02.14 – Tolerance fosters not impotence but perseverance

by August 12, 2013

In spiritual life, tolerance is an important virtue. Internalizing this virtue may present us a dilemma: “If I just tolerate the things that happen to me, won’t that make me weak, lethargic, impotent?”

Not at all, answers Gita wisdom. Far from making us impotent, tolerance will make us persistence.

To understand how, let’s look at the Bhagavad-gita’s call for tolerance in its context. The most-quoted mandate to tolerate comes in the Gita (02.14), which urges us to tolerate life’s pleasures and pains just as we tolerate the heat and the cold. This verse is preceded (02.13) by the declaration that we are not destructible bodies, but are indestructible souls. And it is succeeded (02.15) by the proclamation that those who can tolerate attain eternal existence. The sandwich-like position of the tolerance verse indicates that it paves the path for us – the path from the information about our eternal nature in the previous verse to its realization in the next verse.
How does tolerance pave the path? When we train ourselves to tolerate the ups and downs of life, be they external like weather changes or internal like mood changes, then our mental energy doesn’t get unduly dissipated on less important things. The greater our tolerance, the lesser our mental energy dissipation.
The conserved mental energy allows us to be focused on the process of yoga, connection with the supreme eternal reality, Krishna. The more we connect with Krishna, the more we become internally purified and illuminated, thereby gradually recognizing our eternal essence as souls. Thus, tolerance paves the path and devotional service moves us along the path.
So, tolerance is not about passively accepting whatever life dishes out to us, but about persistently refusing to let those dishes distract us and persevering in the primary purpose of our life.


O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.


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