Bodhisattvacharayvatara by Acharya Śāntideva

Chapter VI– verses 104-105

Transglomeration: [104] Generally, if something doesn’t happen because something else isn’t there, and does happen when it is, then, really, that other thing would be the cause of it, like the enemy, of patience.   How could it be thought an obstacle?   [105] For, whenever you encounter someone in need, they are not a hindrance to your act of giving, whatever it may be; any more than a preceptor could be considered an obstacle to taking vows.

~~~ “BCA” ~~~

V. 102-103 training the mind to use adversity to practise patience
↑ Stitch ↓
V. 104-105 the indispensability of adversity for practising patience: affirmation of cause and conditionality

Reflection: [104] a bit of straight logical reasoning, here (if, with ‘a’, ‘b’; and without ‘a’, no ‘b’; then ‘a’ is the cause of ‘b’), to establish that you can’t have one thing without another/you can’t practise patience without an adversary (no smoke without fire): that, that which challenges me is the principle cause of my patience, not an obstacle; (de la Valle Poussin, (translated (by me))), ‘don’t call something an “obstacle” which is really a “cause”’; this is, yet again, re-establishing (for the angry mind which is mired up in asserting and defending its ‘self’ and angrily fighting with the world which rarely seems to agree with it and make it right) that everything is a dependent origination (if ‘a’, then ‘b’ etc.), how everything is just a flux and flow of causes and effects, countless rivulets of it flowing under, over, through and around all the others, that’s just how it is; and that clinging to a ‘self’ (‘me, me, me’) amid it all, snags and snarls it all up like a stick jammed into a stream: weeds and plastic bags will accumulate around it, stuff will rot about it because it cannot change direction and get free, the stick will eventually rot and break and float downstream until it snags onto something else that gets in the way, adding to something else’s rot, or just generally polluting the water; anger thrives on NOT recognising cause and effect and acting and existing despite it, this verse is calmly and logically re-establishing it for us so that maybe we’ll listen this time …

Reflection: [105] the reference to what is variously translated as ‘beggar’, in Sanskrit is ‘one in need’ – it’s not referring just to, say, homeless people on the streets, but to anyone, rich or poor, who is in need of something (i.e. one can give in various different ways, even though the original reference, certainly as translated into Tibetan only a few centuries after Śāntideva, was to ‘alms-giving’); the reference to what is variously translated as ‘bestower of vows’, in Sanskrit is ‘mendicant’ and in Tibetan is ‘higher/superior’ – it’s not referring to a specific job or rank, but to anyone who is in a position of being able to offer (any) vow; anyway, the points here are as illustrations of ‘something without which another thing doesn’t happen’ … patience doesn’t happen without an enemy/attacker/critic/rival The Nectar of Mañjushrī’s Speech, Kunzang Palden, (tr. Padmakara): ‘It is the absence of the enemy that prevents patience from appearing’ … is a teacher an impediment to being taught, is a lover an impediment to being in love; does a father stop one from being a child, is an employer an obstacle to employment, (can you sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to someone whose birthday it isn’t) … the answer to these rhetorical questions is obviously ‘no’, and the affirming of ‘no’ (they are not impediments, they don’t stop things happening) is an affirmation of the very cause and conditionality that anger is blind to accept: this is how the Perfection of Patience is a Method Path, the ‘Method’ being to establish cause and conditionality clearly and lucidly within life and living, until united with the Wisdom Path that realises the emptiness of cause and conditionality but is able to see both exist without contradiction within life and living

Practice: so, how do we ‘take our stick out’, how do we stop snarling things up, how do we get out of this: we reverse the cause and effect, we see where we’re ‘jammed in’, we see when and where we are made angry, we ascertain who has made us angry and how we have been made angry, we simply acknowledge when- and where- and how-ever we are snagged and who-ever has snagged us, and then let go of perpetuating the snag, let the snag be, realise how we have ended up snagged, don’t retaliate to the snag and even see how others might also be snagged here with you – I’m sorry – and let the snag work free by itself, don’t let it tangle by struggling and, there you go, you’ve let go of that little bit of self-cherishing and let the stream run that little bit freer and cleanly