Part I, by Ven, Mahasi Sayadaw
Next, in the matter of reflecting on the merits or fruits of ‘patience’, khanti. Patience or forbearance is basically the Dhamma contrary to anger, which, in other words, is adosa – absence of anger. It is similar to the essence of metta, loving-kindness. In particular, what is said to have patience, is to be able to endure any kind of provocation and to remain calm without anger and doing evil. Metta or loving-kindness is more significant or rather, far-reaching in meaning than patience. It imbibes the quality of goodwill, rejoicing with other people’s happiness. The advantages of patience have been described in the Visuddhi Magga (The Path of Purification) in the manner stated below.
‘Khanti paramam tapo titikkha” which means “Patience is the highest or best devotion”. It is the noblest and pious practice of virtue.
‘Khantibalam balanikam”. It connotes that since patience has its own strength, it should be understood as preached by the Buddha that the beneficial fruits of patience by symbolising the attributes of a noble person – brahmana, have the force of strength which is but patience. What is actually meant by this Dhamma is that the strength or vigour of patience capable of preventing anger resembles a force of army which is able to defeat the enemy. Buddha has therefore preached that a person who is equipped with this strength of patience is a Brahmana, a Noble One.
“Sadatthaparama attha, khantra bhiyyo na vijjati.”
The gist of this Pali phrase is that of all the advantages, one’s own benefits or interests, is the noblest. Among the best advantages, nothing excels the beneficial results of forbearance or endurance. The advantages of patience should be realised as had been stated by the King of Devas – Sakka, cited above.
As stated in the foregoing Desanas, patience is the noblest and the best practice. It is most noble and admirable because one who has patience will be able to tolerate all criticisms or irritating remarks which would ordinarily incite retort or refutation; and by virtue of this noble attribute, he will earn respect and approbation from others. He will also receive help and assistance when occasion arises and can bring about closer intimacy between himself and other friends. Nobody would hate him. These advantages or benefits are quite conspicuous.
If retaliation is made against any verbal attacks, hot controversy will ensue between the two parties and quarrel will break out. Feeling of hatred and animosity will creep in and the parties may become antagonistic to one another with malice and also become enemies for life. If no tolerance or patience is practised, one will be inclined to cause harm to another, maybe, throughout the entire lifetime. If, however, patience is cherished or nursed, it would bring about a world of advantages. This can be clearly known by retrospection. Hence, the Exalted One had prescribed in the form of Patimokkha, the Code of Conduct for monks.
It has been preached as: “khanti paramam tapo titikkha nibbanam paramam vadanti Buddha”, etc. This has been mentioned earlier. Nibbanam – the most Noble and Virtuous. It was taught as such by the Lord Buddha simply because all practices for the derivation of merits can be carried out successfully only if there is patience. When donation is offered on a magnificent scale with the greatest generosity, it shall be performed with great patience. In practising sila, moral precepts, spirit of tolerance required to be borne by a person becomes more prominent. In practising and developing meditation, i.e., bhavana, it becomes predominant. All bodily sufferings and miserable conditions will have to be tolerated, and only by contemplating and noting with patience, concentration and wisdom or knowledge can be gained. If changes in the bodily postures are frequently made on account of minor discomforts, such as, stiffness, hotness and pain, it will be difficult to enhance one’s own power of concentration – samadhi. This will make it harder to achieve vipassana insight knowledge. Only when one contemplates and notes with patience and endurance, jhana samadhi can be attained. Then only, special knowledge of vipassana or the higher awakening consciousness of the Dhamma along with magga-phala-nana, i.e., Knowledge of the path and fruition, can be realised. As such, it may be stated that patience is the noblest and highest practice.
A wise old saying, “Patience will carry one to Nibbana” is most appropriate. In practising for the fulfilment of ten forms of paramitas, or ten perfections, it can be fully achieved if khanti or patience is applied. Among these paramittas, determination, exertion and knowledge (panna) are proximate to the attainment of Nibbana. Only if relentless and persistent effort is made as originally intended to reach Nibbana with a firm determination, vipassana knowledge and ariya-magga-nana will be fully accomplished. If so diligently practised with patience arahatship will be attained. Such an arahat is said to be a noble Brahmana who is fully endowed with the strength of patience. That is what Buddha has said. It is indeed a noble practice which can lead to Nibbana. When developing metta, practice of patience is essentially fundamental. Only in the absence of anger, and by practising patience, mindfulness and metta will become developed. This is the reason why it has been instructed to reflect upon the advantages of patience prior to developing loving-kindness or metta.