Patience is a blessing to human beings and is the best moral practice.
–The Buddha (Mangala Sutta; Dhp. v. 184)
Patience leads to Nibbana
— Burmese saying
Patience is required in performing acts of generosity, in observing precepts, and in the field of mental development (bhavana). In meditation when we observe a pain that is gradually intensifying we tend to get annoyed. This annoyance may easily turn into irritation and restlessness. We start fidgeting, we change our posture. We might even ask ourselves: Why do we have to sit still in meditation and observe this pain? This seems like a futile exercise. With this we have just missed a wonderful opportunity to gain intuitive wisdom. If we were to observe that same pain with some patience we could learn many things from it, such as seeing its inherent quality, its fascinating changes, and even its eventual dissolution. When we are remembering some undesirable event of the past we may want to push it away and rather not observe it. Once again, wisdom cannot arise. Here, too, patience will make a big difference. When we accept and observe the undesirable event of the past as an object of observation we get to know it, what it feels like in the mind, and eventually we might even come to terms with it.
Satipatthana mediation could be described as a process of developing ever greater levels of patience. At the outset of our meditation journey we easily get impatient with undesirable, and times even desirable objects. As the meditation practice is full of challenges this will give us ample opportunity to grow more and more patient. After being very diligent for quite some time, on occasion our meditation practice may collapse. At such a point again we need patience with the situation and just accept what has happened and start all over again. Sooner or later, in the presence of mindfulness and patience, we are bound to succeed and gain nibbana. Hence , the Burmese saying “Patience leads to Nibbana” very much applies to the meditation practice.
The patience gained from intensive or regular meditation at home will come in good stead in our daily life when we have to deal with the imperfections of ourselves and others. Others’ speech may be timely or untimely, true or untrue, gentle or harsh, connected with good or with harm, spoken with a mind of loving-kindness or with inner hate. Whatever others might be saying, we need to abide in patience, compassion, and loving-kindness.
In the context of the Abhidhamma patience and other positive mental qualities like loving-kindness, gentleness, and amity are various aspects of the mental state of non-hatred (adosa). The commentary to the Cariyapitaka defines patience as follows: It has the characteristic of acceptance; its function is to endure the desirable and the undesirable; its manifestation is tolerance or non-opposition; seeing things as they really are is its proximate cause. In the texts patience is much extolled as a blessing to human beings and as the best moral practice (Mangala Sutta; Dhp. v.184).