by Mrs. Rama Varma
Forbearance (kshama) is the capacity to endure hardship or inconvenience without complaint or protest. Forbearance is being long-suffering, patient, resigned, tolerant. So, forbearance means showing restraint in the face of provocation. Forbearance requires keeping oneself in check and controlling oneself. This means holding back or abstaining from expressing all our reactions.
Forbearance also means forgiving any harm done toward us. There is nothing extraordinary about returning good for good, but doing good in return for bad that is an extraordinary quality.
The practice of forbearance requires a great deal of skill, which can only be acquired through practice and spiritual growth. Baba tells this story about the weaver-saint Maanikkavaachakar to illustrate what forbearance is like in practice:
There was once a person in Tamilnadu who earned a living by weaving cloth and selling it. In the same place there was a rich man whose son was a naughty boy. This lad came to the weaver and asked what was the price of the sari he was selling. The man replied, “Three rupees”, (the price of those days). The lad tore the sari in half and asked what was the price of half the sari. The weaver replied, “A rupee and a half”. The lad tore it again into two and asked what was the price of the torn piece. The man replied, “It is worth twelve annas” (three-fourths of a rupee).
The weaver did not get angry at the lad's behavior. He was calm and unruffled. The young lad was astonished. He asked the weaver, “How did you acquire this quality of forbearance?” The man replied, “Forbearance is truth. It is right conduct. It is nonviolence. It is a source of joy. It is heaven itself. There is nothing greater than forbearance in this world.”
Therefore, however much other people may criticize us, however much they comment and condemn and provoke and harm us, we should practice having an unruffled self-control and remaining undisturbed, unperturbed, continuing to enjoy inner peace.
In Nature there are three good examples of forbearance. The first of these is trees.
No matter how much trouble is given to a tree by cutting its branches, the tree continues to give protection from rain and sun to any person who takes shelter under it. Trees do good to people by giving fruits, flowers and fuel, even though people, in return, may be doing harm to the trees. As Baba says, the sandalwood tree will give its fragrance even to the person cutting it down.
Rivers are a second good example. No matter how much rivers may be dirtied by people; in whatever way people may use rivers without showing any gratitude to them, still the rivers will continue to serve humanity. Not only that - even as they serve, rivers will continue to concentrate on reaching the ocean, their goal and their home. Water gives life to humanity: whether you put it to good use or bad use, it does not mind. It continues to serve.
Third are the cows, who deny their milk to their own calves to provide milk for humanity, giving freely of such a fine, nourishing food. Whatever troubles you might give to a cow, still it will give you sweet milk. So cows also do only good for humanity.
You must have patience and forbearance but at the same time, you should know under what circumstances and in what manner to use it. You must use forbearance to exercise control over any bad qualities that are within you, which can come in the way of realizing the spiritual goal. You should consider the ability to exercise forbearance in certain situations as a test. For devotees patience and forbearance is a vital quality. Only after achieving patience and forbearance will you be able to understand the true principle of Spirituality and Divinity.
~Sathya Sai Baba
It should be clearly understood that in the spiritual field, forbearance is an essential quality for reaching the divine state and should be assiduously practiced. In worldly matters, however, we should not go on showing forbearance under absolutely all circumstances. One has to apply discrimination also to employ forbearance. Forbearance should not be shown towards people who are ungrateful.
Day to day, how do we practice forbearance? Here are a few of Baba's Teachings on this important question:
For practicing patience and forbearance there are other things which have to be completely shunned. There should not be any attachment, any hatred or jealousy in you. If you have attachment, hatred and jealousy even in the smallest measure, you will not be able to develop patience and forbearance.
Forbearance is equivalent to truth itself. Forbearance is the heart of righteousness. It is the very essence of the Vedas. Forbearance is non-violence in practice; it is contentment and compassion. Truly speaking it is everything in all the world. Only when you have developed patience and forbearance will you be able to obtain the Lord.
In the present Kali Age the non-practice of forbearance is leading man to become revengeful, jealous and greedy. He is going away from the spiritual goal to the materialistic goal of life. On the basis of bad virtues he thinks he is leading a happy and comfortable life, but that indeed is an unhappy and a miserable life. Non-practice of forbearance in day to day life has lead to a great chaos in society, and man is giving too much importance to his physical body. Many great scholars lose their prestige for not having the virtues of patience and forbearance.
If a person has forbearance then he will be able to acquire all the other important qualities such as mind control, sense control, renunciation, gratitude, faith and concentration. All these make up the state of inner purity.
Life has seven supreme values, namely, reputation, prosperity, eloquence, the power of discrimination, suprasensory intelligence, courage and forbearance (keerthi, sampada, vaak, buddhi sakthi, medha sakthi, dhairya, and sahana)Forbearance, the paragon of virtues, makes a man remain unruffled by the vicissitudes of life. Neither elated by a happy turn of events nor dejected on the occurrence of a tragedy, a man with fortitude is unperturbed by the ups and downs in the endless drama of life.
~ Sathya Sai Baba
For me, my son, Rohit, was a moving and inspiring example of forbearance. At the very young age of 17, he started reading the biographies of great persons like Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Aurobindo, J. Krishnamurthy, Yogananda Paramahamsa and Mother Teresa in great depth. After having read the biographies, he started practicing the virtues imbibed by them. He behaved in the same manner as they behaved, in society as well as with his own parents. Our son became the role model for the family, and I could see that he was not affected by criticism, praise, rewards, blame or any kind of adverse remarks.
He was digging the trenches of wisdom through patience and forbearance. Any suffering that came on his way toward God-Realization, he took as a challenge, with complete faith in God and patience in his behavior. For over eleven years he underwent intense sadhana. Ultimately, he contracted blood cancer (acute myeloid leukemia), and he died after only two months, at the age of 28. He underwent great suffering, but this suffering was a bliss for him, because he believed and we believe that this experience purified him for a higher cause: to merge with the Cosmic Consciousness, our beloved Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, and thus become eternal.
Those who seek to acquire steadiness of faith
must first acquire the strength
to bear grief and pain,
insult and injury.
The succession of joy and grief
must help confirm the faith
and make it immovable.
That alone can evidence true devotion.
~Sathya Sai Baba