The magic talisman of tolerance

article on toleranceRadhanath Swami gives a brilliant example to explain the need of cultivating certain desirable qualities that can help us access the deep, lasting benefits of chanting Hare Krishna. Just as we protect ourselves from unseasonal rains, cyclones and earthquakes by building good shelters, similarly we need to systematically cultivate divine qualities that give us protection during the storms of strife, doubts, and dissension. We can’t build a safe haven in the middle of a storm; we can’t suddenly get forgiving or become humble when negative stimulants confront us. These qualities have to be systematically cultivated.

If we fail to cultivate these qualities, we’ll certainly succumb to provocative situations by responding negatively, by acting out of pride, and compelled by the false ego. By this we not only go further away from God but also lose friends in this world. Besides, our negative responses fill our own heart with more negativities, and the net effect is painful and non conducive for cultivating loving remembrance of God. One of Radhanath Swami’s favourite quotes is, “One’s greatness is estimated by one’s ability to tolerate provoking situations.”

One of the important requisites for a Bhakti Yogi is to cultivate the quality of tolerance. At an age where bodily conveniences are abundantly available, most of us are not trained to cultivate tolerance even on the physical level. Therefore we see relationships break over minor misunderstandings. How does a Hare Krishna chanter cultivate tolerance? Radhanath Swami gives us a striking example that we can remember when we are in the midst of serious misunderstandings in relationships. Instead of investigating who’s actually guilty and getting into the bottom of minor issues, we need to remember the phenomenon of forest fires. A forest fire isn’t started by anyone. The wind blows, and the bamboos rub against each other and the friction causes fire. We can’t blame anyone for that. Likewise the nature of the forest of material world is individual egos clash and for no reason, even without any ill motives and prejudices, there will be accusations and fights. At such times we need to remember a sacred verse from the classic, poetic scripture, Chaitanya Charitamrita, “One who thinks himself lower than the grass, who is more tolerant than a tree, and who does not expect personal honour but is always prepared to give all respect to others can very easily always chant the holy name of the Lord.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Antya, 20.21). A tree silently faces bitter winters and cruel summers, and offers its life for the benefit of others without ever retaliating. “When life too treats us unjustly, we should accept it as mercy of God, and respond with compassion, love and respect”, shares Radhanath Swami, his profound wisdom evident in his teachings and example.

As soon as a propensity to judge, criticize or quarrel arises in our minds, we could try remembering this verse. The scripture further says that as Hare Krishna chanters, we must thread this verse under the string of the Holy Name of Krishna, and wear this verse around our neck always. In India people wearing talisman on their necks or arms is a common sight. Some put on precious gems, trinket, pieces of jewellery, or astrological stones on their bodies, thinking it would offer magical protection against evil spells or disease. But Radhanath Swami reminds us that the real amulet for all quarrels and dissensions is the jewel of humility and tolerance.

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