How to decide between tolerating a situation or changing it?
Duration: 6 min
Transcribed by: Sundarinath das
Question: How do we differentiate between tolerating a situation by being patient or just leaving the situation because we are getting too much hurt?
• Tolerance means that while doing our duty, there will be inconveniences and distresses that we should tolerate.
• Our service to Krishna is our supreme duty or virtue and we may have to tolerate many things for our service to him. However, tolerance does not mean a situation where we allow ourselves to not serve Krishna.
• Tolerance is the virtue that enables us to keep small things small so that we can focus on big things.
• The basic application of tolerance is to check our impulsive reaction when something goes wrong and then with our higher intelligence decide what to do.
Tolerance does not necessarily mean subjecting oneself to injury. In the Bhagavat-gita 2.14, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna to tolerate, tams titikshasva bharata. However, the entire Bhagavat-gita is spoken in a context where Arjuna is told to fight a war against the injustices by the Kauravas. Although Krishna is teaching to tolerate, but he is not advising to tolerate the atrocities of the Kauravas. Rather, he is advising Arjuna that while doing his duty of fighting the war, there will be inconveniences and distresses, which he should tolerate.
Our purpose in this world is to serve Krishna by contributing with different talents he has given us and in the process, move closer to him. Our service to Krishna should be our supreme virtue to decide what we should and should not do. We cannot elevate anything except our relationship with Krishna as the supreme virtue. Sometimes for our service to Krishna, we may have to tolerate but if tolerance means giving up our service to Krishna, then that is not the right kind of tolerance. Here service does not simply mean chanting or bhakti related activities, but it also includes the service and the role we have in this world.
Tolerance is the virtue that enables us to keep small things small so that we can focus on big things. Tolerance does not mean that we let big things go down the drain. For example, if we are going for an important meeting in a vehicle and somebody just cuts the vehicle dangerously, we get angry because such an act could have caused a fatal accident. The person starts escaping from the scene and in our anger, we start chasing the person so that we can chastise. We drive all over the town and get late for our important meeting. Alternatively, we could have just tolerated the act and focused on our important meeting.
In another example, we see how Pandavas responded differently at different times in their lives. Initially, when Kauravas tried to poison them, and later burn them, the Pandavas ignored it thinking, “It is a conflict amongst us, let us keep it among ourselves and not publicize it, hopefully the animosity will go down.” However, when their cousins try to dishonor their wife and things started to go beyond limit, then they even fought a war. Later in their lives, eventually when Krishna departed from the world, they decided enough is enough and just walked away from the situation.
Whenever there is a difficulty in our life, there are three alternatives available: (i) change ourselves and tolerate the difficulty (ii) change the person or the situation (iii) walk away from the situation. Here, walking away is not the same as running away. Walking away means, “I have better things to do in my life, I don’t want to get caught in this.” Each of the three responses may be appropriate in different situations. Executing each of these responses also require tolerance because when something goes wrong an impulse within us often makes things worse. Tolerance enables us to check such impulse so that using our higher intelligence we can decide what to do.
If a relationship is repeatedly hurting us and there is no indication that things will improve then we may have to create some safe distance in the relationship. Tolerance does not mean that we allow ourselves to hurt continuously. However, in any relationship, just like we are imperfect and have our conditionings, others also have their conditionings. We should not make small differences in a relationship big to the extent we eventually end a relationship. There has to be a sense of perspective which comes when we look at the issue from some distance. Tolerance facilitates such sense of perspective. The basic application of tolerance is to avoid knee-jerk reactions. We do not act immediately but allow some time to pass so that the emotions subside and we can decide intelligently. When we think calmly we can understand the issue better. If we find the issue not so important we ignore it otherwise we address it with an appropriate response.