We learn and grow not just by exploring but also by adapting
Sometimes, we find ourselves in restrictive situations where we can’t do anything new. Such constriction may make us feel that we can’t learn or grow.
However, we grow not just by exploring new things, but also by adapting ourselves to unchangeable old things. By exploring, we may learn about the world; but by adapting, we can learn about ourselves. For adapting, we need to go deep within to find untapped layers of strength.
At the Bhagavad-gita’s start, Arjuna finds himself in the suffocating situation of having to fight against his venerable elders. While guiding him, the Gita stresses his indestructible inner identity (02.13) as the foundation for tolerating unpleasant externals (02.14).
Of course, tolerance doesn’t mean passively accepting every atrocious external situation. After all, the Gita asks Arjuna to fight against power-hungry anti-social elements for establishing the rule of dharma. Tolerance gives us the malleability necessary for adaptation – by accepting that not everything in life is changeable, we can focus on changing that which is changeable.
Significantly, adaptation leads to something new. Organisms that adapt to difficult environments develop new features for surviving, even thriving, in those environments. When we similarly adapt to restrictive externals, we learn to focus inwards and grow therein. We realize our spiritual indestructibility, thereby gaining the strength to better deal with those externals.
Tolerance, then, is not passivity; it is the virtue that enables us to adapt and persevere amidst unpalatable circumstances. By such purposeful tolerance, we can attain liberation (02.15) – a glorious new result unattainable by doing any number of externally new things.
Even if liberation seems far away, still the principle of growing by adapting holds true. When we adapt to unchangeable externals and direct our exploring spirit inwards, we can relish therein a whole new world of meaning and joy.
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