Tolerance is the stopper between temptation and transgression
“I have been striving for selflessness and purity, yet I feel repeatedly tempted by selfish and impure pleasures. Will I never make spiritual advancement?” As aspiring devotees we may become disheartened by such thoughts when we find anti-devotional desires rising in our consciousness.
At such times, we can take heart from the encouraging insight offered in the Bhagavad-gita (05.23). This verse indicates that as long as we are situated in a material body, our bodily situation makes us naturally prone to material temptations. To make spiritual advancementin such a situation, we don’t have to be temptation-free; we have to be transgression-free.
Temptations involve impure desires, whereas transgressions involve impure actions. The stopper that prevents temptations from growing into transgressions is tolerance. This Gita verse assures that as long as we determinedly tolerate temptations, we are well-situated and connected (yuktah) on the spiritual path.
How can we increase our capacity to tolerate temptations?
By cultivating knowledge intellectually and devotion spiritually.
When we assimilate scriptural knowledge about how material pleasures are short-lived and counter-productive, the resulting intellectual conviction boosts our capacity to tolerate impure temptations. When we increase our spiritual devotion for Krishna, we find it easier to redirect our thoughts from temptations to him. As Krishna is the source of lasting fulfillment whereas temptations are sources of fleeting titillation, thinking about him gives us inner satisfaction, and thereby enables us to tolerate and eliminate temptations.
Thus, by the combination of knowledge and devotion, tolerance becomes not just possible but also relishable.
“Before giving up this present body, if one is able to tolerate the urges of the material senses and check the force of desire and anger, he is well situated and is happy in this world.”