Bodhisattvacharyavatara by Acharya Śāntideva

Chapter VI– verses 106-108

Transglomeration: [106] Indeed, those who are in need and those who beg and are easy to find in this ever-shifting world of people, whereas those who cause me harm are less easy to encounter since it is said that if I have not wronged or injured others in the past, there are none who would offend me back at all – I would be untouchable!   [107] Hence, just like coming across a treasure in my own house without any effort on my part – as if it had been stored there all along – since my adversary, in effect, furthers my progress on the Path to Awakening, I should be happy and appreciative of them.   [108] Thereby, since both he and I have occasioned my accomplishment of being patient, it is only right that the first fruit of this should be dedicated to my adversary for in this way they were the cause of it.

~~~ “BCA” ~~~

V. 104-105 the indispensability of adversity for practising patience: affirmation of cause and conditionality
↑ Stitch ↓
V. 106-108 adversaries are as rare as treasure found in the house: the immediate cause of practising ‘no austerity like patience’

Reflection: [106] those who ‘need’ something of me are everywhere, both those close to me (who need my love, my support), neighbours (who need my co-operation, my agreeableness), society (who need my abiding by the law, who need me to buy their stuff); certainly the Tibetan translates as ‘those who need/ask’ (‘needers’), whereas the Sanskrit more readily has ‘beggars’ (I guess because they are so prominent an example (even an institution) in 8th century Indian society), but the ways of giving are as multifarious as the needs which occasion them; occasions for giving in life are proliferate, the practice of giving involves not turning ones face from the opportunity to give because of the fear of being overwhelmed – ‘I can’t give everything away!’; enemies (to practise patience on), on the other hand – those who push my buttons and obstruct what I want of life – are much less frequently encountered, especially if I have been practising non-harm to beings beforehand because I try to be a nice boy – and so, if I have generally gone about with an air of equanimity and friendliness, I won’t have made many enemies and I certainly won’t be tripping over them, I won’t ever really be tested, so when an enemy arises, it is unusual … and if I am really interested in developing that mind of evenness and equanimity then I ought to lock on to an adversary like a personal project rather than shy away in bitterness and resentment

Reflection: [107] the adversary is like a happened-upon treasure (Skt. has it that one should ‘long for’ this enemy, Tib. that one has ‘found’ this enemy as if by happenstance), discovered without effort (although the ‘effort’ would have been, previously, that I had practised non-harm towards him/her in the past such that there is no enmity between us now), that having found an enemy is a real opportunity to move one’s practice beyond comfortable bounds for a while: you could practice giving almost sub-consciously once in a routine with those you encounter, you could practise behaving well (discipline) as a matter of habit within your own circles, but an enemy challenges your routine, your habit, your comfort zone, because they are doing something which you don’t want, or frustrating something that you think should be, and you either go under with anger, or you shift a gear in your practice and really accommodate the adjustment of your expectations and constructively practise an equanimity which cannot be habitual or just nominal – like learning to ride a bicycle, you have to keep your mind from lurching too much one way, too much the other – this is an immediate learning spread-over-a-period-of-time, applied over a period of time, practised over a period of time; adjustment takes repetition (cf. verses 14-19, the practice of becoming acquainted (tolerating, adjusting) with adversity), it’s not just a one-off decision; having an enemy is a real opportunity to develop, a chance to grab, something to be eager about, because you don’t get chances like this so often, the ‘treasure’-reference in the text intimates that this is not an every-day occurrence, this really is something else, my attitude towards it should be one of excitement (Geshe Kelsang: “…and recognise the enemy as a treasure from which inexhaustible wealth can be received”), the fact that it is found ‘in one’s own house’ – right where one is, right here, an incredible find – is likewise fortuitous, one didn’t have to go on a quest to the farthest reaches of the world outwitting gods and titans to find this treasure, it’s right here, for practice’s sake!

Reflection: [108] the enemy is (and should be) the first to receive the fruits of patience (by my being patient with him now, the thawing, the relief), since without him there would have been no patience; on top of this (occasion of not getting locked down into a psychic institution of hurt and retaliation) the dedication of the benefits of having been patient should be made, first of all, towards them who have occasioned my patience and enabled me to step-up my practice in such a significant way

Practice: this attitude/perspective promotes the ‘enemy’, the ‘adversary’, the ‘rival’ – the one who we normally keep beyond our own jealously-guarded boundary – to the center of our concern and heart; this is a revolutionary reversal of what we normally do, to treasure the enemy, an inclusion where we previously excluded, an openness where there was previously defence, an acquiescence where there was always turmoil and struggle, and there-you-go, all of a sudden the enemy is not someone to be defended against/struggled with because the enemy is only the enemy as long as you struggle with and self-defend against them in the first place; there is still the practice of this attitude to cultivate, you can’t just reverse a lifetime’s practice on a sixpence with screeching brakes, this is an engaged practice (more than just a decision) that takes time