Khanti (pronounced kan-tee) originates from the Sanskrit word kshanti. It means “patient endurance,” or “forbearance.” It is the ability to tolerate provocation, hardship, pain, and obstacles in life. It is voluntary control of mood and temper cultivated through training of the mind.
In Buddhist texts, khanti is considered to be one of the ‘ten perfections’ (parami) and is seen as a high and noble quality that, far from indicating weakness or passivity, is seen as a great strength. It is a patience that endures being hurt without thoughts of revenge, arduous tasks without complaint, and illness without despondency. Khanti is the acceptance of the first noble truth, the truth of dukkha (dissatisfaction, suffering). As we learn to accept that life is characterized by happiness that does not last and unhappiness that at times seems to have no end, we begin to see how much time and energy we waste trying to avoid or deny dukkha. When we accept the natural instability of life, we stop feeling defeated and sorry for ourselves.
Khanti relates closely to other wise habits, including viriya (perseverance) and samathi (being calm and focused). Without khanti, no matter how much we persevere, we will become agitated and frustrated by the obstacles on our path. If we allow distractions, which inevitably arise in our minds when we try to focus, to irritate and discourage us, concentration becomes more difficult than if we simply accept distractions as natural occurrences. By the same token, without viriya and samathi, we are unlikely to cultivate the conditions needed to train the mind to be patient.
Research shows that, contrary to traditional views, there is no direct correlation between high IQ and success in life. The old beliefs in IQ are now outdated. According to contemporary studies, impulse control is a far more important indicator for success in studying, family life, and career (this is a key component of what is often referred to as “EQ,” or “emotional intelligence,” in modern educational terms). Venerable Jayasaro advises that children who have little tolerance, are selfish, or are spoiled will grow up wanting an easy life and lacking emotional control. This creates a strong tendency to later develop destructive habits or addictions. Having the patience and tolerance to resist unwholesome acts is a virtue that will protect a child from such negative consequences. “If your 5-year-old child has khanti, you can be sure that he will have a good future.”
As parents and teachers, we know that patience is one of the most important and yet most challenging requirements in raising children. How many times do we hear ourselves say—or think, “I am losing my patience!” In teaching children, we not only need to control our temper, but also patiently resist the urge to “give in” to unreasonable demands. We all know how difficult this is at times when, tired and fed up, we think “OK, OK, watch another TV show! Anything for some peace and quiet!” By helping children appreciate the value of waiting, by delaying their gratification, we are teaching patience.
We should use every opportunity to point out the results of our child’s patience, or lack of it, reflecting back to them without judgement. “You waited patiently for your turn and now you are playing so happily!” Having consistently applied rules that have been agreed upon with the child gives her the opportunity to practice self-control instead of interrupting whenever she wants or watching cartoons without a time limit.
Each day things happen we do not want and things we want do not happen. Khanti enables us to respond to the ups and downs of life with thoughtfulness and composure, creating the space and possibility for positive change to take place. Khanti is a truly wise habit. It will earn us respect and admiration from others and create success and happiness for ourselves.