About forty years ago, I wrote a letter to Babaji complaining about someone in my life (my husband), and asked what I should do. In his response, he told me to practice tolerance, compassion and contentment. I sort of understood, but not fully.
I had some understanding about what tolerance and compassion were, but I didn’t understand contentment at all. I thought contentment came when you got what you wanted. I’ve since learned it doesn’t work that way. In fact I had a lot to learn about all three.
Tolerance is more than just putting up with someone or something, although that’s a good beginning. On a deeper level, it means recognizing that your way of seeing something or someone is just that – your way of seeing, which is not the same as the truth. We are so identified with our body/minds – and our opinions – that it seems quite obvious to us that we’re right. The problem is that our version of reality is limited to and skewed by our own viewpoint. Tolerance means recognizing that others have the same experience from their point of view.
If we hold on tight to our view and the other person holds on tight to his view, both people become frustrated and angry, and nobody’s having a good time. Tolerance is lightening up and letting go of having to be right. If we can do that, there is a greater possibility that understanding can be reached and hearts can be restored to ease.
To find fault with others becomes a habit. But if we are capable of finding our own faults in everyday activities, we can really progress. In fact, what we see in others are our own weaknesses and faults. Everyone becomes everyone else’s mirror but we don’t want to accept our own faults, so we do not use these mirrors to improve ourselves.
By letting go of our habitual judgements, compassion can arise. Then we are able to recognize that suffering is occurring – in ourselves, in the other – and we can let go of blame. We can hold our hearts – our own and the other person’s – with care, with softness.
Compassion evolves to love for all beings, including ourselves. Instead of focusing on the dramas of our lives, particularly all the things we don’t like, and blaming others for our own unhappiness, we could let go and lighten up. We have to pay attention to our habit of closing down, and remember to choose a different way of seeing and responding.
Ammachi says “The first step in spiritual life is to have compassion. A person who is kind and loving never needs to go searching for God. God rushes toward any heart that beats with compassion – it is God’s favourite place.”
Contentment is recognizing that things happen as they happen, and that events don’t have to destroy our equilibrium. Unlike my earlier idea that contentment would come If I got what I wanted, contentment is unrelated to what’s happening ‘out there’. It is an internal experience of ease and peace when we can stop arguing with how things are and and find peace in this moment, whatever the moment holds.
It doesn’t mean shrugging your shoulders and saying, “There’s nothing I can do so I’ll surrender to my miserable life.” It doesn’t mean you don’t take action, but it means accepting that this moment, this situation, is the reality of the moment. Responding from a neutral (that is, nonreactive) place, more possibilities open up.
Nonacceptance of life causes resistance and pain. Why do that? Why cause pain for ourselves? It’s a habit that can change if we remember our aim. Do we want to be right or do we want to be happy? Do we want to live in pain and misery or do we want to live in peace?
If we accept life in the world, it creates contentment and all conflicts fall away.
The mind can switch in a moment from contentment to negativity. What makes us forget to remember divine presence? Distraction and desire will always come, but the aim should not be overtaken.
Yoga gives people the strength to stand on their own feet. It develops positive qualities such as contentment, compassion, tolerance and acceptance every day.
Cultivate a sympathetic heart, humility in dealings and selflessness in actions. If these are practiced with earnestness and sincerity, then you will win the race of life.
We will continue our habitual patterns until we realize that they’re not bringing us the happiness we long for. When difficult things happen, when relationships are challenging, how we respond can change our world. The teachings of tolerance, compassion and contentment show us a way to peace.
May we be filled with loving kindness,
May we be well,
May we be peaceful and at ease,
May we be happy.
contributed by Sharada
all text in italics is from Babaji’s teachings