Divine Qualities (Part 25)

Forbearance (Continued)

Challenges to Forbearance

Dualities of life

Life is characterized by pairs of opposites such as pleasure and pain, praise and blame, and success and failure. When we seek one, the other comes in uninvited. In the words of Swami Vivekananda, "Happiness and misery are the obverse and reverse of the same coin; he who takes happiness must take misery also. We have this foolish idea that we can have happiness without misery, and it has taken such possession of us that we have no control over the senses."

God, the only Reality, is nondual. The world is only apparently real, and dualities are inevitable in it. A spiritual seeker has to discriminate between the Real and the unreal, and choose what is beneficial over what is pleasant. With regularity in spiritual practice he is able to achieve calmness of mind and strength of will, see dualities for what they are, and strive for the highest goal of life. The Bhagavad Gita (2.48) defines yoga as even-mindedness. We become established in this even-mindedness as we grow in devotion to God.

The agitation caused by lust and anger

Lust and anger are twin companions. The Bhagavad Gita (16.21) cautions that these two in association with greed form a triple gateway to hell. The agitation caused by lust and anger is the greatest challenge to forbearance. Under their sway, people forget who they are and act in a manner they would not approve of in saner moments. He who is able to withstand the force of lust and anger even while alive is regarded by the Bhagavad Gita (5.23) as a yogi and a happy man. Commenting on this verse, Shridhara Svamin forcefully describes the immensity of the task: "A dead man is able to withstand the urge of passion or anger though his body is embraced by a wailing young woman or burnt by his sons and others. If someone is able to withstand that urge even while alive, he alone is a yogi and a happy man."

Remaining unaffected by the force of lust and anger is possible only by God's grace. To be conscious of God's grace in our lives, we need regular spiritual practice and sincere prayer for detachment from sense objects.

Dealing with unreasonable people

Unreasonable people pose a great challenge to our practice of forbearance. It is well to remember that we are children of God and so are such difficult people. They are conditioned by their mental impressions even as we are by ours. Says Swami Vivekananda, "Never say any man is hopeless, because he only represents a character, a bundle of habits, which can be checked by new and better ones." Instead of judging such people as impossible, we need to cultivate a good working relationship with them.

A disciple of Sri Ramakrishna felt disturbed due to a disagreement with someone. When told of it, the Master said, "Try at the outset to talk to him and establish a friendly relationship with him. If you fail in spite of your efforts, then don't give it another thought. Take refuge in God. Meditate on Him. There is no use in giving up God and feeling depressed from thinking about others."

Yet successfully dealing with difficult people is not an unrealizable ideal. Holy Mother's life amply demonstrates the ideal in practice. There was no dearth of unreasonable, insane, and greedy people around her under her care. With her pure mind that was always united with God, she was able to patiently put up with all of them.

Part 26

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