How can we decide the upper limit of tolerance?
Transcriber: Suresh Gupta
Question: How can we decide the upper limit of tolerance?
Answer: The level of tolerance can not be determined during our own phase of intolerance because when we are angry, even a small misbehaviour seems intolerant and when we are in a good mood, even a big problem seems manageable. That is why, even if somebody is angry unreasonably, we should not act impulsively. The best option is to “press the pause button”.
Basically, in any situation that we are in, there are three options –
(i) change the situation or the person,
(ii) change ourselves or
(iii) just walk away from the situation.
Walking away is not running away, it is a mature thoughtful choice.
If somebody is working in a job and he finds the job very difficult, it maybe because the boss is very demanding, or colleagues are very troublesome. So, one can try to communicate better with them and understand their concerns or one can try to go to a different team. The reason could also be due to lack of skills which we can try to learn and develop. Therefore, ideally, there are three options and at different times different options can be chosen.
In the Mahabharata, initially when the Pandavas came, at that time, the Kauravas did many terrible things to them. There was an incident where the Kauravas tried to poison Bhima but fortunately he was protected. When Yudhishthira came to know about this, he decided not to tell anyone in order to avoid a family feud. Eventually, the Pandavas were sent to Varnavrat and an attempt was made to burn them alive. However, the attempt was foiled and the Pandavas were saved and after returning back to the kingdom, they again did not accuse the Kauravas for trying to burn them alive. Later, Dhritarashtra gave Pandavas a part of the kingdom to settle the feud between the brothers but again it was an unfair settlement since the Pandavas were given a Khandava (a barren land). Still, the Pandavas accepted it and kept tolerating. But eventually, when the Kauravas dishonoured Draupadi, at that time, a particular line was crossed which led to the possibility of a war. Even then, Krishna went as shantidoota (peace messenger) and tried to settle the feud peacefully so as to avoid the war, but Duryodhana was completely adamant. The Pandavas understood that this was not a time for tolerance but a time for active and assertive action. However, this was not based on impulse. Before the war took place, every possible action to avoid the war was taken.
We have to understand that tolerance does not mean that we let others trample us. Tolerance simply means that we don’t let small things come in the way of big things. Our practice of Krishna bhakti is most important to us but while practicing it, if some small things go wrong, and we get too overwhelmed by it, then we cannot practice Krishna bhakti very nicely. For example, if we are going to our office for an important meeting where we have to give a nice presentation and while going along, somebody cuts us across the road then this can make us feel irritated. If we are not aware and do not take control of our emotions, we may get into a bad mood and might not be able to give a good presentation when we reach office. Instead we could have chosen the option to tolerate it. Therefore, tolerance does not mean passive acceptance of anything or everything. Tolerance simply means that we do not let small things come in the way of big things. However, if something critical or urgent comes up in the way of big things then it is no longer a small thing. It then requires appropriate response.
In summary, no matter if somebody’s behaviour is intolerable, we should not react impulsively but should press the pause button instead and we should evaluate our responses rationally. We can try to persuade the person, change ourselves or just walk away from the situation. Also, tolerance is not a virtue in isolation, it is a virtue that is in service to devotion. Tolerance means that I tolerate smaller things so that they don’t come in the way of big things but if something big and important or a critical thing is already coming in the way of our Krishna bhakti then we may have to take necessary steps to deal with it. Therefore, based on understanding of the bigger purpose of our life, we can decide whether we need to change or tolerate, or just get out of the situation.
End of transcription.