The impatient Arhat

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.

The Theravada attitude is that one cannot effectively help others until one has developed one’s own wisdom:

" 16. "Cunda, it is impossible that one who is himself sunk in the mire[23] should pull out another who is sunk in the mire. But it is possible, Cunda, that one not sunk in the mire himself should pull out another who is sunk in the mire.

“It is not possible, Cunda, that one who is himself not restrained, not disciplined and not quenched [as to his passions],[24] should make others restrained and disciplined, should make them attain to the full quenching [of passions].[25] But it is possible, Cunda, that one who is himself restrained, disciplined and fully quenched [as to his passions] should make others restrained and disciplined, should make them attain to the full quenching [of passions].”—Majhima Nikaya 8

But that is where the issue lies. The view as to how one develops or cultivates one’s own wisdom.

I think both author follow the mahayana path. That is, the path to arahat is not recommended, discouraged even. But both confirmed that if you want to be arahat, you can simply meditate in solitude and no need to deal with people until you achieve it.

Does that mean arahat is impatient? Arahat has already eliminated the ego, so there is no basis for angry mind. They are incapable of being impatient.

Then why the book said to practice among people?
I think this is the traditional way of Mahayana, the teaching is framed in the context of bodhicitta. When developing bodhicitta, it is important not to have subconscious rejection of other people.

For example, suppose I say, “I wish all beings be free from suffering, and let me be the one to free them from suffering.”
Then I go to a marketplace and a bad guy do something bad to me, abuse me physically and verbally, generally make my day terrible.
That night, I pray, “I wish all beings be free from suffering, and let me be the one to free them from suffering, (but I will exclude that guy, let him dwell forever in samsara)”

Unconsciously, I would have made a decision to exclude one being from salvation, and that is not true bodhicitta. To prevent this, the teaching usually said a lot about patience with other people.

Now to your question. How do one develop patience, inner strength, and wisdom in solitude?
By meditating.

But meditating on what exactly?

Generally, there are preliminary topics such as death and impermanence of life, recollection of Buddha, truth of suffering, dependent arising, defects of samsara, karma.

Then the the integral part of Mahayana: benefits of bodhicitta, logical reasoning to develop bodhicitta/ why become bodhisattva, the four immeasurables, seven point cause and effect to develop bodhicitta, the six perfection;

more specifically on the perfection of dhyana and prajnya: how to develop samatha and achieve jhana, and selflessness of oneself and phenomena.
These are all standard curriculum in tibetan buddhism, that one should practice. Most of them should be practiced before the perfection of patience.

If you are confused with all this term. Then the answer which is easy to google:
In seclusion, just practice loving kindness (metta) and compassion (karuna), and with that as object, strive to develop jhana/ samatha/ samadhi.

Compassion is regarded in the Buddha’s teaching as an inferior practice:

" He keeps pervading the first direction with an awareness imbued with compassion … appreciation … equanimity, likewise the second, likewise the third, likewise the fourth. Thus above, below, & all around, everywhere, in its entirety, he keeps pervading the all-encompassing cosmos with an awareness imbued with equanimity — abundant, expansive, immeasurable, without hostility, without ill will. This, Dhanañjanin, is the path to union with the Brahmas."

“In that case, Master Sariputta, pay homage to the Blessed One’s feet with your head in my name and say ‘Lord, Dhanañjanin the brahman is diseased, in pain, severely ill. He pays homage with his head to the Blessed One’s feet.’”

So Ven. Sariputta — when there was still more to be done, having established Dhanañjanin the brahman in the inferior[4] Brahma world — got up from his seat and left. Then, not long after Ven. Sariputta’s departure, Dhanañjanin the brahman died and reappeared in the Brahma world.—Majhima Nikaya 97