02 September 2010

Radical Solitude

I'm spending time these days working through the pāramitā of kṣānti, or patient forbearance, and one of the things that continues to strike me about this pāramitā is the way in which it points to our thoroughgoing aloneness.

One is invited to consider that everything that affects oneself -- whether arising from within, as in the case of mental phenomena, or arising from without, as in the case of external phenomena and the actions of others -- is not oneself and neither adds to nor detracts from one's essential nature. Hence, neither praise nor blame, neither boon nor bane is cause for elation or distress, since, in the end, they are not oneself. Knowing this, one is able to receive benefit without getting a swelled head and to endure abuse, pain and insult with a soft, open heart.

I recently heard a dharma talk that looked at the way in which even the closest of friends and kin tend to shy away from or neglect us in times of greatest need and distress. Far from an occasion to wag a finger at the unhelpful or absent, or to complain about their self-centeredness, the kṣānti pāramitā would have me see this as a reminder that I am in no way diminished by their (lack of) actions. In fact, I should be grateful for the occasion to realize that from the very beginning I have never been other than myself and that this has always been sufficient.

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