Bodhisattvacharayvatara by Acharya Śāntideva

Chapter VI– verses 102-103

Transglomeration: [102] But what about when they get in the way of my practising good works?   Still, even then, holding anger and resentment against them just doesn’t make sense: there is no other trial or austerity greater than being patient, so surely, then, this is the occasion, so conveniently presented to me by my enemies, when I should take it – live in it – and start being patient.   [103] So, if, through my own shortcomings, fail to hold my nerve practising patience here, then it is only me, it would seem, creating the obstacles and wasting the opportunities when occasions for virtue have come my way, and I don’t practise the virtue of abiding in patience.

~~~ “BCA” ~~~

V. 98-101 in fact, calumny can actually benefit us
↑ Stitch ↓
V. 102-103 training the mind to use adversity to practise patience

Reflection: [102] twist: the objection (in Tibetan) is that the adversary stops me from practising virtue (by attacking or undermining my reputation/self-image of being virtuous etc. etc.) as if an adversary has control over one’s commission of virtue; the answer (to oneself) twists it by stating that one does have control over the practice of virtues oneself, adversity does not prohibit virtue but provides the opportunity to practise the most austere virtue, patience; this (verse, chapter … whole text) is exploring the self-centered tendency to blame adversity (to one’s self) as ‘out there’ on the ‘enemy’ (… ‘society’, ‘life’, an inevitable and inexorable tendency from thinking ‘self’ in the first place), to then thinking of ‘not self’, the inevitable concomitant – taking hold of one end of a stick is that you necessarily don’t have hold of the other – and so when it is not going well for the self, it can’t be the self’s fault (who’d want to wish unhappiness on oneself?), it must be ‘not-my-self’’s fault (what else could it be … anything which is not myself, let’s see, what’s around … ah, this’ll do); the ‘twist’ is that the thinking-of-the-self in the first place is mistaken, and any thought that the mistakenly-thought self thinks, is going to be de facto wrong, it will always and inevitably blame ‘outwards’ (of itself), when the actual cause of the difficulty is holding the mistaken conception of self at all; any twists in Śāntideva’s commentary on practising the Bodhisattva Way is going to be premised on this fundamental misapprehension of an intrinsically existing self in contradiction to anything which is not-self: this is both how and why Bodhichitta is so powerful, because it is the ‘twist’ which releases the whole faulty view of existence from the root … Bodhichitta is having the awakening perspective (i.e. awakening from the view of ‘self’) rather than the ‘self’-being (de-limiting and adversarial with the life, the universe and everything, on so many levels) until one is Awakening (a Buddha) and doesn’t have to hold that perspective any more, but lives it, selflessly … and this is also why, at the beginning of chapter 9 (on the emptiness of the self) the first verse says that ‘all this’ – all the practices of enlightening living, the ways of the Bodhisattva – make sense only when practised in mind of the absence of  holding onto the ‘self’: wisdom; at which time the practices of the Bodhisattva become Perfections; oh this all holds together like a life-universal knot …

Reflection: [103] if I don’t seize this opportunity – any opportunities kindly presented to me – I have only myself to blame; Geshe Yeshe Tobden, “The enemy is not the impediment to our practice of patience, but rather the cause” Pema Chodron: “we can see them as enhancements” Geshe Yeshe Tobden: “all beings, even those appearing to be people who cause us trouble, are kind to us and we must therefore abandon the mind that feels distant from enemies and close to friends and realise equanimity”; patience isn’t gritting your teeth thinking ‘must not get angry, must not get angry’ with sweat running off the forehead and eyes piercing the enemy dancing all around to beguile us: it is being easy, it is not getting riled, it is holding that there is no ‘self’-here to protect and defend, at all; the ‘enemy’: the annoying person, the critic, the fault-finder, the person who is disappointed in what you’ve done or said, the contradictor, the under-miner, the ‘why didn’t you’-er, the scoffer, the haughty one, the one who ignores or overlooks you, the one who talks around you, the one who makes you not the main point, these, clouds of them, each giving me the chance to hold back from reinforcing my precious (in the bad sense) little ‘self’ counter-weight to the whole world

Practice: how many times will I fail today – let’s be honest; but, then, how about time I will hold back and just pause, and then the time I won’t even get snagged and I can give a little smile, and then the time there won’t even be a flinch because I can see just how upset this adversary before me is, and then the lifetime I spend wandering around wondering why nobody gets bothered-enough to provoke me anymore, and missing the opportunity to get put in a position of ‘fight or flight’ again because I’m sure I’ve still got some irritation round here to sort out, somewhere, now where did I put it …