Patience is not gritting our teeth and white-knuckling it through some challenging or painful experience, or some injustice. That’s just trying to survive—waiting with aversion to the current moment while holding out hope for a better future.
When we bring our practice to social justice issues, sometimes we’re told, “Just wait. I know you’re wanting to see X, Y, and Z shift and change. But just wait because the conditions aren’t right, and by pushing to affect change now, you’re being impatient.”
That’s not patience either. Let’s be straight up about that. That’s not patience. That’s resistance to change. That’s aversion at work in that person’s heart and mind, co-opting the word patience with the intention of maintaining the status quo to preserve and consolidate power.
True patience that’s matured to its full strength helps us to be in relationship to the way things actually are without causing harm.
[Below, in a teaching from a text called The All-Embracing Net of Views], are some of the qualities and manifestations of complete patience. A scholar let me know that it can also be translated as the “net of Brahma” or the “divine net.”
Patience is a “strength.” Summon patience, knowing that it’s a strength. “Patience is a stream of water extinguishing the fire of anger.”
Patience is “a mantra for quelling poisonous speech.” What if you had a word or phrase that was an expression of patience that you held in your heart and mind so that when you were in a challenging situation with another person, you just held that word, image, or mantra in your mind?
This is my favorite image: “Patience is an ocean on account of its depth, a shore on account of bounding the great ocean of hatred.”
Patience is a beautiful quality—a beautiful, benevolent, beneficial quality. I have a teacher who suggests that when we cultivate these beautiful qualities like the ten paramis [“perfections”], they are gems that adorn the heart and mind. You may have experienced this in your own life. You meet someone who’s so dedicated to living with wisdom, compassion, or kindness that the light of those qualities shines through their being, and they’re made beautiful by having these qualities active within their heart-mind stream. I’m not talking about physical beauty. It’s an inner beauty that comes radiating through their being. So you can think of patience and its steadying power as a gem with many, many facets—patience as forbearance, patience as gentle perseverance (a phrase I learned from Gil Fronsdal), and patience as acceptance of the truth.
Complete patience helps the heart to mature into nonreactivity, and it comes into its full maturity through being animated by the wish to alleviate suffering and to uproot greed, aversion, and delusion. These paramis are brought to life through the intention of compassion and liberation.
This excerpt has been edited for length and clarity. See here for Dawn Scott’s full Dharma Talk, “The Steading Power of Patience.”