From the Sermon on the Mount from the King James Version, Luke 6, 27 – 30.
27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
29 And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.
30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.
These stanzas from Luke’s version of Jesus’s life and death sit in the heart of the Sermon on the Mount. They are the crux of his teaching, in my opinion, and they are also the heart of the paramitas: Ksanti or patience.
In the opening verses of the Beatitudes, Jesus speaks about how to prepare for receiving and then hearing the word of these four verses by speaking about the effects of the practices of the blessed and the woeful. Dana/selflessness and sila/harmlessness, the first two paramitas, are, in the same sense, practices that prepare for the highly demanding and counterintuitive practice of ksanti/patience. In order to practice and realize ksanti paramita there must have already been an understanding that there is nothing that is mine as such and that harm is never isolated to the harmed or to the moment of harm.
With the realization that there is no absolute me or mine and that every harmful thought, word and deed has an effect that reverberates endlessly throughout space and time, one cannot help but pause before following through on an act, word or thought of anger, revenge or retribution. Not only a pause but then choosing to turn away from these reflexive reactions of habitual tendencies. Tendencies that are caused by the ideas of me and mine as different and separate from you and yours.
Until selflessness/blessedness and harmlessness/woe-lessness is no longer a practice, but realized as just the way things are, in truth; that these essential qualities of beingness are true nature, there will be confusion and doubt about ksanti. There will be reasoned exceptions to, and logical justifications for rejecting the rules of:
“Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.
As long as there is anger in response to hate, there will be endless anger and hate. As long as there is spite in response to being manipulated there will be spite and manipulation. As long as there is violence in response to violence there will be violence. As long as there is greed in response to stealing, there will be greed and theft. As long as there is a demand for debt repayment there will be indebtedness.
In the recent biography of Dr. Martin Luther King1, Jonathan Eig writes about the wrenching internal struggles that Dr. King had when sending the people, who trusted and followed him, into the hate and violence of their oppressors, while demanding that they not retaliate, that they not respond to violence with violence, knowing that some would be beaten, jailed and even killed. He knew though, in spite of how illogical it seemed, that the generational violence that had been, was, and still is, being perpetrated on non white people in the United States, could only be seen by those ignorant of that dark violence when it was exposed in the stark contrast of the shining light nonviolence.
This is the embodiment of ksanti paramita; the fully engaged patience that automatically and without doubt, turns away from the ingrained, habitual tendencies of greed and hatred no matter what the situation.This is the mind of flexibility, of loosening the grip of, me/not you and mine/not yours, on this life, this body, these thoughts and emotions. It is the practice of stepping into the arms of the suffering ones who are striking out rather than trying to break them. To recognise through their eyes and in their heart, the inherency of them that is not different or separate from the inherency of us. The inherency of goodness, the desire to be good, and the longing for goodness for all beings. Ksanti paramita the willingness to endure and to wait with loving patience through beatings, manipulation, hunger strikes, jail, assassination, crucifixion, for eons, until the effect of this patience: boundless love, eradicates all suffering throughout all times and all directions.
With these words I pay homage to all buddhas, bodhisattvas, sentient beings, and the totality. May these words not confuse, bring doubt, or harm, but bring ease and warmth and an end to suffering for all beings.
1 Eig,Jonathan (2023). King, A Life. Farrah Strauss and Giroux.
For further study:
Kshanti Paramita: Crucible of Character (The Six Perfections Part 6b) Podcast https://www.upaya.org/2015/11/norman-kathie-fischer-kshanti-paramita-six-perfections-part-6b/
“The Psycho-semantic Structure of the Word kṣānti (Ch. Jen)” in the 7-10-2016 edition of Buddhism.org, Sungtaek Cho
Nomon Tim Burnett : Paramitas – Patience Beyond Patience (Kshanti) https://redcedarzen.org/Dharma-Talks/3518505
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