Wednesday, February 24, 2010

And Their Four Offspring

This is a continuation of my post of 2/14/10, The Four Gardeners.

I started off with the Four Gardeners, the Four Immeasurables, the Four Heavenly Abodes, the Four Boundless Virtues. They are a major first step in changing attitudes. (See my last post, Deciding, 2/19/10, for more on changing attitudes.) What lies beyond them? Beyond these 'Gardeners', are Patience, Forgiveness, Generosity, and Healing. I see them as the offspring of Love, Compassion, Joy, and Serenity.

Patience is the offspring of Serenity and Compassion. We need to remember that things take time and we and others are doing our best and not to expect change to happen quickly. It all begins with patience--and Patience isn't always easy to develop.

Forgiveness is the offspring of Compassion and Love. We all make mistakes, and some people do awful things. If we want real change, we need to practice forgiveness. (See my post on Forgiveness, 8/7/08, for more on this.) I like this quote from 'A Litany of Atonement' by Robert Eller-Issacs: "We forgive ourselves and each other, we begin again in love." As Patience develops, there is room for Forgiveness.

Patience and Forgiveness are a challenge--they open us up. I remind myself every day (often many times a day) to be patient and forgiving with everyone, including myself. Sometimes especially myself. And Patience and Forgiveness prepare us for Generosity.

Generosity is the offspring of Love and Joy. As we develop Patience and Forgiveness, as we cultivate Love, Compassion, Joy, and Serenity, we have less need to hold onto things and we feel free to give freely. We want to help those in need and since simplicity appeals to us, we begin to want less stuff and more connection.

Finally, the offspring of Joy and Serenity is Healing. Healing is realizing that there is a lot right with the world and with each of us and yet things can be so much better. Healing is a process, an organic process. I prefer talking about 'healing' to using words like 'fixing', which seems so mechanical. At the same time, we have less control over healing which, like any natural process, occurs at its own pace. We can cultivate Patience, Forgiveness, and Generosity. We need Patience, and Forgiveness, and Generosity, as well as Love and Compassion for there to be Healing.

I like the Jewish concept of 'Tikkun Olam', literally "The repair of the world", but as far as I am concerned, we are not capable of 'repairing the world', although we may be able to undo some of the damage we have done to the world. Instead, I pray daily to be part of 'the healing of the world', feeling that this is a process that we can support, but the world, with our love, will heal itself.

Healing develops naturally when you cultivate Patience, Forgiveness, and Generosity. Interestingly enough, when I did a search on the web from 'patience forgiveness generosity', I got many Christian sites and books. I also got a few that cited a study claiming that Theists felt Patience, Forgiveness, and Generosity were much more important than Atheists did. In the study, the theists outranked the atheists on all the virtues cited but, as one commentator pointed out: "Although the differences between theists and atheists in the importance of values such as honesty, politeness, and friendliness are generally small, moral values emphasized by religious beliefs, such as Christianity, including patience, forgiveness, and generosity exhibit major differences in attitudes (30%+ differences between theists and atheists)." I had trouble believing that Patience, Forgiveness, and Generosity were confined to religious groups. When I consulted with my friend Susan, from the Ethical Society Without Walls, she generously (especially since she was quite busy but took the time anyway to help me out) pointed me to a rebuttal that questions the results of this survey. The study puzzled me as well, since many Buddhists are nontheists but Patience (Khanti or Kshanti) and Generosity (Dāna) are two of the Paramitas, virtues cultivated as a way of purification, and Forgiveness is implicit in the Buddhist teachings.

I believe that anyone can cultivate Patience, Forgiveness, and Generosity, and when they do, Healing will emerge. It doesn't mean that cultivating these virtues is easy, but I think the rewards are enormous.

Quote of the Day: "Patience is not learned in safety. It is not learned when everything is harmonious and going well. ... There is no cultivation of patience when your pattern is to just try to seek harmony and smooth everything out. Patience implies a willingness to be alive..." - Pema Chödrön

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