Our family group this week covered the paramī of Khanti. In the Pāli language, khanti is a word that covers a whole range of activities in English: Patience, Tolerance, Forebearance, Endurance. The common thread that all of these things have together is that they deal with our ability to be with a challenging or unpleasant experience.
The Buddha said that Khanti is the ‘foremost spiritual training’. It’s not just a cultivated trait we either have or don’t have. It’s a faculty we can always turn to and engage in any difficult situation. Whether it’s enduring some unkind words, or waiting patiently for some upcoming event, or even sticking with a task when the going gets rough – the chances we have to turn towards Khanti are almost limitless.
We read from the book ‘Bedtime with the Buddha’, a story from the jataka’s about ‘The Whatnot Tree’. One rendition can be found at: The Whatnot Tree (Prudence) (buddhanet.net) This story is a little less violent than the canonical story of the Bodhisatta perfecting his own patience (a story which involves some dismemberment). What it deals with mostly, though, is using patience to work against greed.
We followed this up with a famous psychology experiment. Both children were given a bowl with an M&M candy in it. They were told they could eat the candy at any time, but for each ten minutes they waited, they would get another candy. The famous and somewhat controversial experiment this replicated tried to measure the ability of ‘delayed gratification’, which could be said to be a kind of Patience. The children in that experiment were in a room all alone, so it was a very challenging task! But for our group, we took the time to consider why waiting to eat the candy is hard, and why this form of Patience is the same as Tolerance. The secret is a fundamental Buddhist concept: Greed is painful. Often, we give in to our greed simply to be rid of the discomfort of craving. This might relieve us for a little while, but if we were to overcome the greed itself that would relieve us permanently.
Our final game was a ‘slowest person’ race. Last one to the finish line wins! It was a really close race!
As it turns out, our family group children are Patience pros. One of the real benefits of setting aside an hour to talk about this topic is the way that it seeds future conversations. The rest of the day was filled with illuminating examples of all the ways Patience and Tolerance can be applied in our daily lives.