A Buddhist Story about Patience and Mental Stillness

Sometimes, the action is not the best option, especially if it is born fruit of an impulse. Because knowing how to wait and having patience also has its fruits. This Buddhist story tells us.


We have the bad habit of wanting almost everything instantly, of doing things immediately. We prefer to change options, rather than have patience. We are more to surrender than to strive, above all, if the fruits need their time to mature.

It bothers us to postpone the satisfaction of our desires, to have to wait … In fact, when we believe we do, our mind begins to bombard us through worries and expectations, to accelerate the pace of events.

Thus, we live quickly and with a lot of noise, both internally and externally. Wandering from one place to another, with no other course than that which marks our need for immediate satisfaction. To this we must add, the hubbub of our inner voice, because thought seems to be present in everything we do. It is as if, somehow, we were addicted to it. We love to think, create hypotheses and get caught up in the labyrinths and vicious circles of our beliefs.

We ignore perhaps the most important thing: how to get out of these self-imposed traps, how to free ourselves from our mental traps. The Buddhist story that follows gives us the answer.

“The mind is a superb instrument if used correctly. However, if used incorrectly it becomes very destructive. To put it more precisely, it is not so much that you use the mind wrongly: you usually do not use it at all, but rather it uses you. That is the disease. You believe that you are your mind. That is the deception. The instrument has taken over you.”

-Eckhart Tolle-

The Buddhist history

Buddha and his disciples decided to undertake a journey during which they would cross various territories and cities. One day when the sun shone with all its splendor, they saw a lake far away and stopped, besieged by thirst. Upon arrival, Buddha addressed his youngest and most impatient disciple:

-I’m thirsty. Can you bring me some water from that lake?

The disciple went to the lake, but when he arrived he noticed that a cart of oxen began to cross it and the water, little by little, became cloudy. After this situation, the disciple thought “I can not give the teacher this muddy water to drink”. So he came back and told Buddha:

-The water is very muddy. I do not think we can drink it.

After a time, about half an hour, Buddha again asked the disciple to go to the lake and bring him some water to drink. The disciple did so. However, the water was still dirty. He returned and with a conclusive tone informed the Buddha of the situation:

-The water of that lake can not be drunk, we’d better walk to the town so that its inhabitants can give us a drink.

Buddha did not answer him, but he did not make any movement either. He remained there. After a while, he asked the disciple himself to return to the lake and bring him water. This, as he did not want to challenge his master, went to the lake; Of course, I had a furious attitude, because I did not understand why I had to return, if the water was muddy and you could not drink.

Upon arriving, he observed that the water changed its appearance, looked good and looked crystal clear. So, he picked up a little and took it to Buddha. He looked at the water and said to his disciple:

-What have you done to clean the water?

The disciple did not understand the question, he had not done anything, it was obvious. Then, Buddha looked at him and explained:

– You wait and let her be. In this way, the mud settles on its own and you have clean water. Your mind is like that too! When it is disturbed, you just have to let it be. Give him some time. Do not be impatient. On the contrary, be patient. You will find the balance by itself. You do not have to make any effort to calm her down. Everything will happen if you do not cling.

The art of patience to silence the mind

Patience. That is the secret of this Buddhist story. The art of knowing how to wait, of respecting times and pausing when the occasion deserves -or needs-, above all, with our thoughts. In fact, the more overwhelmed we find ourselves and the cobwebs formed by our beliefs grow larger and larger, the more we need to stop.

Doing nothing, giving time and waiting is a good option to calm that agitated mind or monkey mind as the Buddhists call it. He jumps from thought to thought in agitated fashion, until we are exhausted and confused.

Because if we get carried away by impatience, anger, stress or frustration, in addition to feeling bad, surely, we will end up making hasty decisions, the result of our impulses. The better it is to take a few minutes to breathe, take emotional distance from what has happened and get in touch with yourself. Because only in this way will we achieve that state of mental stillness, as indicated at the end of Buddhist history.

Sometimes, it is not so much about acting or doing something urgently, but about being calm and not getting carried away by the noise of immediacy and pleasure; that is, to quiet the waters of our minds and wait for as long as necessary. Because when we calm our mind and reach that mental stillness, emotions work with our thoughts and we are able to adopt other looks, other perspectives.

“It’s just about sitting quietly, watching the thoughts going through you. Simply observing, not interfering, not judging, because the moment you judge, you have lost the pure observation. The moment you say ‘this is good, this is bad, you have jumped in the thought process.”