In the Light of Theosophy – Tolerance and Intolerance


Theosophy In the Light of Theosophy 2

[This article appeared in the January 2016 issue of The Theosophical Movement. For more articles published in this excellent magazine follow this ink:  ]

In the past few months, a lot has been said, written and tweeted about rising intolerance in India and the world. Inhuman, barbaric and violent incidents are on the rise. On the one hand, we see better standards of living, material comforts and technological advancement in our civilization. But on the other, we witness weakening human bonds, mistrust and intolerance escalating rapidly. Conflicts and wars, all over the world, are triggered by religious, cultural, linguistic, ideological and political divides. Why are we as humans becoming more and more intolerant? Is it wired in our psyche to hate and hurt each other because someone has different faith, color, belief system and lifestyle? Incidents of intolerance are commonplace. People seem to lose their temper and become violent for trifling reasons such as, someone bumping into their vehicle or parking in their reserved space. Incidents of aggression, such as parents threatening teachers, patients assaulting doctors, commuters beating up the staff at toll gates, etc., are becoming increasingly common. More than the legal or political intervention, what is needed is the change in the mindset of leaders and the masses, which can be brought about by educating people about co-creating a culture of respect, tolerance and peace.

Right spiritual ideas seem to be the need of the hour which can make people aware that each one of us is a soul, which is like an actor, playing different roles in the drama of life, and hence we must respect the diversity and uniqueness of each human being. Looking at others as personalities and identifying them with their nationality, creed, caste or social status, gives rise to strong likes and dislikes, biases and prejudices. We love every member in the family in spite of their weaknesses and imperfections because they belong to us. We should extend this sense of “belonging” to the entire human family. Let us not forget that we are interconnected. If one person is hurt, the whole human race is affected. When there is a realization that every human being is a soul, there will be natural respect for all. (Purity, December 2015)

Tolerance of other people, as also the unfavorable circumstances, can come from acceptance. When we decide to accept people as we find them, we get an opportunity to cultivate the virtue of Adaptability. In a subtle way our likes and dislikes work havoc, reminding us that we must learn to adjust with those we like , as also, those we do not like. We always want things to go our way. Resignation consists in understanding that Law rules in everything and every circumstance, and that nothing can come to us, whether good or evil, of which we are ourselves not the cause.

Religious tolerance can result when one strives to acquire breadth and depth of mind, giving up parochial views. However, tolerance does not mean indiscriminate acceptance of everything and everyone. The feeling of intolerance often arises because of the tone of assertiveness and dogmatism. Anekantvada is one of the most important and fundamental doctrines of Jainism. It refers to the principle of pluralism and multiplicity of viewpoints, the notion that truth and reality are perceived differently from diverse points of view, and that no single point of view is the complete truth.

Bias means prejudice. But bias is also mental inclination or leaning, or one fixed way of looking at and understanding things. Even in everyday affairs it would be a good practice to endeavor to see things from another person’s view point. We not only need to listen, carefully and sympathetically, to another person, but if need be, get into another’s shoes. A well-balanced mind is practical, logical as well as mystical.

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