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When to Use Forbearance and when it is Inappropriate

In the great epic, the Mahabharata, which chronicles the war of righteousness between the Pandava brothers and their wicked cousins, there is an incident depicted in which Arjuna dragged the murderer of all her children, before Draupadi, the wife of the five Pandava brothers. The Pandavas had just won the war when the horrendous deed was committed. Even though Draupadi was overcome with sorrow, she pointed out to Arjuna the circumstances under which a wicked person should be excused. Draupadi told Arjuna that it was not proper to execute a person who was overwhelmed with fear, or a person who was humble and penitent and pleading for mercy, or a person who had lost his sanity and become deranged, or a person who had acted out of inconsolable grief, or women and children, in general, even if they deserve such punishment. For such, it is proper to show forbearance and treat them mercifully.

But, for people who are repeatedly ungrateful and malicious, who are unrepentant and untrustworthy, it is not appropriate to display forbearance. You need to deal with them firmly, according to the circumstances. But remember that all such actions relate only to your outer worldly life. In your heart, you must never lose your peaceful inner state of forbearance. For your spiritual life, forbearance is an essential quality necessary to reach the divine state, and you must practice it assiduously.

In the case of Jesus you can also see his highly-developed quality of forbearance. There were 12 disciples living and traveling about with him. Jesus extended all love and compassion, all protection and shelter to them. But one of them, Judas, was tempted by money and became a traitor to his master. Despite Judas' infidelity, Jesus remained unperturbed and continued to extend Judas his love. There is no need for you to pray to God to see that such people are punished. As was the case with Judas, their own acts will bring them to ruin. Whatever wicked actions a person commits, the fruits of those actions will have to be borne by him alone. No one can escape the fruits of his own actions. You may not be able to predict when and under what circumstances he will suffer the consequences, but the suffering is certain to come some time.

In both great Indian epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, there are a number of instances depicted which show how people suffered in the end, when they did not practice forbearance. Consider the great suffering the five Pandava brothers underwent, having to go to the forest and live on roots and leaves, because of the hasty action of the eldest brother, Dharmaraja, in accepting a challenge to play a game of dice. Dharmaraja, as the king, felt it his righteous duty to respond to the challenge, and although he knew the game was rigged against him, he was in such a hurry to defend his honor, that he ignored the instructions given by Krishna and the advice given by his brothers. With a determination to be true to his principles, he hastened into the gambling game and had to suffer the consequences. As a result, he and his brothers lost their kingdom and were banished to the forest for fourteen years, undergoing untold deprivations and difficulties. It is only because of Dharmaraja's haste and lack of forbearance that all these consequences occurred.

You even find that a great soul like Rama, at times, did not have sufficient patience. At the end of the Ramayana, there is the incident in which Rama, after hearing the criticism and comments of one worthless washerman, immediately decided to banish Sita from the kingdom. Afterwards he suffered great pangs of separation. But, Rama was the avatar of his age, the embodiment of all the divine principles. In the case of the divinity, there will always be some deeper meaning and significance to the avatar's actions. Still, when you try to understand Rama's actions in a worldly sense, you can see that because of losing patience, Rama banished Sita and then had to suffer afterwards. Of course, when people who do only good and live only for the welfare of others, experience various troubles they will suffer their problems graciously. In this way they act as an example and teach the value of patience and forbearance when undergoing hardships in the world.