Happy new year everyone! Hope everyone is doing well.
Going in to the new year I was reading the books practicing patience by the dalai lama and patience by zoka lopa rinpoche.
In these books patience gets divided into 3 categories which are patience with others (enemies), hardships on the path and patience with the ups and downs of life. In the dalai lama book it is mentioned that the dimension ‘patience with others is probably the most important’. Both books add to this that not only do we need angry people in our life to cultivate patience but without angry people enlightenment is not possible and they both use the same story of a hermit meditating on patience in a cave ironically losing his patience with a man passing by screaming at him. This is supposed to illlustrate that patience can ‘only be cultivated in interaction with others’.
The first problem I have with this is that it seems to downplay the patience that gets developed in the other dimensions and simultaneously the effect patience in these other dimensions have on the social dimension or perhaps more fundamental the solitude/marketplace dynamic. To completely divorce them from one another seems overly artificial. In this view I question what it is then that is being perceived to be cultivated in solitude in the first place?
The second problem is how this ties in to the arhat/bodhisattva ideal(s). The question gets asked ‘Instead of learning to deal with other people’s anger, why not simply avoid being with angry people?’ to which the dalai lama responds ‘the practitioner, at the initial stage, chooses an isolated place. However this is not a long-term solution; it’s a temporary method. While one remains isolated, one must develop inner strength so that when one returns to society, one is already equipped. Someone who totally isolates himself or herself from society and avoids interacting with other people, then spends a whole lifetime in meditation in a solitary retreat, may become an Arhat, which is described as the one who is like a rhinoceros.’
So now one DOES equip oneself through solitary meditation? I thought it could only be cultivated in interaction with others? Not only that, apparently if you continue you can become an arhat. Would you then call this an impatient arhat? Cutting of the unwholesome roots and eliminate suffering through solitary meditation but losing their patience when antagonized? This seems implausible if not absurd.
In zoka lopa rinpoche’s book he adds to this that ‘arhats are absorbed in a blissful state (presumably nirvana) and habituated to that taste so they don’t generate bodhichitta and because they have totally transcended suffering they have difficulty generating compassion for others’.
Based on this perhaps an alternative view might be that the arhat is an individual that does not have the ‘patience’ to be around antagonizing people because he sees no need to be around them in part because he has no wish to free every sentient being himself? However this is certainly not the same as the meditator losing their patience as described in the example and more generally at other times throughout the book(s) so if this would be the explanation then why even frame it any other way and cause confusion.
All in all it paints a confusing picture as to what it means to be patient with others and more importantly how to cultivate it and what the role of meditation is in this whole process and as it relates to the two paths.