The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

Shantideva on Joyous Perserverance

by Kestrel Slocombe
March 4, 2015
Wed, 03/04/2015 - 10:00 -- Kestrel Slocombe

With patience, I should cultivate perseverance,
for without it enlightenment is impossible.

Joyous perseverance  is finding joy in good;
laziness, entertainment, and discouragement
are its obstacles.

Abandoning Obstacles

The source and fuel of laziness
are attachment to pleasure
and disregard for samsara’s sufferings.

By the power of my delusions,
I’m caught in the cycle of rebirth.
Why don’t I realize I am going to die?

Oblivious to my companions dying
one by one,
I’m like a buffalo sleeping soundly
beside its butcher.

Cornered by death with no escape,
how can I take pleasure in food, love, or sleep?

Before it’s too late, I should strive
to accumulate merit and wisdom.
For death will appear unexpectedly
amid my half-finished projects.
Tormented by the memories of my mistakes,
what will I do then?

Thinking of the unbearable agony to come,
how can I lie back, carefree?
Drawing closer to death with each passing breath,
what a fool I am to think I’m immortal
and to dream of the fruit without effort.

With this raft of human birth
I should cross the river of pain—
this is no time for sleep!

How can I reject the exquisite joy of Dharma
for entertainment  that only results in suffering?
Without giving in to discouragement ,
I should master myself,
then equalize and exchange self for others.

Why be discouraged
when the Buddha explained that with effort
even insects can reach enlightenment?
Shouldn’t I, a human discerning right from wrong,
be able to reach enlightenment?

If it’s for fear of having to give up this body,
then I’m confused about what’s hard
and what’s easy.
What is terrible is to suffer eons
without awakening,
whereas hardship on the path to enlightenment
is limited.
Even doctors cause a little suffering
to remove greater pain.
By comparison, the buddhas give gentle treatments
to cure boundless suffering.
Training is gradual:
first give a little food, until eventually
you’ll be able to give your body away.

With virtue there would be no pain,
with wisdom, no mental afflictions.
Those who take rebirth out of compassion—
what could make them suffer?
For through the power of bodhichitta,
past negativities are destroyed
and infinite merit created.
With bodhichitta I’d go from happiness
to happiness,
so how could I be discouraged?

The Four Power

To work for the benefit of all, I should cultivate
the supports to my perseverance:
the powers of aspiration, self-confidence, joy, and rest.

I aspire  to destroy the countless delusions of all beings,
even though each one may take eons to conquer.
Though I don’t have even a tiny bit of energy to do this,
suffering awaits—so I must wake up!

The time has come to develop many good qualities,
no matter how long it takes.
So far I’ve failed to develop any of them,
and thus, for nothing have I gained this precious life.

I haven’t made offerings
to the buddhas, the Dharma, or the poor;
nor have I offered protection or happiness to anyone.
So far my only accomplishment
has been my mother’s labor pains.

In past lives I didn’t aspire to the Dharma,
which is why I’m in this pitiful state now.
Buddha said that aspiration is the root of all virtues
and comes from constant awareness of karma.

Nonvirtuous states of mind
cause physical and mental pain,
while virtuous ones bring happiness.
So, however much I strive for happiness,
if I do wrong, only suffering will result.
Through virtue I’ll be born close to the buddhas,
but if I behave unethically,
only the suffering of lower rebirth awaits.

And so I’ll develop aspiration  for virtuous actions
and on this basis develop self-confidence .

But first let me inspect the task,
for it’s better not to begin
than to give up once started.
Otherwise this habit will strengthen;
I’ll achieve nothing and waste my time.

Self-confidence should be applied to three things:
actions, the afflictions, and abilities.
When others, so deluded, are unable to find happiness,
I’ll be there to help them!
May I do the lowest jobs
without a trace of pride.

If I’m weak,
even the slightest setback will impair me.
The discouraged are easily defeated,
so with confidence and perseverance I’ll succeed.

The wish to save the world is ridiculous
if I succumb to discouragement.
“Vanquish all and be defeated by nothing”—
this is the wholesome pride I should have!

But self-important, destructive pride is the enemy.
It prevents all joy
and leads to unfortunate rebirth.
Wholesome pride comes from
vanquishing destructive pride.

When overwhelmed by the afflictions,
fight them in a thousand ways;
do not surrender!
Despite hardships, bodhisattvas never fall
under the power of the afflictions;
so come what may,
I’ll never bow to my mental afflictions!


Excerpted from The Beautiful Way of Life by René Feusi.

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