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Patience


Commentary

by

Hazrat Inayat Khan




Patience is a virtue that you can only work on once you have run out of it.

Indulgence into every comfort, seeking convenience, always looking for the path of least resistance, also brings weakness. However small the work may be, if a person takes it seriously and finishes it with patience, he gains much power over himself. Patience is the principal thing in life, although patience is as bitter, as hard, as unbearable as death. Sometimes one prefers death to patience.

It is a great difficulty that the people in this land of America are losing this quality of patience more and more every day, because Providence has blessed them so much. They have conveniences, they have comforts, they are the spoilt children of Providence, and when it comes to having patience, it is very hard for them. Individuals have to practice this spirit, for we do not know what may come to follow. We live in this world of uncertainty, and we do not know in what condition we may be placed to-morrow; if we have no strength of resistance we may easily break down. Therefore it is most necessary for the human race to develop patience in all conditions of life, in all walks of life, in all positions in life. Whether we are rich or poor, high or low, this is the one quality that must be developed. It is patience that gives endurance, it is patience that is all-powerful, and by lack of patience one loses so much. Very often the answer to one's prayer is within one's reach, the hand of Providence not very far off -but one has lost one's patience and so lost the opportunity.

The sages have therefore taught the part played by contentment. It is said, 'Resist not evil,' and yet how many give in to evil instead! The real meaning of the scripture is: suppose a person is angry with us, if we partake of his anger we resist him; the fire that he sets alight in our minds we allow to become alight in ourselves, and we have resisted. Do not resist evil in that way. Do not partake of the evil of another. If you are quiet and calm, your calmness and quietness will have a greater effect on the other than his anger, so that true resistance is practice of contentment. Patience is the best quality that man can cultivate. We are always apt to become excited or annoyed when another person does not understand us. Why get excited if he cannot understand us? If a person is foolish or cannot do things right, by becoming excited we make him still more foolish, still more stupid. We cannot help him in that way, and we partake of his quality by allowing ourselves to oppose him. If we kept our mind tranquil, if we had patience, we should keep in harmony. Harmony is the greatest thing to learn in life. All the disagreement between couples, friends, people in business and politics, comes from lack of patience. If we just had patience and contentment, we could teach ourselves much better.

Patience is fed by love. We can never have patience with anybody without love. How valuable is patience! As it is said in the Qur'an, 'Allah loves the patient'.

Remember that life in the world, and especially if lived amidst the crowd, will test and try our patience every moment of the day, and it will be most difficult to preserve that harmony and peace which are all happiness. What is the definition of life? Life means struggle with friends and battle with foes; it is all the time giving and taking, and it is most difficult to keep the sympathy, to keep the harmony which are health and happiness.

Many lovers of God lose patience, trust and hope; they have touched sand and not reached water, but when they have dug deep enough they find pure water.

Ancient stories, stories in the Bible, tell of men speaking with trees, with running water, of sounds coming from the rock. A man without patience will not stop to listen, he hurries on. He is ready to laugh at such things, but there is nothing surprising or impossible in it. This world which is around us sounds continually; the word re-echoes in all things. Only man must be aware of his privilege, of this underlying oneness of all life.

No doubt a great amount of patience is required to take care of an infant. But patience is never wasted; patience is a process through which a soul passes and becomes precious. Souls who have risen above the world's limitations and sorrows, the world's falseness and deception, they are the souls who have passed through patience. If it is the destiny of the guardian or the mother to acquire patience, she must know that there is nothing lost, but that she has gained something in her life. To raise an infant, to look after it, to educate it, and to give oneself to its service, is as much and as good a work as the work of an adept; because an adept forgets himself by meditation, a mother forgets herself by giving her life to the child.

There are three things that a child may be taught at this particular time:perseverance, patience, and endurance. The child may be taught perseverance in anything that it is engaged in doing. Perhaps it is mending a toy, or doing some other work; one should help the child, encourage it to continue and not to leave it before it is finished. For however small this may appear, when this habit is formed, it will show later on in big things. A soul who has learned perseverance in childhood will show a tendency all his life to finish everything that he undertakes.

Frequently we see that this tendency is lacking among grownup people; and this is very often the cause of their failure in life. And if their mind is restless, then it is still worse. They take up something today, and then after a week their interest is gone and there is something else; and they accomplish nothing in their lives. Life is a great opportunity, and the one who does not complete the thing he has undertaken, however small, certainly loses most in life.

And now coming to the subject of patience, how can a child be taught patience? By teaching it to wait. Because a child is very impatient by nature, and if this tendency remains, then after that child is grown-up it will give it great unhappiness. When a person has no patience life becomes death for him. Patience is like death, but not to have patience is worse than death. Besides patience produces wonderful fruits, and patience is a quality which is beyond comparison with any other qualities in the world. If there is anything that gives kingliness to the soul, it is patience. What was the secret of the masters who have accomplished great things, who have inspired many and who have helped many souls? Their secret was patience. This is the time to sow the seed of patience in the child. In little things you can give the child the habit of patience. In asking for food, in wanting to go out to play, and in many other things a child shows lack of patience; yet if at that time, without hurting it, one gives it the habit of patience, the child will begin to show nobleness of spirit.

However, the difficulty for everyone is to have patience. The lack of beauty in some people strikes us so hard that we lose patience because of it. In doing so we encourage them to become still worse; but if we could have the patience to endure and trust them, we could dig that beauty out; and some day we will, by the Fatherhood of God.

The great teacher has therefore taught patience, which means to be patient, and not to expect patience.

And where do we practice patience? In silence...

Where there is love there is patience, where there is no patience there is no love.

Very often out of weakness a man gives in to something which otherwise he would have refused to accept. This weakness comes through lack of patience and endurance, lack of self-confidence, and lack of trust. A person who does not trust in Providence, who cannot have patience, who cannot endure, will take what comes at the moment; he will not wait till tomorrow.

Narrowness of outlook makes man's vision small; the person with a narrow outlook cannot easily agree with another. There is always a meeting ground for two people, however much they differ in thought; but the meeting-ground may be far off, and when that is so, a man is not always willing to take the trouble to go so far in order to come to an agreement. Very often this is due to his lack of patience. What generally happens is that each wants the other to meet him at the place where he is standing; there is no desire on either part to move from the spot.

Very often people have asked me if there is any practice, any study, anything which one can do in order to develop will-power; and I have answered that yes, there are many practices and many ways, but the simplest and best practice which one can follow without being taught is to have one's reactions always in hand. Such words as 'I cannot endure', 'I cannot stand', 'I cannot sustain', 'I cannot have patience', all mean to me, 'I am weak'. By speaking thus we only admit in other words that we are weak. And can there be anyone in the world who is a worse enemy to us than our own weakness? If the whole world were our friend, that one enemy, our weakness, would be enough to ruin our life; but once this enemy is conquered we can stand against all those who come into conflict with us.

There are also many who hope and believe that all good things will come of themselves, but just by hoping and believing good things do not come; it takes an effort and persistence, it needs patience to accomplish things.

It is a great temptation to think, on having received inspiration and power, 'I can do, know, understand more than you'. It is a constant struggle until the end, and at any moment one may stumble and fall down. Only the steadfast traveller will persist in rising up every time, for without patience he may lose his way.

It seems that, in order to learn that noble manner of life, what is most needed is patience - sometimes in the form of endurance, sometimes in the form of consideration, and sometimes in the form of forgiveness.

No doubt everything must be understood rightly. Resignation preached foolishly is of no benefit. There was a mureed who learned from a Murshid the lesson of resignation, and thinking on this subject the simple mureed was walking in the middle of a road, when a mad elephant came from the other side. As he was walking in the thought of resignation he stayed in the middle of the road. A wise man told him to go out of the way, but he would not do so, because he was resigned to the elephant, until he was pushed away by its strength. They brought him to his Murshid who asked him how he came to be hurt so much. He answered that he was practicing resignation.
The Murshid said, "Was there not somebody who told you to go away?"
"Yes", he answered, "but I would not listen".
"But", said the Murshid, "why did you not resign yourself to that person?"
Often beautiful principles can be practiced to the greatest disadvantage. Nevertheless, resignation has proved to be the path of saints, because it develops patience in man. And what is patience? It is all the treasure there is. Nothing is more valuable, nothing is a greater bliss than patience.

Patience, the word itself, is the heaviest thing that is. To one who is in difficulties and troubles, to one who is in sorrow, to one who lives in the wish of obtaining his desire, the word patience has a dreadful sound. The sound is dreadful, the thought is terrible, the idea is frightful to us. Yet all our difficulties in life, all our failures come from lack of patience. All the results of life often are lost through impatience. A person may have patience for forty years, and then lose patience, and so lose the result of all his endeavors during so many years.

The impatient person will show his impatience in his speech. When you ask him something, he will not let you finish your sentence; he answers before you have finished because he thinks, "Why should you still say that half sentence?" The impatient person eats very fast, and all the veins and tubes of his body cannot drink so fast as he drinks. If he walks across the room he will stumble ten times; he walks into chairs, into the table, into the door and does not look into whom he walks. If he intends to take some action, he starts, and three times before he reaches the door he will say, "I am going, I am not going, I am going", because he does not give time to his decision.

All our errors and faults come from impatience. It is not that the soul wants something which is wrong, but we do not stop to weigh our acts. We seize upon the first thought that comes to us without weighing or considering it. Nowadays the wish for variety has grown so strong that we always wish for new surroundings, new friends, new faces, and our thoughts change every moment. If we could hold our thought, we should increase its power. We think, "It is only a thought, it will pass". In reality, by our thought we create a spirit, a jinn, a genius, that acts and works and achieves. The more patiently we think a thought, the stronger the thought becomes.

The lesson of patience is much less taught nowadays as the influence of religion has become much less, and education is mostly given for commercial purposes. So we must look upon the lesson of patience as a lesson we give to ourselves; we must think of all the beautiful results we gain by patience, and be sure that, if we have conquered patience, we have conquered the whole world.

To have patience, to have confidence, we must see an object before us. We can have confidence in obtaining any material object. It is much more difficult to have patience where there is nothing to show - only the satisfaction of the soul; to have patience enough to acquire virtue, to merge in the illumination, to gain the light. It is the same with fire: at first there is smoke mixed with it and, if it had no patience until it would become a flame, there would only be smoke and then it would go out. If it has patience it will become a flame that illumines the whole room so that everything can be seen and known. More than all else this patience is the greatest gift and blessing.



Posted with permission: A Cherag's Library


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