A Fundamental Attitude
Along with Patience, the quality of perseverance provides the grounding and support that the Hridaya Attitudes encourage us to cultivate. By developing this attribute, the practitioner creates a solid foundation on which to build all the other important factors.
Talking about perseverance in our spiritual life isn’t so complicated; we must look at it in the same way as in any aspect of our lives. If we want to succeed at something we really need to stick with it, having the diligence and discipline to continue even through difficult times.
The Challenges of Practice
Big life changes can lead us away from spiritual practice or make us lose our faith in the path we are on. Small factors can recur and lead us away from the true essence of the teachings by frustrating and upsetting us.
For me, I sometimes found that something as banal as not quite getting the right cushions in the yoga hall could leave me distracted during meditation and unable to reach deep states due to being uncomfortable. I would reach a point where I would decide this was never going to work and resign myself to an unproductive meditation. Then I read this story about Milarepa.
One day, Milarepa warned Gampopa that the time had come for him to depart.
He told Gampopa, “You have received the entire transmission. I have given you all the teachings, as if pouring water from one vase into another. Only 1 pith instruction remains that I haven’t taught you. It’s very secret.”
He then accompanied Gampopa to a river, where they were to part. Gampopa made prostrations to take his leave and started across. But Milarepa called him back: “You are a really good disciple. Anyway I will give you this last teaching.”
Overjoyed, Gampopa prostrated 9 times, then waited for the instructions. Milarepa proceeded to turn around, pull up his robe, showing Gampopa his bottom. “Do you see?”
And Gampopa said, “Uh…yes…”
“Do you really see?”
Gampopa was not sure what he was supposed to see. Milarepa had calluses on his buttocks; they looked as though they were half flesh and half stone.
“You see, this is how I reached enlightenment: sitting and meditating. If you want to reach it in this life, make the same effort. This is my final teaching. I have nothing more to add.”
His buttocks have been an inspiration against my own self-cherishing ego ever since.
The Joy of Practice
There are as many things that knock us off our path as there are people. We all have our own little distractions that can take us out of the present moment and into a story of shoulds; of something more important than the practice at hand.
Perseverance implies regular practice, to try our best in spite of challenges that arise. If we can joyfully stay with our practice and not become distracted by outside factors, then being aware of our commitment to perseverance will lead to strengthening our aspiration.
I’d love to hear in the comments about what challenges yogis reading this blog and any remedies that you have been able to apply to increase the levels of perseverance!
“Never give up.
No matter what is going on, never give up.
Develop the heart.
Too much energy in your country is spent developing the mind instead of the heart.
Not just to your friends, but to everyone.
Work for peace; in your heart and in the world.
Work for peace, and I say again, never give up.
No matter what is going on around you…
NEVER give up.”
-His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama