Welcome to Applied Spirituality with Radhanath Swami on devotionalnectar.com
This is Episode 11 – Art of Tolerance
One can measure a person’s character by their capacity to tolerate difficulties. We are living in a world of dualities. One cannot escape dualities. One must learn to adjust one’s consciousness and maintain integrity despite dualities. Example is given of a coin; there is a head side and a tail side. If you want one side, you automatically must accept the other. They are inseparable. Distress is inseparable to happiness, pleasure and pain are inseparable, attraction-aversion, honor-dishonour, success and failure, and these dualities will come upon anyone at any time.
One of the greatest problems we face in life is we all want to be in control of our destiny, today and tomorrow, but the problem is no one is in control. There are higher powers dictating circumstances upon everyone. We have control over our future destiny by our activities today, that is the laws of karma. But what is coming upon is something that is not always under our control. – Radhanath Swami
Ultimately, we are all being controlled by time. No one wants to become old, you lose your beauty, you lose your money, and you lose your physical capacities. Does anyone want to be old? But, can anyone stop the process? It is a humbling experience to live in this world, because we are not the controller. Everyone wants to succeed, but so many people fail. Everyone wants it to be nice weather, but we cannot control intense heat and intense cold. We are all subordinate, dependent to higher powers, and those higher powers works on the basis of dualities.
Thus Krishna explains, “The non-permanent appearance of happiness and distress and other dualities and their disappearance are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer season, one must learn to tolerate without being disturbed.” Really this is what Bhagavad Gita teaches.
One of the greatest themes throughout Gita is to learn how to be tolerant. – Radhanath Swami
Srila Prabhupad, our beloved guru maharaja, in one of his books speaks one line that I consider to be so very important to be understood by all classes of human beings. This one line goes beyond all sectarianism; it is a universal principle. Who is a great person? People love to adore great people or envy great people, and people like to become great in their own way somehow or other.
But what actually is greatness? A mahatma means great soul. So what are the actual qualities of a great soul? Is greatness is to have a lot of money? Some of the most degraded people are millionaires and billionaires. Is greatness fame? Being a good singer, or a good dancer or having a beautiful body, being strong or athletic, or being heroic. Srila Prabhupada, according to the universal principles of all spiritual paths, describes what is greatness: “One’s greatness has to be estimated by ones ability to tolerate provoking situations.”
It is easy to make a show of being great, but when you are challenged, when provoking situations face you that is actually the test of the substance of your character. And this the great scriptures give us as a constant theme. There are six enemies that exist within our heart, and they are provoked by circumstances both within and without. What are those six enemies: lust, envy, pride, anger, greed and illusion. A great personality is one who is able to tolerate these urges.
Lust! Today it is actually quite fashionable, popular and quite heroic to succumb to lust. A person is considered great manly, to the degree they are enslaved and weakened by the lust, and engage in such activities again and again. It is very sad and we see throughout history that even people at very high position are degraded by the provocation of lust; they are not being able to tolerate the circumstance. So yes, marriages are spoiled, nations are put into ruinations sometimes, because people cannot control, they cannot tolerate the provocation of lust.
Then, there is greed. It is very difficult to tolerate the provocation of greed. Recently in Calcutta I was asked to give a lecture in a management institute on “Ethics in business,” because today people are very much disturbed and even confused due to such unethical behavior, even by people in such high positions. It is difficult to tolerate temptations. People rob, people steal, people cheat, people lie and people even kill being provoked by greed. Our colleges should must teach students how to follow proper ethics and morality, otherwise they may be big, they may be rich but they simply cause damage to the planet. It is a fact.
How to tolerate that greed?
We must understand what is real wealth. Real wealth is in our integrity. Real wealth is in how the lord within our heart is seeing us. Prem-dhan. The greatest of all wealth is love. Money cannot buy love. Fame and prestige cannot buy love. If we are loved and we love, we are wealthy people. – Radhanath Swami
And what is ultimate love – the love between the soul and the supreme soul or God. Because in that love we actually can see all living beings equally, and that is actually the means by which we can tolerate envy.
What is the root cause of that envy? It is the false ego. We envy someone who we feel has more than us, it may be more wealth, knowledge, ability, prestige, or high position. Envy is such a deep-seeded disease. But envy cannot even exist where there is even a trace of real love, where there is love for God, we see every living being as part and parcel of God. Therefore we are happy at another person’s success, and we feel sad to see another suffer. To tolerate envy is very very difficult.
And anger. It is very very difficult to be dishonored without becoming angry. When any of our desires are unfulfilled, it brings about a sensation of anger. In fact, Bhagavad Gita explains, for one who is honored, dishonour is worse than death. But more difficult than that is to tolerate honor, without becoming proud. According to the Christian Bible, St. Paul had said, “Pride cometh before the fall.” The very integrity of one’s humanness is destroyed when there is egotism-false pride. How to tolerate being honoured without becoming proud, without considering oneself superior to others and naturally offending others? It is very difficult.
So, first of all we must advocate in our lives, what is sacred, what is of utmost importance? Is it just accumulating more fame, prestige, money, is it enjoying more and more through the senses or is it living with character, is it doing something wonderful for the world by our example. The example you set the others will follow – your children and the people around you. So yes, please evaluate what is of great value in your life – to live by truth or live by illusion.
So the question is – are you the body or you the soul. If you are the body then so many materialistic ways make sense, but the conception that you are the body really makes no sense at all. Your body is a vehicle, the soul is the person animating this vehicle, at the time of death the body is there, where is the soul, where is the person, where is the life? The beginning of all truth according to Gita is to understand that you are not the body but you are the eternal soul. That is considered to be truth.
What are the needs of the soul? To live in harmony with the needs of the soul is human life, to forget that principle is the life of two legged animals. What is the nature of the soul? To love, to have equal vision of compassion to all living beings: whether one is in business, engineer, housewife, teacher, student, swami, architect, farmer, whatever our particular occupation may be, to express our values, to express or love, our devotion to God and all living beings through our work. That is the highest life; that is natural life. In that life there is happiness and in that happiness we have the power to tolerate all provoking situations.
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