Tolerance and patience are signs of strength

Tolerance and patience are signs of strength

Raised in the West, I was taught competition, standing up for my rights, and to never allow someone to abuse me. It was considered necessary to fight back. However, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama— the presence of the Buddha—offers a different strategy.

He said, “It seems in the West that people often feel it is important to respond to anger or violence with immediate violent action. Tolerance and patience should not be read as signs of weakness. They are signs of strength. But tolerance and patience do not mean you accept whatever consequences develop. Tolerance means that you should not develop anger or hatred.”

Cultivating new seeds in consciousness and weeding out old, negative habits requires a commitment to self improvement and to improving world conditions. We are a global family and each individual’s actions do affect others. By daily practice it is possible to change anger energy into positive action and likewise to eradicate hatred. This does not mean that we let people walk all over us.

For example, The Compassionate One has observed: “But in an actual situation, if another person does something harmful to us, and if we still remain humble, the person may take more advantage of us and even further negative actions may come. So, we must analyse the situation. If the situation requires some countermeasure, we can take it effectively, without anger. In fact, we will see that the action is even more effective if it is not motivated by anger. If we analyse the situation slowly and carefully without anger, and then take action, we are much more likely to hit the target directly!”

One day, while I was away, a neighbour came into my garden and chopped down one of the coconut trees. Other neighbours had witnessed the action and reported it to me when I got home. I was furious and marched right over to his house and confronted him. He responded with rage and told me that the tree was on the property long before it had become my garden so it belonged to everyone. “If it belongs to everyone, then why did you cut it down?” I demanded.

“The monkeys were using it to get on my upstairs verandah,” he explained. His response fueled my fury. Then I looked deeply into his eyes.  They were full of sadness and disappointment and his relatively young face was etched in wrinkles. Suddenly, all the anger drained out of me as I realised there was no point in arguing with this man about his actions. He was already disturbed.

“I’m sorry you hurt the tree,” I said and walked away. Strangely, after that encounter, the man has acted so politely and respectfully to me for years that I find it hard to believe he once acted so selfishly.

According to Tibet’s beloved God King, “When a person harms you out of his own limitations, you simply have to say, “It is not this person’s fault; he simply wasn’t able to do anything better.”