Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Tolerance is a virtue we attribute to our country and we say that we are a tolerant lot. This is juxtaposed against the intolerant races like the elements who resort to violence when they cannot get their way. Is tolerance a positive virtue or is it a negative virtue, a sign of cowardice and weakness. According to the Webster Dictionary and tolerance defined in the context of religious belief is sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own. This makes it a negative virtue and sounding more like sufferance. To my mind this is certainly not the correct meaning of the word.

In our earthly existence we come across all kinds of personalities and we mostly react to them on a physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual level depending on our state of knowledge or lack of knowledge about the real Self. There are the seers of the person who are men of peace who are realized souls. To such people we must have nothing but friendly feelings. We must be reverential to them. There are person who are long suffering and miserable due to poverty, hunger, pain and physical and mental ailments. Also there are the poor rich who in the midst of wealth are lonely and neglected, unloved by their near and dear ones. To all these we must react with compassion and give them all the help and love we can. The third category of persons are the achievers and successful persons, who are more talented and endowed with greater prowess than us. For these persons we must be happy for their achievements and look on them as inspirations for us to reach similar heights without seeing them as enemies or competitors. The last category of persons are the ones who hurt us and are evil in their thoughts. We must be indifferent to them without hating them at any point of our association with them. This I think is the positive virtue of true tolerance. A man of wisdom who has gained the ultimate knowledge of the true divine Self or universal consciousness is able to see the unity of creation and for him all differences of class, caste, religion, nationality, gender etc . cease to have any significance. For such a man tolerance comes naturally and it becomes a truly positive virtue. He will accept all of God's creation and exhibit friendliness, compassion, gladness or indifference without hatred as discussed above.

In the context of the world in which we are and in the context of the many conflicts, this tolerance rather than the defined tolerance will work to resolve conflicts. In dealing with all these situations we need one more quality along with tolerance and that is patience. I sincerely believe that tolerance is natural to civilized human beings and it leads to universal love and peace. I will end this piece by quoting the Buddha. "He was angry, he attacked me, he defeated me, he robbed me. Those who dwell on such thoughts can never be free from hatred. For, hatred can never put an end to hatred, only love can. People forget their lives will end soon, but for those who remember all quarrels come to an end." For this to happen positive tolerance will the key to universal peace and brotherhood.