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Tolerance & Acceptance - Part 1

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In this new feature of our website, we present every week a new selection of the teachings of Vedanta, taken from a variety of sources lectures and writings of Swami Adiswarananda, Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Literature, and other spiritual texts.






Swami Adiswarananda

Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center

New York

Science and technology have brought the world together. The earth has become a global village. But our minds have not come together. That which keeps us separate and divided is intolerance. Intolerance has many faces: social intolerance, political intolerance, psychological intolerance, and religious intolerance. It is this intolerance that has prompted apparently peaceful, loving human beings to act like brutes. This intolerance has promoted religious wars, riots, cold wars, and hatred. It has been the cause of broken homes, broken friendships, and broken communities.

Hinduism teaches the oneness of existence, unity of faiths, nonduality of the Godhead, and divinity of the soul. Oneness of existence is the basis of all love, compassion, and charitable feelings. We are like the leaves of a huge, universal tree. Prompted by intolerance, we disclaim the rights of others. But we forget that the leaves cannot survive without the tree. No one can be at peace while keeping others unhappy. No one can enjoy prosperity being surrounded by the world of poverty.

Nonviolence and tolerance are the basic virtues taught by the great teachers of all traditions. While the prophets teach love and tolerance, traders in religion teach separativeness and selfishness that disclaim the rights of others. Diversity of culture and tradition without a bond of unity and peace is socially dangerous, reprehensible, and explosive. We must ask ourselves whether we should join the main stream in tolerance or remain in our cultural, social and religious ghettos. Intolerance in any form is like a tumor that destroys the body and ultimately destroys itself.

It is the need of the hour that we unlearn intolerance by overcoming our narcissistic prejudices and minor differences. Unity in diversity is the natural law, and we must accept it. The core of this unity is spiritual. Fear, hatred, bigotry and war are symptoms of that forgotten spiritual unity. Unlearning calls for a spiritual revival at all levels. It calls for the promotion of moral and spiritual values, and calls for every one of us to set an example.

The attitude of advanced nations toward the people who are struggling to free themselves from age long poverty and hardship should be one of sympathy and service, not of patronage and control. Unlearning intolerance calls for heightened awareness of others based on the oneness of the universe. Leaders of thought are called upon to convince people that only tolerance can bring social stability and individual peace, and that the way of intolerance is self-destructive. Intolerance arises from giving in to our lower nature and is destructive of all social values. Through education and spiritual living, we must convince people that tolerance and mutual understanding are vital for their own well-being and success. Unlearning intolerance begins from the individual level. Since differences can never be abolished, we must learn to live with them with dignity and optimism.

[Copyright Swami Adiswarananda]

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