“Diligence means joy in virtuous ways.
Its contraries have been defined as laziness,
An inclination for unwholesomeness,
Defeatism and self-contempt.”
-Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva
Diligence is an important concept in meditation practice.
Actually it’s important to all aspects of the Buddhist path, but I’m going to talk here about how it relates to meditation specifically. I know how hard it is to establish and maintain a regular meditation practice.
Diligence is one of the six perfections, and something that often gets overlooked when we talk about meditation. There’s a whole chapter devoted to it in the classic Mahayana text The Way of the Bodhisattva by Shantideva.
It’s a very important virtue, and I’m going to tell you why. It was an important virtue to cultivate in the Buddha’s time and it still is today. Diligence represents continuing when things get difficult.
When I first started meditating it was a while before I could get myself into a daily practice. There were always hundreds of other things I could be doing. I could meditate or I could watch TV. I could meditate or I could do some more reading. I always thought, “If I skip this time, it won’t be that big of a deal.”
But, what does that line of thinking lead to? Not having a meditation practice.
So, I had to work at it. I had to cultivate diligence to make myself do it every day. Eventually I did, but it took a very long time. I had to pay close attention to the differences I feel when I don’t meditate for the day. It’s so easy to not meditate.
These days we have a lot more distractions than there were when I started meditating.
Once in a while I do skip a meditation. And I always regret it. The world is a little bit harder to deal with on days when I don’t meditate. I feel the same way about working out (which I started doing in the last few months).
The time you spend meditating enriches the rest of your day. Some people say they have too much trouble quieting the mind or they’re too distracted meditate. If we cultivate diligence and just sit anyway, even when it’s hard, even when we don’t want to, it gets easier. The mind gets calmer.
So, be diligent, my friends.