“There is no vice like anger and no virtue like patience.” – Shantideva
As you all know I am currently in India on my yearly battery re-charging holiday. One of the best and most important things you learn in India is how to deal with hardships. In this post I want to give you some tips so that you might be able to better deal with your own personal hardships when you next encounter them.
Dealing with hardships – the Buddhist approach
I want to give you some of the Buddhist methods for dealing with hardships. This makes sense because I am here studying buddhism and meeting with my buddhist teachings. These methods are therefore the freshest in my mind.
The first method of dealing with hardships is to develop patience. The old master Shantideva used to talk about how hardships have no solid reality. They aren’t intentionally trying to hurt you so why do you get angry with them?
Shantideva also used to use the example of mucas. He would ask his students why they don’t get angry at mucas and other illnesses but you get angry at other circumstances that are causing you hardships. He said this was illogical because both are due to causes. That is, nothing that causes you hardships has a solid reality – nothing is inherently trying to make you suffer.
So… be patient.
Meditating on karma
Another method that buddhists use to deal with hardships is meditation on karma.
Buddhists assert that everything that happens to us is because of things we have done in past lives. For example, if we are sick it might be due to something we did in previous lives that left that imprint on our mindsteams.
When hardships occur it is then considered to be a positive thing. The reason for that is that the negative karma is being purified. If bad things happen because of bad things we have done then when we experience hardships we are exhausting the cause for bad things to happen for us. Therefore it is a positive event.
While this may be too farfetched for some western mind’s to accept it is a useful thing to contemplate the next time we are undergoing some hardships. It helps us to be less selfish and self centered and stops us from becoming someone who blames everyone else around them when things go wrong.
Meditating on compassion
Compassion is the king of all meditations. The whole point of buddhism is to get people to become more compassionate.
When you are undergoing hardships it is a great time to develop compassion. You can think that there are other people undergoing similar things to me and arouse compassion in your mind thinking how horrible it is that other people have to feel this crap.
When buddhists get sick we have a short aspiration that we recite that helps us make our compassion more limitless and less ego driven. It goes:
“May all the sufferings of all sentient beings ripen on me right now. May I take on their pain so that they don’t have to.”
This is a powerful thing to do because for the first time in a long time we are putting other people ahead of our own needs.
These are only a few methods but they are some of the most important that you can encounter if you want new ways to deal with hardships.