Who sits in solitude and is quiet hath escaped from three wars

A few more from The Sayings of the Fathers in Helen Waddell’s The Desert Fathers

Book 2, Of Quiet
2. The abbot Antony said, “who sits in solitude and is quiet hath escaped from three wars: hearing, speaking, seeing: yet against one thing shall he continually battle: this is, his own heart.”

9. A certain brother came to the abbot Moses in Scete seeking a word from him. And the old man said to him, “Go and sit in they cell, and they cell shall teach thee all things.”

Book 7, Of Patience or Fortitude
34. A brother asked an old man, saying, “What shall I do, Father, for I do nothing a monk should, but in a kind of heedlessness I am eating and drinking and sleeping and always full of bad thoughts and great perturbation, going from one task to another, and from one thought to another?” And the old man said, “Sit thou in they cell, and do what thou canst, and be not troubled: for the little that thou dost now is even as when Antony did great things and many in the desert. For I have this trust in God, that whoever sits in his cell for His name and keeps his conscience shall himself be found in Antony’s place.”

Book 10, Of Discretion
15. They told of a certain old man that he had lived fifty years neither eating bread nor readily drinking water: and that he said, “I have killed in me lust and avarice and vainglory.” the abbot Abraham heard that he said these things, and he came to him and said, “Hast thou spoken thus?” And he answered, “Even so.” And the abbot Abraham said, “Behold, thou dost enter they cell, and find upon they bed a woman: canst thou refrain from thinking that it is a woman?” And he said, “No: but I fight my thoughts, so as not to touch that woman.” And the abbot Abraham said, “So then, thou has not slain lust, for the passion itself liveth, but it is bound. Again, if thou art walking on the road and sees stones and potsherds, and lying amongs them gold, canst thou think of it but as stones?” And he answered, “No: but I resist my thought, so as not to pick it up.” And the abbot Abraham said, “So then, passion liveth: but it is bound.” And again the abbot Abraham said, “If thou shouldst hear of two brethren, that one loves thee and speaks well of thee, but the other hates thee and disparages thee, and they should come to thee, wouldst though give them an equal welcome?” And he said, “No: but I should wrest my mind so that I should do as much for him that hated me as for him that loved me.” And the abbot Abraham said, “So then these passions live, but by holy men they are in some sort bound.”

This last can be difficult and I wish I had the original Latin at hand. I want to connect the sentiment to Bhagavad Gita 3.34

The love and hatred that the senses feel for their objects are inevitable. But let no one come under their sway; for they are one’s enemies


and 3.28

But, O mighty Arjuna, he who knows the truth about the gunas and action, and what is distinct from them [atman, the self] holds himself unattached, perceiving that it is the gunas that are occupied with the gunas (guna gunesu vartanta).

Guna here can, with grand unsatisfying imprecision, be taken as ‘senses and sensory objects.’

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