05.23: Tolerance is the stopper between temptation and transgression
When we strive for selflessness on the spiritual path and still find ourselves tempted by selfish material pleasures, the thought that we have not yet gone beyond temptations may dishearten us. If we feel thus disheartened, we can take refuge in the encouraging insight offered by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita (5.23). Therein, he explains that as long as we are situated in a material body, that material contact makes us naturally susceptible to material temptations. Therefore, spiritual advancement doesn’t necessarily require us to be temptation-free; it requires us to be transgression-free: temptation involves thinking selfishly, whereas transgression involves acting selfishly.
The stopper that prevents temptation from growing into transgression is tolerance. That’s why this Gita verse calls upon us to tolerate our temptations determinedly. Our power of tolerance increases when we cultivate knowledge and devotion: knowledge that material pleasures are short-lived and counter-productive, and devotion that enables us to redirect our thoughts from temptations, which are the sources of fleeting titillation, to Krishna, who is the source of lasting fulfillment.