more anger on top of the suffering; ‘happy’ means a mind of equanimity, not wavering towards any of the eight worldly dharmas … ‘is that so’ with a funny half-smile; in the end, this is a simple practice, ‘don’t worry, be happy’, but it needs quite a bit of explanation because it could be so easy to get off-balance with this practice, like thinking ‘right, I’ll be happy, come what may’ and we go through life with a rigor-mortis smile before we have even encountered any adversity: we have put the result before the cause, it is when adversity arises that we should maintain our balance in response to the adversity, not despite it, it’s … a very subtle balance; the ‘happiness’ or balance of the mind is achieved on the basis of an understanding of what’s going on (cause and effect, conditionality, karma, the faults of reacting angrily), it is not based on happiness for its own sake, it is a ‘wise’ understanding, a wisdom, it sees what is going on and it puts what-is-going-on in its proper perspective, it is wisdom on recognising what is, not what one would hope it to be (the cause, usually, of falling to any of the eight worldly dharmas)

riders of the night


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                riders of the night

booms of inexplicability
                had spattered velvet stars and shredded cloth all morning

despite the raised-brow
                consternation of the smartest of overcoats and the darkest of hats

that startled drops of sweat
                could devise in the presence of impending war, it was only   th-  

  at night   by the docks where
                the cargo waited unknown and the ships floated above the water,

that one could think a thing between them
                before any further dénouement under filigree refinery of silhouette;

                the   next  morning   the ship sat in the water, content to the
lapping red line,

                waiting fast and moored under the single ribbon of exhaust
from the funnel f’ard;

                but it is only   later   that water ranges continental across stepped and geologic                
wave, under relentless rain,

                that solitary lights lolling will make any sense at all;
and there were some

                had ideas like a living-room on a pivot that housed raised cranes
but the cars drove through streets

                like they owned them and the trucks travelled in straight trail
of their antecedents’ front headlights

                and although buildings always pointed up, the propaganda usually
ended up on pink paper:

                ‘Me, drive ‘round something that is nothing, but something you think is something,                
 but is nothing …?’


{image not mine, found on the internet, can’t remember where, happy to take down if a problem}




buildings wormhole: everything is caused by something, which / something is caused by something else, nothing / stands alone where all pass as phantoms
cars wormhole: travelling / back
crane wormhole: ‘don’t look at it …’
light wormhole: breakfast
living room wormhole: what life went on
morning & sound & streets & time & water wormhole: Lapping Reflections [Deep Within Waters] – valley
night wormhole: THE ATTIC WHICH IS DESIRE: by William Carlos Williams
pink wormhole: beneath
rain wormhole: Lapping Reflections [Deep Within Waters] – sooner; / and later
red wormhole: 11/1 by William Carlos Williams
silhouette wormhole: window
speech wormhole: the blessings of the Buddhas
thinking wormhole: Lapping Reflections [Deep Within Waters] – I took my camera into the fields
waiting wormhole: my uncomfortable life
war wormhole: in deed
waves wormhole: The Boats of Vallisneria by Michael J. Redford – The Valley


Bodhisattvacharyavatara: Chapter VI, Patience – verse 17; reflectionary

Bodhisattvacharyavatara by Acharya Śāntideva

Chapter VI– verse 17

Transglomeration: [17] Some [warriors], seeing their own blood are emboldened in their advance showing especial determination, strength and courage, while others lose heart and collapse within their own footsteps even as they advance at the sight of others’ blood.   [S18a/T18ab] These reactions [of the warrior] come from the set of the spirit, the disposition of the mind, whether it be resolute and brave or weak and faint-hearted.

~~~ “BCA” ~~~

Reflection: the difference between a firm mind and a weak, pathetic, babyish one, clinging to its own brittle sense of self and self-importance

Reflection: the Patience of Voluntarily Enduring Suffering – which these verses (12-21) are exploring, is simply that of ‘endurance’, it is the first stage of developing patience (the transformation of suffering experiences from anger comes later), the emphasis is on endurance first, and the motivation is simply to not make the inevitable (at the moment) suffering worse than it need be – keep the happy mind, later, we will transform it …

Reflection: … but it is also the courage to endure, not just the sheer gritted-teeth endurance of it, courage borne from reaction against the damage we have seen that outburst and anger can perform, courage to let the mind remain calm despite the difficulty undermining our sense of self-cherishing and self-grasping; steadfastness, standing fast in the storm with a smile that it is worth withstanding; it is how the mind is set that determines steadfastness or collapse; Geshe Kelsang reminds that this (courage, determination, fortitude) is the ‘force of familiarity’ which was inaugurated in verse 14 and having worked through the minor, and then more annoying, sufferings of verses 15 and 16 – not just gritted-teeth determination, but the force of having familiarised oneself with so many smaller difficulties that when it comes to something that really strikes at my heart and makes me bleed, I am not defeated by it but I become determined to see this kleśa out the back door

Honesty: am I – yes, I am at the moment – brought low when stuff doesn’t go my way, do I lose heart, do I despair, do I wonder what is the point, do I give up – and yes, I do; my resolve is so easily brought low; I put myself into such a self-contained and self-reliant position in order to limit the possibility that I might not succeed or might be obstructed, or might be wrong, and when I am frustrated anyway, then I feel I have lost everything and I doubt all that I was striving to achieve anyway; my resolve is not strong, I have no endurance because I have no strategic understanding of what I am trying to achieve, I just want to make myself feel OK, I just want to feel worthwhile, I don’t want to be discovered to be the sap or the stupid … I can’t bear that – I do not really practise and work for the benefit of others, I am too self-centered …

Practice: … to get some courage to really face myself and really address the faults I have rather than putting myself into my ‘safe space’ of reading and withdrawing and trying to be inscrutably wise beyond expression