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Tolerance vs. Intolerance - Conceptualisations depend on needs

nabadip - Thu, 13 Nov 2003 10:44:15 +0530
I wrote this as an addition to a thread, but now do not really know where to place it, so I start a new topic. Some points have alread been considered. I humbly submit this inspite of it.

God is according to vaishnava theology transcendent complex reality, while the sadhaka is within cosmic limitation, subject to mental and sensual activity, reaching out to that transcendence. The Bhagavatam establishes and stresses the quality of Adhokshaja (beyond the senses and the mind) of Krishna. Mind functions in the dual way of YES-NO, accepting-rejecting. Theories and conceptions are established on a mental plane, following an intuitive inner grasping which can be called shraddha, faith.

The different conceptions of the manifold one Reality of the complex ever-new ever-different Radha-Krishna, Nitai-Gaur present themselves to the seeker as a pool of choices, from which s/he selects one and not the other. Selection is existentially necessary because a strict path requires one-pointedness of the mind. If everything was elected as equal, confusion would arise in daily practice for most people.

Many small steps make one path. There is choice mixed with fate or guidance in our taking those small steps. To accept a particular theory in a leap of faith in order to submit once life to that elected choice of the complex One is a subjective process requiring strength and courage. We feel guided to our choices and therefore defend them as absolute Truth, and only with maturity come to understand it be *our* Truth.

Karl R. Popper in his theory of science said that in the process of the establishment of a particular theory there is always a phase of dogmatic, authoritarian insistence of its sole validity against every other option. It is required for a theory to be heard and looked at by as many members as possible of the scientific community. A subjective reason is that even a scientist dedicates a part or the whole of her/his life-energy to that work, and therefore experiences the psychological need of dogmatism.

Nowadays we live in a multi-cultural world with many theories and truths being claimed. Our democratic traditions require tolerance of minorities and include a certain indecisiveness. Culturally we experienced an increasing loss of objective certainty of what is true and real and a subjectivation to the extent of even losing the grasp of who we are in relation to the many objects that are created by man for consumption. This is the process of alienation. Relativity has been established as the guiding principle, in declaring truth as purely subjective, that what is true depends on the point of view. In dealing with our Indian brethren and gurus we have to recognise and acknowledge their situation in a different cultural environment. We cannot approach them by claiming from them to take our point of view which is formed by our socialisation-experience. We come out of chaos into the simple world of faith. It is us who have to adjust, not them.

Tolerance actually implies the certainty of “I know what I have and that is it for me, while you may have something else which is it for you.” The other extreme of tolerance is Paul K. Feyerabend’s “Anything Goes” in scientific theory. So include the rain-dance as a valid tool to explain the relationship of man to weather. In our field this would mean to accept the possibility of any kind of worship, Kali or ghost or Manitou or any other of the 5000 sects registered in California.

The great difficulty and challenge lies in the relationship of the tolerant to the intolerant. Can one tolerate the intolerant? This has been a major question in political philosophy since the Age of Enlightenment and the French and American Revolutions. It is now visible in the confrontation of the West with the Muslim world. The tolerant is in a paradoxical position when confronting the intolerant. S/he is forced to become intolerant her/himself. If he continues to be tolerant he is on shaky ground, while the intolerant knows step by step what to do. Actually parents also know this situation in dealing with their children.

I think we all have both these sides in us: we are intolerant in our small world of faith (our thinking of who we are and our elected conception of Divine Reality), asked to be tolerant to the large world of other elected conceptions. The synthesis is in the understanding of the inconceivable simultaneous oneness and difference in the complexity of God which is wonderfully shown in Gaur-lila where Sri Gauranga reveals Him/Herself to each bhakta according to his desire, his elected conception of the Inconceivable. Our mind forces us to choose, this or that, there is a choice, and there is none. We are learning to live the paradoxical by taking sides without taking sides. What helps is to remain in astonishment once in a while and not resort to thinking too early again.

Jai Gaur, Jai Nitai.
adiyen - Fri, 14 Nov 2003 08:26:44 +0530
Loved this essay, Nabadip.

Joy Gour, Joy Nitai!