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Resilience during the Pandemic: a curated Sutta list

Hey everyone, a friend just reached out to me with the following question, and I thought, good idea! I wonder if we can crowdsource it, maybe y’all can contribute ideas? I’ll compile the answers when we have a good set.

As we are all aware, this Covid 19 pandemic has created much anxiety and fear among people, including members of our Buddhist community. I believe there are many suttas in the Pali Canon which can help us to emerge stronger and become more resilient in the face of such uncertainty. I think the key is how to be resilient and adapt to the changing scenario in this uncertain world now.

Can you suggest some suttas where I can make reference on resilience, developing inner strength, and our ability to adapt? If there are stories from the commentaries that would be of great help too. I would like to compile them together for ease of reference and understanding, and share them with others. Basically, we are sharing the formula for success even in a pandemic.

The list (ongoing suggestions)

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The link to AN5.57 in SuttaCentral is:

:anjal:

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I cannot immediately think of a list of suttas which would address directly the current understanding of psychological resilience.

Some of the “sickness” suttas in which the Buddha or an elder disciple reminds someone who is sick of the seven factors of awakening could be a good starting point.

I also share below link to the Wiki article on the topic of psychological resilience for reference:

:anjal:

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Gilanadassana sutta? It’s more about adapting to the inevitability of sickness and death, which is maybe not sounding the encouraging note requested in the OP.

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Yes, that’s what I had in mind. Thanks.

I don’t think the Buddha in the suttas has much to say about resilience as psychologists conceive it today.

The Buddha’s message was more concerned with deliverance from suffering inherent to the process of arising birth after birth in this world.

It’s not about coping with it.

At the same time, the three first factors of the eightfold path are all about a bare minimum of self compassion and love which sets out a standard for the sort of mental hygiene required to make progress in the path.

Someone skilled and accomplished in the threefold factor of right thought or attitude should be able to cope with the challenges of the word, be it due to kindness, letting go or inoffensiveness.

These attitudes in turn should shape ones words, actions, choices, livelihood and lifestyle setting up for the right effort and courage required to breakthrough the elements of right presence and stillness which enable the insight which sets one free from the suffering of rebirth.

:anjal:

Can anyone recall the specific sutta where the Buddha talks about how a lay person is fortunate if they can abide with a balanced mind amidst the vicissitudes of life?

AN 8.6, often referred to as the Lokavipatti Sutta, seems to be more aimed at monastics and Nibbana but perhaps still helpful to the query.

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In these troublesome times, with Disease and Suffering all round, I find it helpful to remember what are the greatest blessings (Kp5).
:slightly_smiling_face:

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The Dhammapada has lots of little gems. Here are a few:

7Living contemplating what is pleasant, uncontrolled in sense faculties,
not knowing the limit in food, indolent, low in energy –
Māra surely overthrows that one, like wind overthrows a weak tree.
8Living contemplating the unpleasant, well-controlled in sense faculties,
and knowing the limit in food, faithful, with energy aroused –
Māra does not overthrow that one, just as wind does not overthrow a mountain made of rock.
11Finding the essential in what is unessential, and seeing the unessential in what is essential, they do not understand what is essential, and resort to wrong intention.
12Knowing the essential in what is essential, and the unessential in what is unessential, they understand what is essential, and resort to right intention.

33An agitated, unsteady mind, difficult to guard, difficult to ward,
the sagacious one makes straight, as a fletcher does his arrow.

34Like a fish thrown up on dry land, pulled out from its watery home,
the mind is agitated, one ought to throw off the sway of Māra.

35For the mind that is difficult to subdue, flighty, flitting wherever it will,
restraint is good, a restrained mind brings happiness.

36Hard to see, very subtle, flitting wherever it will,
the sage should guard the mind, a guarded mind brings happiness.

37Those who will restrain the mind that roams far,
is lonesome, without a body, hidden, gain release from the bonds of Māra.

197Let us live truly happily, without hatred, amongst those who have hatred,
amongst humans who have hatred let us live without hatred.

198Let us live truly happily, without sickness, amongst those who are sick,
amongst humans who have sickness let us live without sickness.

199Let us live truly happily, without longing, amongst those who are longing,
amongst humans who are longing let us live without longing.

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MN1 The root of all things, makes clear that it is not the ‘perceiving’ or the straight experience of things that causes suffering but the ‘conceiving’ or proliferating about them that does.

Though I don’t know how much comfort that can bring, after all ‘the mendicants were not happy’.

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More specific would be better.

Ahh, I get where you’re coming from, but not sure that it is on-topic enough. Something more digestible would be better.

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SN 3.25 The Simile of the Mountain

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AN 10.60, Girimānanda Sutta comes to my mind.
With Metta

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Indeed SN3.25 is a nice and succinct sutta on how to be tough, but not sure if it will meet modern psychologists` expectations in terms of resilience… ?

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What about that sutta in which the Buddha clarifies which practice is good for which case and, in case of sati it says it is always good?

That could be aligned with the element of awareness and investigation required for knowing when it is time to bring to use the toolkit one is to develop as per modern psychological resilience agenda…

:anjal:

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I think the Buddha’s advice to Rāhula in MN 62 can help develop equanimity and forbearance, which are aspects of resilience:

Rāhula, meditate like the earth. For when you meditate like the earth, pleasant and unpleasant contacts will not occupy your mind. Suppose they were to toss both clean and unclean things on the earth, like feces, urine, spit, pus, and blood. The earth isn’t horrified, repelled, and disgusted because of this. In the same way, meditate like the earth. For when you meditate like the earth, pleasant and unpleasant contacts will not occupy your mind.

Meditate like water. For when you meditate like water, pleasant and unpleasant contacts will not occupy your mind. Suppose they were to wash both clean and unclean things in the water, like feces, urine, spit, pus, and blood. The water isn’t horrified, repelled, and disgusted because of this. In the same way, meditate like water. For when you meditate like water, pleasant and unpleasant contacts will not occupy your mind.

Meditate like fire. For when you meditate like fire, pleasant and unpleasant contacts will not occupy your mind. Suppose a fire were to burn both clean and unclean things, like feces, urine, spit, pus, and blood. The fire isn’t horrified, repelled, and disgusted because of this. In the same way, meditate like fire. For when you meditate like fire, pleasant and unpleasant contacts will not occupy your mind.

Meditate like wind. For when you meditate like wind, pleasant and unpleasant contacts will not occupy your mind. Suppose the wind were to blow on both clean and unclean things, like feces, urine, spit, pus, and blood. The wind isn’t horrified, repelled, and disgusted because of this. In the same way, meditate like the wind. For when you meditate like wind, pleasant and unpleasant contacts will not occupy your mind.

Meditate like space. For when you meditate like space, pleasant and unpleasant contacts will not occupy your mind. Just as space is not established anywhere, in the same way, meditate like space. For when you meditate like space, pleasant and unpleasant contacts will not occupy your mind.

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My own humble contributions:

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Maintaining a positive mindset in adversity is another aspect of resilience. Who better as an example of this than Venerable Puṇṇa, the soon-to-be arahant, in MN 145:

The people of Sunāparanta are wild and rough, Puṇṇa. If they abuse and insult you, what will you think of them?”

“If they abuse and insult me, I will think: ‘These people of Sunāparanta are gracious, truly gracious, since they don’t hit me with their fists.’ That’s what I’ll think, Blessed One. That’s what I’ll think, Holy One.”

“But if they do hit you with their fists, what will you think of them then?”

“If they hit me with their fists, I’ll think: ‘These people of Sunāparanta are gracious, truly gracious, since they don’t throw stones at me.’ That’s what I’ll think, Blessed One. That’s what I’ll think, Holy One.”

“But if they do throw stones at you, what will you think of them then?”

“If they throw stones at me, I’ll think: ‘These people of Sunāparanta are gracious, truly gracious, since they don’t beat me with a club.’ That’s what I’ll think, Blessed One. That’s what I’ll think, Holy One.”

“But if they do beat you with a club, what will you think of them then?”

“If they beat me with a club, I’ll think: ‘These people of Sunāparanta are gracious, truly gracious, since they don’t stab me with a knife.’ That’s what I’ll think, Blessed One. That’s what I’ll think, Holy One.”

“But if they do stab you with a knife, what will you think of them then?”

“If they stab me with a knife, I’ll think: ‘These people of Sunāparanta are gracious, truly gracious, since they don’t take my life with a sharp knife.’ That’s what I’ll think, Blessed One. That’s what I’ll think, Holy One.”

“But if they do take your life with a sharp knife, what will you think of them then?”

“If they take my life with a sharp knife, I’ll think: ‘There are disciples of the Buddha who looked for someone to assist with slitting their wrists because they were horrified, repelled, and disgusted with the body and with life. And I have found this without looking!’ That’s what I’ll think, Blessed One. That’s what I’ll think, Holy One.”

“Good, good Puṇṇa! Having such self-control and peacefulness, you will be quite capable of living in Sunāparanta. Now, Puṇṇa, go at your convenience.

Your friend may need to give some context for that last one, though…

giphy

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Rev. Sujatho wrote
Using keywords resilience, developing inner strength, and our ability to adapt? Basically, a formula for success even in a pandemic.

Spiritual success? right? My thoughts…In
SN 47. 13 upon hearing of the passing away of Sariputta:

Ananda’s lament: "my body seems as if it is drugged, i have become disoriented, the teachings are no longer clear to me"

Buddha’s response:

"But have i not already declared, Ananda, that we must be parted, separated, and severed from all who are dear and agreeable to us? How Ananda is it to be obtained here: May what is born, come to be, conditioned, and subject to disintegration not disintegrate? That is impossible.

Buddhs’s words addressed to the one person closest to him, for the longest time, a poignant moment, unforgettable, dependently originated.

Suttas on the "skillful handling of feelings’ this might require experience in Right intention such as development of equanimity towards events of life via Brahma Viharas, many suttas one can think of;

Metta sutta for instance, from Sutta Nipata.

or suttas on the practice at handling of feelings via Four Foundations of Mindfulness, SN 46.42 from Satipatthana samyutta, or the four buddhist jhanas, using skillful breath SN 46.5.

Some Suttas from Vedanasamyutta,

SN 36.1 With the destruction of feelings, results a quenching, a hunger lessness.

SN 36.4 One who cannot endure arisen painful feelings, bodily feelings that sap one’s life, who tremble when they touch him, is a weakling of little strength, has not arisen in the bottomless abyss…nor has gained a foothold…

SN 36.12 The sky.

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I think you may follow closely the teachings of Sotapatti Samyutta of SN/SA (= SA 833-860).

The Buddha in the suttas teaches about the essential merit of the six practices and beliefs:
The three faiths (Buddha-dhamma-Sangha), the sila of the five precepts, non-malice (abyapajjha) as the highest path to the heavens (devas), and delighting in dana “charitable giving”.

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