Patience and Forbearance

Bodhinatha shares with an article he wrote for a religious newspaper published in Mauritius, titled "Patience and Forbearance." In it he gives examples of patience and how one can lead a cultured life by having self control, calmness and not reacting to difficult or challenging situations with anger, but rather acceptance. He also shares with us and gives examples on how to cultivate forbearance through forgiveness and forgetting. Near the end of the talk he shares their travel plans to numerous temples for Kumbhabhishekam's. And having seminars using the "computer presentation" as a interesting tool for all, especially the youth and children as they are digitally oriented.

Unedited Transcript:

Good Morning Everyone.

One of our projects in Mauritius, Dr. Vel Pillay is publishing an article from us every month, so far this year. It's a religious newspaper that goes out to a few thousand people on the island of Mauritius, a combination of English and French which is typical in Mauritius. So this is the first draft for November issue, we're written all the way up to October so far. Its titled "Patience and Forbearance."

Modern life is fast-passed and stressful and therefore filled with opportunities to become impatient. Here are four common situations in which many people react by losing their patience. First example: An Infant cannot stop crying and you are forced to listen to her loud cries for hours. Second example: Your connecting plane flight is delayed by six hours. Third example: Someone explains to you what happened in overly long, exasperating detail. Fourth example: You have an important deadline and are determined to be supper productive at your job today and not be interrupted. As a result you express impatience and frustration many times during the day with your colleagues.

A patient person faces these situations with calmness, self-control and lack of complaint. An impatient person on the other hand faces them with franticness, loss of self-control and lots of complaints. This is the difference between reacting to life in a cultured or a crude manner.

The part of the instinctive nature that is being harnessed is the tendency to loose emotional control and react with unkind words or actions when facing delays, difficulties and qualities in people that we did not anticipate. Here is a quote from Gurudeva: "Impatience is a sign of desirousness to fulfill unfulfilled desires, having no time for any interruptions or delays from anything that seems irrelevant to what one really wants to accomplish. We must restrain our desires by regulating our life with daily worship and meditation."

The sixteenth chapter of the Tirukural is on this subject and entitled Possession of Forbearance and it has a wealth of knowledge in this regard. In this chapter Tiruvalluvar describes a number of situations in which he advises a response of patience and forbearance. He devotes one verse to the easiest situation for someone to manage which is dealing with fools. It requires the response of simple patience, which he calls a stalwart strength.

Valluvar devotes four verses to handling the more difficult situations of rude remarks, major wrongs and encounters with people who despise us. The poet describes responding to these challenging situations with restraint and non-retaliation as conquering those who in their arrogance wronged him, possessing the rare purity of an ascetic and being greater than those who suffer fasting's hardships. He also compares it to Earth's bearing with those who dig into her. In all situations his advise is that it is best to suffer the sufferings and refrain from unrighteous retaliation.

He also describes those who do not restrain themselves and instead retaliate with those who are forbearing. They are worthless versus stored gold. Their joy lasts for only a day, versus a glory that lasts until the end of time.

What is the benefit of forbearance? Tiruvalluvar states that it is that one's greatness will never cease. And he describes the highest aspect of forbearance in a verse that states it is always good to endure injuries done to you, but to forget them is even better.

An excellent key to maintaining patience is having the power of acceptance: accepting people as they are, accepting events as they are happening. That forestalls intolerance and impatience. Acceptance is developed in a person by understanding the law of karma and in seeing God Siva and His work everywhere, accepting the perfection of the timing of the creation, preservation and absorption of the entire universe. We know that in successfully facing the difficulties that come to us in life we are resolving karma and moving forward on the spiritual path.

Life abounds with examples of situations where we simply need to accept. We are responsible for taking care of an elderly parent. No matter how much care and love we give, the parent remains unhappy and complains constantly. We feel the parent should change, show more appreciation, be happier. The solution is accepting the parent as he or she is.

We have an in-law who we need to see a few times a year and who is always criticizing us and speaking unpleasant words. Every time we see the person, we are upset for a few days afterwards. Why? Because, we feel the person should act differently towards us. Solution - accept the person as they are.

People are the way they are because of their experiences in this and past lives. Additionally many people have no concept that they can change their nature by self-effort, can improve their behavior if they want to, raise their state of consciousness though sadhana. Rather they remain as the person they are because of the belief that that is all that is possible. Therefore, the wise approach is for you to simply accept who they are.

In some situations the behavior of the other person is more than irritating. It is actually hostile. An example is a husband who regularly speaks angrily to his wife and threatens violence. It is easy to feel justified in retaliating and speaking angrily back. This is where tolerance needs to deepen into forbearance, refraining from retaliating back with your own angry words, and bearing with the problem and acting in ways that encourage the husband to improve his behavior by controlling his anger.

Certainly there is a strong tendency in man to feel justified in retaliating when the mistreatment we receive is a major one. For example, an individual's consistent mistreatment of us is based on a prejudice against us because of our ethnicity, religion or nationality. Though such treatment is difficult to bear, even then we need to refrain from retaliation. In the words of the Tirukural: "Just as the Earth bears those who dig into her, it is best to bear with those who despise us." We certainly can avoid interacting with such an individual as much as possible, however, retaliation would create a negative karma for us to face in the future as well as stimulate our lower chakras and make us prone to emotions such as anger and jealousy.

Forbearance and non-retaliation are certainly the goal in all cases of mistreatment. However, the Tirukural sets an even higher goal in the following verse: " It is always good to endure injuries done to you, but to forget them is even better." This is focusing on the idea that though we do not retaliate in our words and actions, in our thoughts we may feel strong animosity toward the person based on their actions. The feeling can be so strong that whenever we think about the person, we immediately remember the incident in which they mistreated us.

How is it possible to forget the incident? It is possible by forgiving the offender based on a profound understanding of the law of karma. The offender is simply the instrument for bringing this karma back to you. If it was not that particular person, it would be another person. In other words, from the deepest perspective, everything that happens to you is caused by you. It is a karma you set in motion in the past. The person is simply the instrument for that karma to return to you, not the cause of it. You can only blame yourself for everything negative that happens to you.

Here is an example of a typical incident. A teenage boy on the way home from school, one day a gang teases him for being different in some way and beats him up. A common response is for the teenager to feel angry at the boys who attacked him and harbor ill feelings toward them for years. This is problematic as it helps keep the lower emotions of anger constantly present in the boy's subconscious mind.

Gurudeva often told the story of Swami Sivananda's being attacked by a man who hit him forcefully in the head with an axe during an evening satsang at his Rishikesh ashram. Swamiji's outraged followers soon subdued the man. The next day Swami Sivananda met with his attacker and gave him a train ticket home, several spiritual books and some money. Swami said, "Thank you so much for being the instrument to bring this karma back to me. Now I am free of it." Swamiji felt no anger toward the man whatsoever.

Clearly the ideal is to forgive the offender based on an understanding of the law of karma and thus keep the subconscious mind free of the lower emotions caused by not forgiving. However, the Kural takes the process of forgetting one step further in the following verse: "If you return kindness for injuries received and forget both, those who harmed you will be punished by their own shame." A very interesting way of punishing someone, punished by their own shame.

Another idea, it is also extremely important to maintain patience with oneself. Many people are masters of the facade of being patient with others but take their frustrations out on themselves. For example, an individual is impatient with the speed at which his spiritual progress is happening. He feels it should be faster, and that his negative habits are persisting too long. This can be compared to watching a slow growing tree develop over the years and feeling discontent because it is not growing faster. In both cases the solution is acceptance: this is the speed at which the process takes place. If we are regular in our sadhana, regular in our daily worship and meditation and in our yearly routine of attending festivals and of pilgrimage, that is all we can do to move forward spiritually. There is no way we can make it happen more quickly. Simply accept it and be happy.

Let's turn now to impatience with circumstances. Our fast passed modern life is very demanding. It is easy to get totally caught up in this swirl of activity, for our awareness to become externalized. In that state of mind, delays are unacceptable and obstacles must be removed immediately. We are totally unwilling to accept that certain delays are unavoidable and the idea that an obstacle might cause us to adjust to a wiser course of action never crosses our mind. Welcome to the conscious mind, the world of desire and its fulfillment. We have become impatience personified.

Obviously a more balanced state of mind is needed and the remedy that Gurudeva gives us is to restrain our desires by regulating our life with daily worship and meditation. The external behavior we described is of someone who lets his intellect get out of control. Others may let their instincts get the best of them as well. Such people have an irreverent attitude. Nothing is sacred to them, nothing holy. But through daily exercising anger, malice and the other lower emotions, they do, without knowing, invoke the demonic forces of the Narakaloka. Then they must suffer the backlash: have nightmares, confusions, separations and even perform heinous acts. The remedy in both cases is daily worship and meditation.

In conclusion, exercise patience, restraining intolerance with people and impatience with circumstances. Be agreeable. Let others behave according to their nature, without adjusting to you. Don't argue, dominate conversations or interrupt others. Don't be in a hurry. Be patient with children and the elderly. Minimize stress by keeping worries at bay. Remain poised in good times and bad.

Well we're getting ready to fly off again. We have a week in Montreal, then we come back for a day and we have 3 weeks in Asia. One day at home out of the four weeks, it a record I think.

The problem is Kumbhabhishekam, everybody is having a Kumbhabhishekam these days and inviting us. So we're going to Montreal for a Kumbhabhishekam for their new temple there, it's a Lord Murugan for which we gave the Deity. Then we're also including the Kumbhabhishekam for the Perth Hindu Temple where the main Deity is Shiva. Gurudeva started the temple and then I was present at the Ground Breaking Ceremony there, so it's a temple we're connected with and want to continue our connection by attending.

As well we're going to Singapore, Malaysia and Mauritius and we're continuing our emphasis on seminars with computer presentations, keynote presentations. Its our new theme for the year and those of you that saw the Guru Purnima had a preview on the presentation of "Raising Children Good Hindus." Which on our last trip we gave that presentation twice, we had a half day seminar in Toronto at the Vishnu Mandir and a half day seminar in Edmonton at the Maha Ganapathy Temple there. And we found the presentation very effective. Having something to look at on the screen definitely helps everyone be more attentive and follow the material in a much closer way than just if you're talking. People's minds wonder here and there when talking but when you have that interesting presentation to catch the eye, then it makes a big difference in the attentiveness.

We're also wanting to add more audio material, it has two of the slides of Quicktime movie of Gurudeva speaking, which is very effective. We want to add more of that when we have time in presentation. We're told an interesting fact on the trip by a teacher who said that the human ear can pay attention to the same voice for about 10 minutes, then wants to hear something different-that's our attention span [laughter]. So in the keynote presentation we can do that, we can bring in other voices and bring in the sound of music and different things and break the monotone of the same voice going on and on and on, in a very nice way. It has great potential.

On this trip to Asia we're giving the "Parenting" seminar in Mauritius and then we're presenting a new seminar on "Essentials of Saivism" in Singapore, it will be for two days and then we're going to shrink it down to one day for Mauritius. It should be very interesting.

We attended the Dharma Summit 2005 in New Jersey on this last trip and it was a gathering, convened on the inspiration of Swami Dayananda Saraswathi. And he gave one of the keynote presentations and it used this computer presentation and it was very effective everyone really enjoyed the graphically rich presentation. In fact one of the family's came up afterwards and said "the presentation was both elegant and eloquent." I thought that was a nice compliment, elegant for the graphics and eloquent for the words.

It shows a good potential for that kind of presentation and we also feel its good for youth and children, something that's a screen which is interesting. Youth and children are a little more digitally oriented these days so they can relate to something that's on a screen, it catches their interest right away.

Have a wonderful week.

Aum Namah Sivaya.