To attain perfection in life, one must discover the joy of harmony with the universe, and live in attunement with it. One who has so mastered his life will have no anxiety, fear or conflicts while living his life. To feel this closeness between the universe and the individual we need to eradicate all our intolerance, hate, animosity, discord or antagonisms with the external world of plurality. With the attitude of tolerance and "love for all and malice for none", we can end brutality and conquer even the most cruel and evil forces around us. To live such a life of perfection and joy is the aim of human life. This is God-realization, the state beyond distress, tensions, conflicts, discords, vengeance, differences, disharmony, pain and suffering. This is the joyous fulfillment that life can ever offer us.
As mentioned in other scriptures, the Gurbani also says that God created man in His True Image. From a practical standpoint, the implication is that if God created the man in His true image than He must have endowed the man with His Divine Qualities as well. As underlined in the Gurbani, one of these sweet divine qualities is tolerance.
What Is Tolerance
Simply put, tolerance means one should be able to bear physiological insult and dishonor from others. In other words, tolerance is the strength of the mind that enables a person to accept pleasant and unpleasant or conducive and unconducive circumstances with even-mindedness and courage. It is the capacity to endure pain or hardship and withstand adversity or stress. Furthermore, tolerance is the act of recognition, sympathy and respect for beliefs, opinions, actions or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own.
A man of truth and wisdom is never disturbed in any situations; for he is fully aware of the fact that the appearance of happiness or distress is fleeting and that they arise from limited sense of perception. Hence he tolerates both the feelings of "likes" and "dislikes" in life and sees everything with an even eye. Such person is an asset not only to his society and nation, but also to the entire world. As emphasized in the Gurbani, such individual who can tolerate the onslaught of pleasant and unpleasant experiences is the best among men, eligible for spiritual liberation or God-realization.
Thus, as indicated in the Gurbani, tolerance is a natural quality by which a true and a wise person functions in his life. Such person (the Gurmukh) always remains undisturbed in all situations. He flows with life without creating any anxiety or distress for himself or for others. How is he able to work like this? In other words, how can he bear both happiness and distress with equal vision? A tolerant person does not see things from a standpoint of body-consciousness. For him the body is a temporary object, nothing more than nine holes in the flesh and bones. He is fully aware that with the disappearance of the life breath (Praan), the body also banishes. So he does not identify with the physical body. Hence he does not attach much importance to the body for he perfectly knows that he is something other than the biological body - that is, he is Joti-Svaroopa. Therefore, he is free from false ego-sense (I-ness and my-ness, Haumai), the mother of all material concepts. He is equipoised in all circumstances. As he is tolerant to the world, he takes life as it comes. In other words, he cannot be swayed by antagonism, contradictions or falsehood because he is fixed in divine virtues.
This noble virtue of tolerance also translates as forgiveness. We are advised by the scriptures to forgive and forget, and live and let live. Therefore, it befits any person who is godly by nature (the Gurmukh). Forgiveness is a reflection of God's eternal calm, the everlasting patience, peace, mercy, forbearance, gentleness, compassion and steadfastness, which are very essential for contemplation and meditation. A person devoid of forgiveness is not in tune with his godly nature. Therefore tolerance or forgiveness is holiness. It is the quite of mind, an indication of a pious person. It is a mighty weapon against bodily instincts such as seeing evil, listening evil, tasting evil, touching evil, thinking evil, willing evil, feeling evil, speaking evil, remembering evil, and doing evil. In essence, tolerance and forgiveness is sacrifice and a humble gesture. In fact, continuation of the living entities is due to the man being forgiving and tolerant. Thus, forgiveness and tolerance is like glue, which holds the universe together.
But the material nature of this world is crooked like a dog's tail: its nature is to curl! Therefore, one should expect in life both joy and sorrow, praise and blame, honor and dishonor. Especially if one is pursuing the path of truth, there will be plenty of insults and dishonor from others. As repeatedly exemplified in the Gurbani, a boy like Prahlaada, who was engaged in the advancement of the spiritual knowledge, and was endangered so many ways when his own father became intolerant of his spiritual activities. But he tolerated the insult and pain, and continued his progress with conviction and determination in spite of many hurdles. As we know it, even Christ was condemned to death on the cross by the intolerant people. An intolerant Muslim ruler boiled the fifth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Arjan Dev, to death — he was placed on a hot plate while boiling sand was poured onto his head. Also, an intolerant Muslim ruler beheaded Guru Teg Bahadur, the ninth Guru of the Sikhs.
Tolerance brings harmony among people, nations, religions, and racial and ethnic groups. Our capacity to endure tolerance helps resolve conflicts for the common good. But, unfortunately, for the majority of us this harmony appears to be an accidental vision or unpredictable happening, which comes and goes at its own will. And even when we feel the glimpse of this harmony and universal love, we do not know how to sustain it and make it permanent.
Why There Is So Much Intolerance:
Man has come a long way. Science has made tremendous progress to make people's life comfortable, at least materially or physically. Food production is on the rise. The countries that did not have enough food are self-sufficient now. Many are doing much better than before. Fewer and fewer people are dying of starvation. The bellies are getting filled like never before. But our minds are empty. We lack understanding and tolerance. Most of us, if not all, are selfish hunting after sensual joy, hence not equipoised. Consequently the world is imbalanced and fragmented — out of equilibrium and in disharmony spiritually, morally, economically, politically, socially, environmentally, and ecologically. Forces of ignorance, greed, selfishness, corruption, frauds, confusion, intolerance and hatred coupled with ongoing conflicts, animosity and tensions among different religions, nations, and racial and ethnic groups condemn the world to a life of agonizing pain. There are ongoing wars in the name of religion and God. Just in less than one hundred years, the world has seen two world wars and numerous other regional wars. Science and technology has stuffed the world with weapons of great power and mass destruction. Because of the dawn of this so-called age of information, we are constantly inundated with information filtered through widely disparate biases, prejudices, and points of view as never before.
Education everywhere in the world is ill conceived and ill managed, devoid of much thinking and any planning. As a result, today, literacy generally means material progress. Man is happy if his education can bring him "quick bucks" overnight. The Gurbani calls such learned people "educated fools". A donkey may carry a load of all the books of the world; it still continues to be a donkey! Nations are happy if they can become rich and powerful, politically and militarily. Man and the state both bribe each other to achieve their separate goals. Naturally, the modern education system of all nations is geared to this end - lust and greed. Even though the modern society has achieved unprecedented rates of formal literacy, but man does not know "Who am I?".
Religion has been misguiding humanity because it has also become materialistic and selfish - business. The majority of the followers of religions follow or believe in religion without any understanding! Absence of proper understanding and education of the followers of all religions is causing havoc in the world. Religion is seeing One God in all beings as a living truth. But in reality it's the reverse that happens. As a result, instead of developing spiritual beings, instead of teaching people self-integration, instead of urging people to tread their own traditional path by sticking to only truth, instead of removing human error from religions, instead of recognizing the presence of One non-dual Spirit everywhere and in everything as a living truth, instead of reaching out to people to help them in their genuine spiritual unfoldment, instead of pursuing people to live a truthful life, instead of developing capacity for tolerating other religions and practices, the custodians of some organized religions (notably the western religions) take their own religion to be as something conclusive, exclusive and separative and then envelop in converting or proselytizing others into their respective religion by force, unfair inducement, hook or crook, or in the disguise of social service — not for spiritual cause, but for ulterior motives.
Unfortunately, due to man's selfishness, greed and ignorance, external religions have become intolerant, complex, stubborn, dogmatic and antagonistic, giving rise to exclusive claims and obstructions that separate man and his organized religion from God. These obstructions are dogmatic fanaticism, ruthless bigotry, blind prejudices, hidden biases, brutal intolerance and extremism. And the exclusive claims are: "we are the chosen people of God", "ours is the chosen religion of God, rest are misleading", "our Prophet was the last Prophet and our religion is the last religion", "God has sanctioned us to punish and destroy others who do not accept our religion and follow our way of life", "the whole truth is stated only in the scriptures of our religion, and if anything is not stated in our scriptures then it cannot be true", "if you kill others and yourself in the name of your God and religion, you will be rewarded in heaven", and so on. As a result, people are divided into religious and ethnic groups, alliances, castes, classes, creeds, race, color of the skin, ancestry, social status, and so on. Such divisions give rise to false pride; which, in turn, begets sin and corruption; making people go astray from the path of Truth and Righteousness. Consequently, instead of practicing "live and let live" principle, "live and let die" becomes the principle governing relations between different religious communities. As a result, the world is wicked. In reality, there is no such thing as God's chosen caste or chosen religion.
But this is how most of us, if not all, are brought up within the walls of narrow-mindedness. Although as a child we all are born with innocent Consciousness, however, due to our wrong breeding, the innocence and the sense of unity of childhood dissipate as we grow into adulthood and our divine nature gets displaced with fanaticism, evil conduct, hatred, intolerance, cruelty, extremism, fanaticism and prejudices. No wonder we suffer a shock when we see a person with mode of worship, method of meditation, philosophy, habits, views, opinions, practices, ways of living and thinking different from ours. In other words, we are not born to hate. But we learn how to hate. Our intolerant attitude makes us angry. For once we are angry our entire body-mind-intellect apparatus becomes polluted.
The world history reports killing of millions and millions of innocent people by the bloodcurdling intolerant rulers and religious zealots. Now the question is: if God has made all of us in His Own Image, then what happened to our inherited divine qualities?
Our Pure Nature is not clearly seen all the times. Why? The darkness or wall of our false ego-sense stands in the way. False ego means accepting this body as oneself or a separate individual. This psychological construction is the root-thought of all other thoughts. In inflated condition, this false ego-sense displays the following faults: lust, greed, anger, slavish attachment, pride, enviousness and stubborn mindedness (and their numerous variations). Also called evil passions, man's divine qualities constantly get looted by these internal thieves, causing him to lose the knowledge that he was made in the True Image of God. As a result, the divine quality such as tolerance is neither clearly seen nor practiced.
Here is how the false ego-sense and its progenies function. Lust is the compelling, coercive materialistic desire to indulge in sensory temptations. It is the consummate enemy; for it is the instigator of man's wrong thoughts, wrong speech, and wrong actions. Lust applies to abuse of the senses in the pursuit of sense-gratification. Frustrated or unfulfilled lust results in anger. It drives man to commit misdeeds. It's the peace-destroying, reason-blinding, and health-impairing behavior, which manifests in many forms such as impatience, violence, irritation, inner seething, jealousy, resentment, meanness, intolerance, etc. It obscures one's memory of his Essential Nature as Pure Consciousness, causing decay of the discriminative faculty, followed by annihilation of one's righteous behavior and intelligence. False ego makes us enslaved to our whims: "likes" and "dislikes". This enslavement to whims is greed. The nature of greed is covetousness, avarice, and acquisitiveness. It is a confusion of the mind between necessary and unnecessary wants. Such behavior then leads one to stealing, dishonesty, cheating, self-surfeit at the expense of the well being of others. Emotional attachment simply means delusion, illusion, ignorance, bewilderment, infatuation, etc. Thus, slavish attachment of the false ego to sense-objects causes the mind to become dense (darkened or ignorant), unable to perceive what is Truth or Reality. This fault of physical ego suppresses the evolution and manifestation of the Soul; for it obstructs the Soul's potentially omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent power. Pride makes the mind narrow and limited. It is the love for the "I-ness" and "my-ness" (false ego-self) that is always on the move to support and promote the selfish interests. Other meaning of pride is intoxication or insanity. In other words, it is such intoxication with the ego-consciousness that man forgets his sane or true Self. This fault of the ego creates in the mind a hostile power that expresses its self-centered haughtiness towards others as intolerance, prejudice, bigotry, unforgiving attitude, blind hatred and rage. Pride makes the ego-man belittle or humiliate others, to gossip and criticize, to gloat on others mistakes and misfortune, to find faults in others, and so on. In short, it makes the egotistical man to cut off the heads of others to make him appear taller! Enviousness means jealousy, selfishness, hostility, and passion. It is intoxicating and exhilarating. It makes man forget his true duty. It makes ego-man a dreamer, causing him to run after the gross objects of the dreamlike world through endless corridors of repeated suffering. It creates intoxication and addiction to the objects, rousing an exhilaration directed towards their attainment and enjoyment. One who is envious of others wealth, success, qualifications, beauty, strength, prosperity, etc., feels painful and resentful at their betterment, and would feel happy only when some miseries befall on them. It is the man's false ego that gets hurt upon seeing others enjoying an advantage. The stubborn mindedness is the lack of spiritual wisdom, understanding, clarity, attention, alertness and earnestness, which, in turn, is the result of lack of awareness. It is synonymous to the state of self-will, unbelief, affliction, hardness of heart, impenitence, evil, heinousness, fanaticism, crookedness, evil-mindedness, mental-weakness, immaturity, and raw or undisciplined mind. Such person, although, may be aware of thinking, feeling, and acting, but he is unaware of his True Nature. Thus, the meaning, function, and outcome of stubborn mindedness are totally opposite to the pure Soul Nature. It's the way of the corruption and fraud.
Thus the false ego-sense corrupts man's seeing and understanding, creating the false sense of separateness or relativist consciousness. So the lack of understanding gives rise to intolerance. With proper understanding when one overcomes the false sense of "I-am-ness", he becomes one with his True Being within and the outer world of things and beings. A person is good or bad, depending upon to what extent he has been able to eradicate his false ego and awaken the divine qualities in him. Hence, as repeatedly reminded by the Gurbani, to awaken our True Nature through every particle of our being and live a divine life must be the goal each one of us has to set for himself.
As we experience it, the world is in crisis and unrest, spiritually, morally, economically, politically, socially, environmentally, and ecologically. Therefore, more than ever, it is crucial that relationships between all people of the world become more tolerant, loving, compassionate, forgiving and peaceful.
The Gurbani says that one should be tolerant as wind, water, earth and tree. What it means is that one should have even-mindedness in all circumstances, a positive and constructive attitude of respect, sympathy and understanding which humbly accepts the other man's beliefs or practices as legitimate and valid, like one's own, without revenge, hindrance, harassment, discrimination or oppression. Does this mean one should surrender his self-respect, preferences, thinking, ideology, views and all angularities? Not really. But one must allow everybody else to have the same freedom. If we can do just that then there will be no conflicts, danger, hatred, disharmony and contempt for others. Thus the way out is not intolerance, but to accept and tolerate even the most untoward circumstances. Go through the genuine scriptures, nowhere one will find the evil quality of intolerance. But as to the divine attribute of tolerance, it is everywhere!
Divine virtues and falsehood cannot coexist. Hence the falsehood must be eradicated. Thinning of false ego-sense makes room for noble qualities, which help taking care of and transforming antagonism, selfishness and suffering in our lives and in our society. Exercising attention to the every moment restores the quietude in us, opening doors to firsthand understanding of our living, and thereby changing the way we think and deal with others. Relaxed or still mind naturally improves our communication, behavior, conduct, assertiveness and humor. It shuns upsetting circumstances or company, destructive use of energy, frustrations, irrational ideas, emotional upheaval and related physiological arousal. Then, when we realize the false beliefs that our conditioned mind was clinging to, they drop away. The root-cause of evil passions then melts away; true love remains over and spiritual life dawns as there will be no anxieties or material conditionings.
The purpose of spirituality and all external religions is to eradicate man's false nature, not to train him act in animal nature so that he can go around resenting or killing others who may have different views about religion and God. There is nothing more devilish and hellish than a thirst for blood, fired by a religious fanaticism.
Unfortunately, religion is rarely understood in its true perspective, let alone its practice. In its true sense, religion is love not intolerance; religion is realization of Oneness not differences; religion is open-mindedness not narrowness; religion is giving not taking wrongly or misappropriately; religion is cooperation not exploitation; religion is selflessness not selfishness; religion is wisdom not stupidity; religion is divine life not demoniac activity; religion is harmony not discord; religion is truth not falsehood or crookedness; religion is correctness not error; religion is Pure Consciousness not evil tendencies; religion is purity of the mind not base nature; religion is desirelessness not worldliness; religion is eternal identity not body-consciousness; religion is divine nature not animal instincts; religion is light not darkness or ignorance; religion is freedom not bondage to sense-slavery; religion is living truthfully or righteously not corruption; religion is enlightenment not mental-blindness; religion is equality not inequality; and so on. Thus, the essence of man's external religion is his inner transformation. With this inner transformation comes the sense of Oneness, tolerance, humility, friendship, and love for all.
The scriptures tell us that God is love. So God would very much like us to be inspired by love. Hence knowing "God is love" is not enough, we must practice this love. Otherwise there is no meaning to it. In fact one's body without love becomes one's own enemy. To love or serve God is to selflessly love His creation. The purpose of spirituality or what we call "religion" is mainly to understand Oneness of all beings and live the life of harmony. In fact if we look at the glorious lives of all spiritual giants of the world, they taught us to look for opportunities for giving unconditional love. In fact that's all they had — selfless love! Therefore, if we truly want to honor and spread the message of all such great masters then we should not look for love or truth, deliver it! In true religion or spirituality, therefore, there is no competition with others; only cooperation in love!
"But what is true love?" one may ask. Love dose not mean the ordinary selfish love of the world; for the ordinary love is mere animal attraction. Therefore, mere physical ties cannot be called love in the true sense of the term. Selfless love is annihilation of the personal will or selfishness (false ego or "I-am-ness"). It is a state of pure Being, not a feeling. Hence, it can also be thought of as the full expression of the pure mind or a continuing flow from the source of our very Being. Love is the willingness to share our happiness with all others without any demand or requirement. In nutshell, true love is our pure Awareness in action. The expression of such pure love speaks from a state beyond the ordinary perception of the senses; for the experience of such pure love always carries with it the acknowledgment of Eternity. Thus, pure love is called the sum of all spiritual laws. It is the water of life.
Promoting Tolerance In Action:
Pleasant and unpleasant events are concomitant factors of material life. Therefore we should learn to be tolerant and have even-mindedness amidst happiness and distress. Since we cannot control all circumstances, we cannot control the coming and going of pleasant and unpleasant experiences. But we can do the following: be detached from the materialistic way of life and be automatically equipoised in both cases. In other words, when we are living divine life happiness and distress will not agitate us. Meditation, devotion or remembering of God is not possible for the one devoid of divine qualities such as sweet tolerance. Universal tolerance is universal love. Such universal love alone is worth pursuing, because it is the mirror of the Timeless Reality.
Therefore, we all need soul-education so that there can be a true shift in our awareness from being infatuated by egoistic postures, intolerance, misunderstanding, fears, empty mind, jealousy, hatred, dogmas, wrong concepts or ideas, reactionary spirituality and actions, nationalistic hubris, constant obsession with objects of desire and dwelling on material pleasures, and so on. Such radical shift in our awareness will develop human beings who have a true capacity for constant mindfulness, tolerance, and immediate realization of our essential relationship to all other beings. Such realization evokes our love and kindness for other living entities, burns away our intoxication of selfishness that antagonizes and poisons our relationship with others, enables us to irrevocably overcome our narrow-mindedness, melts away artificial divisions created by our nationalistic and ethnic identification, liberates us from the reparative and oppressive ways, and makes us realize that our lives are interwoven with the thread of universal divine love and that the influence of our daily actions and behavior spreads in ever-widening circles. With this radical transformation of awareness the Truth sets in and reveals to us the unreality of all that appears substantial or real. Consequently, no longer is the world seen as a place of ongoing conflicts among competing nations and groups that use dogmatic ideologies for self-protection. Rather, the whole world is seen as a Global Family, where each person experiences the same natural law.
The Gurbani brings us the gift of loving tolerance and understanding. By living it we can appreciate different experiences, different modes of worship, different and personal expressions of devotion, different beliefs or practices, and different names of the same One God to guide our life on this earth. Within the Sikh thought is found an emphasis on the Oneness of the mankind; personal spiritual effort and experience; the perception that God is everywhere present; joyous devotion to One Timeless Spirit; and the knowledge the Truth lies within man himself. From this mountaintop perspective, we can observe, appreciate, understand and be lovingly tolerant of all diversities of the phenomenal world and all different paths to realize one's true nature within.
As indicated in the Sikh thought, the way to conquer hate and violence is through promoting tolerance — in action. Empty words mean nothing. To this end, the pointers given throughout the Gurbani include the following: recognize the divine vision of the Oneness of the world of plurality; you are of the one divine substance with your fellow human beings; live for God in yourself and in others; awake and progress toward your absolute divinity; judge yourself not others; understand God has become everything; see unity in diversity; practice patience and forgiveness in action; do not make exclusive claims of race or religion or scripture or Prophet or God; expose and denounce intolerance; celebrate diversity; kill false ego-sense not people; cultivate divine qualities from the childhood instead of biases; remove all disparities from the society, treat all equally; remove spiritual ignorance; practice selflessness; do not consider yourself good and the others bad; accept all as your friends; do not slander or insult others; guard against evil passions (lust, anger, greed, emotional attachment, pride, envy, and stubborn mindedness); engage in selfless service; extend freedom and respect to all people; witness the phenomenal world of many names and shapes and rejoice it without indulging in slavish attachment to it; know everything is impermanent including your body; hating or hurting another being is same as hating or hurting God; do not wage religiously-based wars; respect other religions and their scriptures; do not terrorize others; stop practicing hypocrisy; do not create oppression; live truthfully; detach from materialistic life; become a spiritual being; love all beings for God is love; give up the madness of belief in caste or race; hold on to the truth only; give up fanaticism; give up cruelty and meanness; live and let live; and so on.
In reality, it is a rare one who actually lives by these divine teachings. Rests of us simply use these teachings to make a good material for sermons, books, magazines, lectures, showoff spirituality, weekend congregations, and so on. In such hypocrisy, man contradicts the world around him and inspires useless disputes. This is foolishness: the foundation of expansion of our false ego-sense. So long we take refuse in foolishness, contradictions or intolerance we remain separated from our Pure Nature and suffer. As indicated in the Gurbani, an intolerant person can never be a religious being.
Also, we must recognize that tolerance is only the first step towards actively enjoying the diversity of all sorts in the world. But unfortunately very few take this first step. To simply feel tolerant is not enough, we must practice it in our day-to-day actions. We should have a deep sense of appreciation of different cultures, traditions, languages, customs, beliefs, faiths, opinions, etc., because such diversity is the gift of the same One God to all of us. Hence diversity is not only divine, but there is also "Unity" that underlies this apparent diversity. Therefore, instead of despising or cursing diversity, it must be celebrated and viewed as gift from God. Therefore, understanding is the only permanent resolution. And true understanding comes through broad-mindedness and courage.
The ideal condition would be in which we all are tolerant and grow equally in the sustained atmosphere of harmony, mutual respect and freedom. No doubt it sounds utopian, a daunting task, a dream and a far cry from today's world situation; but it's worth striving for because we have no other choice. Consider this: if the world can produce one Nanak, one Christ, one Buddha, one Muhammad, and a host of others, why not more? Sure it can. What is needed is to live a Nanak-like life if you believe in Nanak, or live a Christ-like life if you believe in Christ, or live a Buddha-like life if you believe in Buddha, or live a Raama-like life if you believe in Raama, and so on. These great ones have set the example for us as to how high one can spiritually grow. Hope is the essence of human life. If each one of us can sincerely strive to live a truthful lifestyle, this world will turn into a "Global Village". For the fanaticism, evil conduct, violence, intolerance, prejudices and wars are not inherent in human beings. These traits are learnt and passed on from generations to generations.
— T. Singh
Page modified: Thursday, April 18, 2013 3:16 PM (PST)
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