A must-have for modern times
India is known for its unique method of struggling for political independence. The world over, nations have fought bloody wars to win independence, but India won its own independence by following the principle of ahimsa, nonviolence and tolerance. Whether India succeeded more by default than choice can be questioned, but no one doubts that at the time, the British were much more powerful than the Indians.
Well, if Mike Tyson were to challenge me to a boxing bout, I would tell him that I am from the land of Gandhi! Gandhi’s ideology, when he was alive and expressing it, is known today as gandhigiri. And it was revolutionary. If someone slaps you on one cheek immediately offer him the other cheek too. This is the height of tolerance, and it’s what gave us our freedom sixty-three years ago.
So it seems that tolerance is India’s main forte. Rabindranath Tagore described India as a melting pot of cultures and religions. Highest among that is religious tolerance. No wonder we have the second-largest population of Muslims in the world. Even religions like Baha’i and Judaism, which are banned in their countries of origin, are thriving here. Tolerance is an important quality completely embedded in our Indian psyche since time immemorial.
But now, sixty-three years into India’s independence, along with India’s quickly developing technology and booming economy, tolerance has begun to go missing. The present Gen X or whatever you may call them, have started to feel that the tolerance our ancestors prided themselves on is now as outdated and uncool as history itself. This is the age of instant gratification. No one wants to adjust, adapt, accept, or comply with any condition they haven’t themselves created. The result? A growing frustration among the youth, leading to an alarming number of suicides between the ages of twelve and nineteen. Psychologists and counselors understand that today’s youngsters lack the important ability to tolerate or, in common parlance, they have zero tolerance levels. Intolerance is rampant between individuals, families, corporations, and nations, leading to divorce, property disputes, riots, and ultimately, war. So at every level tolerance is much needed in this age of fast cars and fast foods, instant messaging and high-speed internet.
We need to get back to basics and learn a few lessons from the biggest management guru of all Lord Krishna Himself.
MANAGEMENT FROM GITA
In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna offers four broad management principles through which we can understand the importanceof tolerance.
1. Tolerance is a must in this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, because we live in a world of dualities.
As there are poor people scrounging for food in dustbins,so there are millionaires growing fat on their excess. Happiness/distress, honour/dishonour, victory/defeat are equally unavoidable.
2. Understand that you are not your body but eternal spirit soul.
If you understand that you are a soul and not your body, you’ll have more strength to tolerate the body’s inconveniences. This obsession we have with the comfort of our bodies leaves us focused on I, me, and mine, the root of selfishness and the cause of intolerance between individuals and nations alike. Today’s generation is growing up with this ‘I and me’culture. Today’s slogan? “My way or the highway.” No wonder marriages now last for a short time.
3. The world is temporary and full of suffering. Live with it.
The root cause of all suffering is our own mind and senses, home of six enemies: lust, anger, greed, pride, envy, and illusion. We need tolerance to fight these enemies, which can cause havoc in our lives. Look at how lust made Tiger Woods, once a successful sportsman, husband, and father into a complete social reject. And what about that couple who killed their child out of anger? Greed led to the Satyam Computers scam. Envy causes both fanaticism and riots. Bollywood and the advertising industry tend to weave such a phantasmagoria that we think we live in a different world, but we don’t. So better to learn tolerance and help yourself escape from your own version of the six enemies.
4. A man’s greatness is estimated by his ability to tolerate provoking situations.
This is a quality that has been seen only in great political and spiritual leaders Gandhi, Jesus Christ or Mother Theresa and in today’s modern age H.D.G A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada the founder-acharya of ISKCON. In fact every page in our scriptures are filled with such examples. These persons have worn tolerance as if it were armour, and it has protected them and those they are protecting from all kinds of trouble.
Inevitably, we have to ask how to apply these principles in our lives. Seems like a colossal task. But by learning from day-to-day examples we can imbibe this most elusive quality of tolerance in all situations and provocations. Nature has a lot of answers for difficult questions if we are observant. So let us look at the practical application of tolerance by examining the following examples from nature.
1. The ocean: Although vast, the ocean is so deep that it remains undisturbed even though hundreds of rivers constantly flow into its waters. Similarly, a tolerant person has depth, and remains undisturbed even when rivers of material desire and temptation flow into the mind.
2. The tree: Trees are exemplary in their tolerance. They stand under the scorching sun yet continue to shelter others from that same sun. Trees provide fresh fruit, flowers, and shade even though people come and cut their branches for firewood. Trees endure so much inconvenience, silently, without expectations.
3. A building: The most important part of a building is its foundation.We can’t see much of that foundation, but that doesn’t make it any less vital. Similarly, a healthy life is founded on values, principles, and the principles of spiritual integrity, love, and forgiveness. The quality of tolerance depends on the principle of forgiveness.
4. The lotus flower: A lotus flower is beautiful even though it grows in a swamp because it has deep roots and leaves and flowers that rise above the mud. As lotus flowers are not touched by their circumstances, so we too can remain unaffected by our circumstances if we take nourishment from deep spiritual realization and learn to be in this world without being of it.
I don’t expect that the next time someone stomps on your feet on a crowded train that you will smile and offer your other foot for another stomping. But after you read this article, you can at least understand that the foundation of a healthy life depends on your depth of tolerance and forgiveness, which are the only qualities that can bring you tranquility in this world.