Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding. – Mohandas Gandhi
What does that mean?
While the term “correct under- standing” shows up repeatedly in Buddhist writings, I am told by a reliable source (a Zen Assistant-Priest) that the English words mean exactly what you’d expect. So, let’s start out with a definition of the root word of understanding (understand), so as to better understand where we stand. But seriously, thefreedictionary.com says that understanding is “a disposition to appreciate or share the feelings and thoughts of others.”
So, think for a moment. How easy is it to appreciate anything if you are angry? How easy is would it be to appreciate the feelings or thoughts of a group of people towards whom you are intolerant? Doesn’t sound like it’s going to be easy to me, how about you? What thoughts did you come up with when pondering those two questions? I believe we can now say that we have established that, if not enemies, anger and intolerance are diametrically opposed to correct understanding.
Why is understanding important?
I’m sorry, I don’t think I understand the question. If you don’t have the ability to appreciate the feelings and thoughts of others, you don’t really understand them. Will you be able to understand their motivations, their feelings, the significance of their habits and rituals?
Does the “taste’s great” crowd truly understand from where the “less filling” crowd gets it’s passion (an argument from an old US Beer commercial)? How can they ever understand each other when there is so much intolerance? OK, so that was a pretty poor analogy, but I hope you got the idea.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Who or what are you intolerant of? I don’t tolerate fools, or as I say “I don’t suffer fools, I make fools suffer!” So if I wanted to better appreciate fools, I would have to try to understand their feelings and thoughts. Ahem. OK, that wasn’t a good example. Or was it?
Do I understand fools, foolish behavior, foolish thoughts and foolish feelings. Can I take the 5th? (that would be the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution) In other words, yes I do know quite a bit about fools, having been one myself.
While I have shared their feelings and thoughts, I find the behavior abhorrent and do what I can to correct their sloppy thinking and ill-conceived feelings. So while I understand them, I do not agree with them and work to help them understand me and where I am coming from. I suppose the use of the word intolerant is a bit inflammatory.
What of you? Is there a group of people you don’t tolerate? That make you angry? How well do you understand them? How much do you know of their feelings and thoughts? Do you share and appreciate them? In a perfect world, we could all join hands and get along in peace and harmony.
It’s a great dream, a goal to work towards. However, my feeling is that there will be people and groups of people, even once you know their thoughts and feelings (or perhaps because you know them), who will cause you to be angry and intolerant of them, their feeling, their thoughts and their actions.
What can you do to break through the anger and intolerance in your life? What can you do to better understand (although not necessarily agree with) other people in your life? What about other groups of people, ones you don’t truly understand? And what of people? How many individuals do you not correctly understand? It will be a challenging journey, but one I believe to be worthwhile.
Done with the negatives. Let’s accentuate the positive. The next time you catch yourself becoming angry (or angered), try to consider the feelings or thoughts of the other person or persons. Perhaps they chose a poor analogy and spent too much time trying to make it work.
That could cause some to get a bit aggravated (perhaps the larval stage of angry). Hopefully, those who were a bit aggravated at my blather earlier on, now that they better understand my thoughts, can better understand what I was doing.
I will consider my life a smashing success when I can see the world, if only for a moment, through the vision of Gandhi, by correctly understanding all that I see.
From Twitter: @TheQuoteToday
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