The power of Humility and Tolerance
“By being humbler than a blade of grass, more tolerant than a tree, offering all respects to others and expecting none in return, one can chant the holy names of the Lord constantly (and thus experience ceaseless spiritual happiness).” These immortal words of wisdom spoken by Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu hold the key to peace and bliss in today’s
world where domestic and global conflicts erupt over trifles. Celebrated as “the Dancing God”, Lord Chaitanya is popularly known for His widespread propagation of divine love by the congregational chanting of the holy names. Lord Chaitanya is also esteemed among scholars for his delineation of the philosophy of achintyabhedabheda tattva, simultaneous unity and diversity of the soul and God; united in devotional love, distinct in individual identity.
He explained that we are spiritual beings, eternal loving children of God. We can find lasting happiness, not in acquiring material positions and possessions, but in reviving our innate love for God. Humility and tolerance, virtues essential for achieving this endless bliss, are also valuable assets for living peacefully and successfully in this world.
Humility, sometimes misconstrued as a weakness, is actually a power that few people tap. Srila Prabhupäda, founder of ISKCON, explained humility as freedom from the anxiety of having “the satisfaction of being honored by others.”
Pride, the opposite of humility, makes us crave for honor from others as our source of happiness. When a proud person is disrespected, his lack of freedom becomes appallingly obvious; he is forced by pride to lose his prudence and explode with words and actions, often hurting the other person and even himself far beyond what the situation warrants.
Tolerance too is an underutilized power. A relative behaves unreasonably, a colleague speaks impolitely, a power cut upsets our plans, a vehicle cuts across our path — such daily situations offer rich premiums for the tolerant. Tolerance empowers us to not let irritating circumstances steal our peace of mind. Lack of tolerance makes us a victim of our circumstances, whereas tolerance brings the freedom to choose an intelligent response and stay fixed in our values and goals, irrespective of our circumstances.
Srila Prabhupada summarizes, “One’s greatness has to be estimated by the ability to tolerate provoking situations”. When people lack tolerance, they respond to adverse situations and inimical people in one of two ways: depression or violence. Chronic depression, selfmartyrdom, inferiority complex, addiction and even suicide are fallouts of the first response, whereas divorce, larceny, murder, and even war are results of the second.
Our biceps protect us from physical dangers. Similarly, humility and tolerance protect us from internal overreactions to externally distasteful situations. Thus they constitute our inner muscles, which we can build by the spiritual bodybuilding exercise of chanting the holy names of God.
God is the reservoir of all powers and when we connect ourselves to Him through mantra meditation, we gain access to the divine powers of humility and tolerance. Let us therefore chant the Hare Krishna mahamantra (or any other bona fide name of God) with devotion, empower ourselves with inner muscles, find peace amidst the ups and downs of life and contribute towards building a peaceful planet.