A person was making an overnight journey. He had a good berth and slept well. In the morning, he got down from his upper birth and tried to locate his chappals. He found one, but could not locate the other of the pair. Disgusted, he threw away the one he found, from the running train. After a while, when he moved one of his bags, the missing chappal was found, trapped underneath. Unfortunately, many of us don’t have patience, which can be seen in the desperation of a driver stuck in traffic.
It is important to realize that there are two different movements – individual and collective. We may have some control over our movements, but the other one has to be accepted without losing one’s peace. I personally know someone who collected quite a few orders from the old Soviet Union with its extremely sluggish bureaucracy and strict restrictions on the movement of the foreigners. The westerners used to get disgusted after a few days, being couped up in the hotel with Russian T.V. transmitting programmes in Russian language, for companionship. This person, having infinite patience, would walk away with many orders.
Does it mean that patience is all-good ? No ! in all the following cases, patience is not a virtue. In the matter of one’s duty, one should not delay performing it. If someone has done a favour, one should be impatient to say thanks, to express gratitude. If one sees good points in someone, one should not delay appreciation of that person. If one has a problem and requires consultation that should be done at the earliest. If there is opportunity to learn something new, or a hobby, that should be grabbed. Anything that helps one to be peaceful or to feel good should readily be accepted. Same goes for feeling secure, being free of fear, worries and anxieties.
There should be no delay in dropping the negatives in one’s behaviour, or to inculcate good habits. Raising oneself to the mode of goodness, which means proper, moral and acceptable standard, should be rushed. Same goes for purifying one’s consciousness, which we carry to the next life. One should not postpone making spiritual progress by not enquiring about God. Unfortunately, on this most important matter, we are most sluggish. If we have offended someone or harmed someone, upon such realization, one should sincerely apologize without wasting any time.
One should not wait to express one’s love, affection for others (especially towards family members and children). Lord Krishna has instructed, “It is better to be active than inactive ; one cannot even maintain one’s body properly by not being suitably active” (3.8). If one is wasting one’s valuable time, that should be stopped at the earliest. One should have no patience with one’s faults also. And in the end, wise people have opined that these must be gotten rid of at the earliest : Fire, disease, loan and enmity.
Whereas in the above cases, waiting would harm ; but in the following matters, impatience would hurt. We should show more patience for someone else to improve, than the time we give to ourselves. We are very patient about what we need to do, but have no patience for the results to come. This does not make sense since the first one is in our hands, but the other is not. Bhagavad-Geeta says that we should restrict ourselves to focus on what we need to do, since attachment with the result (which is not in our hands) only produces heartaches. Everyone of us runs into road-blocks from time to time and we should do everything possible to try to come out of it, but should never get impatient with it or lose our cool. Same goes for rewards for good deeds ; they sometimes take their own time in coming.
Similarly, God’s justice appears delayed ; one needs to be patient about it. One cannot rush spiritual progress or the realization of its benefits. And, one should delay being critical of others as far as possible. Patience, after all, is a divine quality ; Lord Krishna states : “I am patience” ( 10.34 ).
Then what should one do ? Should one be patient or impatient ? One has to know when to be impatient, and when not to be. A student should be impatient to study, but patient for the result ; one should be impatient to give, but very patient to receive. Same goes for serving and being served.
In the end, it must be mentioned that faith in God and patience go together ; it is very difficult to be patient unless one has faith in God’s perfect arrangement. Therefore, let us try to know God and develop relationship with Him without any further loss of time.