Ideals and Values/Forbearance and accommodation
Forbearance and accommodation
39.1 What is Forbearance?
This term literally means ?to accommodate?, or ?to forgive and forbear.? The following are the four main ways in which we can practice the virtue of Ksh?nti in our day to day lives -
- To accept and tolerate the uncomfortable or pleasant situations or people that we encounter in everyday life without complaining or feeling upset.
- To accept diversity of opinions, practices and cultures as a fact of life, and not impose our beliefs and standards on everyone.
- To be patient with, forgiving towards and tolerant of people whom we do not agree with, or we do not like or who have tried to harm us.
- To have the understanding that everything passes away with time, but the underlying Truth of the soul and Param?tman is always constant.
39.2 Why should we practice Forbearance and Accommodation?
- Because people are different from each other, and diversity is a fact of life. Our way need not be the only right way, nor is it going to work for everyone.
- Different people do have different understanding of things, different levels of intelligence, and different ethical and spiritual values. We cannot get incensed when things are not done our way, and should learn to accept situations which are different from what we are used to.
- Kshanti stems from tolerance, forgiveness, compassionate understanding and a desire for harmony and peace. When we patiently accommodate the differences amongst ourselves and forgive others, it prevents us from wasting our time, emotions, efforts and resources on avoidable and useless and trivial conflicts. If we continue to react to every difficult situation or person, we will be forever stressed out. On the other hand, if we adhere to Ksh?nti, then we can focus on things that are really important in our lives, rather than get distracted all the time over trivial matters.
- If we are not forbearing, we become irritable and land up annoying everyone around us. Forbearance gives us the ability to be indifferent to the minor flaws of others. A forbearing person keeps a pleasant smile on his face, and helps the other person develop and grow in his life. In this way, he gains a friend and a comrade for himself.
Story: Shri J?va Goswami learns the virtue of Forbearance
Once, a scholarly Pandit who was a great debater arrived at Vrindavana. The locals told him about Sri Sanatana Goswami (1488 ? 1558 CE), a great saint, and a great scholar of that holy town. The Pandit approached Sri Sanatana and challenged him to a debate, ?Either you defeat me in a debate on the scriptures, or you should write a declaration that I am a greater scholar than you.?
Sri Sanatana Goswami was always immersed in the devotion of Krishna. Although he could have defeated the Pandit easily, he did not want to puncture the Pandit?s enthusiasm and self-respect. And so, he wrote the declaration that the Pandit was a greater scholar, and handed the same to him.?
The Pandit was overjoyed. He went all over the town, accompanied by musicians who chanted the praises of his scholarship. Suddenly, Sri Jiva Goswami, the nephew of Sri Sanatana, and a saint and a scholar in his own right, heard about the Pandit having defeated his uncle. He approached the Pandit and challenged him to a debate. The Pandit lost. Still angry at him for having coerced his uncle to write the declaration, Jiva Goswami snatched all the declarations of victory that the Pandit used to carry with him, and forced him to write a new one saying he was inferior in his learning to Jiva Goswami.
When this news reached Sri Sanatana Goswami, he was very upset with his nephew and said, ?Tell Jiva that I do not want to see his face again. He has destroyed the enthusiasm for learning, and the self-respect of a Pandit. I have no use of the pride of learning, but for some people, that is a good driving force to make them study and learn continuously. Therefore, what he did to that Pandit was not right.? Sri Jiva Goswami was very repentant at what he had done. And it was only after several penances and pleadings that Sri Sanatana eventually forgave his nephew and met him.1
This beautiful story demonstrates that in this world, there are people at different levels of spiritual attainment. Some of those who are at lower levels, become proud and small accomplishments, just as little kids feel pride in being able to read their first sentences, or when they are praised by their teacher. But this does not mean that we should stoop to the level of these people and become like them. And even more important, we should not look down upon them or humiliate them, because at their stage of understanding, pride and rewards are indeed big motivators to keep them going on the path of spiritual enlightenment. They who are at higher levels should constantly encourage those who are below them, with love, compassion and understanding, rather than ?show them their place.? Only a heartless adult will humiliate little children who are still learning the alphabet by showing off his own learning in front of them.
How can you practice forbearance towards your younger sibling who misbehaves all the time, and tries to compete with you even though he does not know as much as you do, and is also not as good as you in studies and sports?
1 Swami Akhandananda Saraswati (1966), p. 362