New Understandings of Tolerance

Xiao Mei

PureInsight | April 12, 2004

[] One Friday morning, I greeted one of my two bosses, "Hi, Lucy!" while she was looking for something in the refrigerator. She turned around and shared my cheerful tone, "Hi, Helen!" She looked really pleasant, and I smiled at her. She smiled back in return. I then asked her when she needed a specific assignment to be completed. She inquired about why I asked that. I explained that I would come in to the laboratory this weekend and work overtime [if she needed this to be done in a hurry.] She repeatedly said, "No!", and added, "You have two children and have a lot of housework to do on the weekend." I thanked her for being so considerate. She said proudly, "It's because I have two kids, too. On the weekends I never have enough time." Then we chatted some more.

It was hard to believe that this Lucy was the same woman who, not so long ago, I thought to be an arrogant and unreasonable boss. Over the course of the last year she had become an amiable and understanding woman whose has completely changed her behavior toward me.

I remember when I first came to the chaotic science laboratory, Lucy and her husband, my other boss, were both very picky about my work. Even though I strove hard to meet their expectations and thought my work was flawless, they were never pleased. In the beginning of my employment there, because of my Chinese accent and poor English, they would frown and say impatiently, "What?" each time I talked to them. I thought they had no manners or respect for other people.

Consequently, I was also often nervous as I was afraid of being insulted at any given time. I often thought about quitting because I felt that I couldn't tolerate it anymore and would lose my temper. However, in my heart I knew that running away from my problems was definitely not the right thing for a cultivator to do. Thus, even though I was in a lot of pain, I looked inside. First, I found I had an attachment to fear, and that my breadth of mind wasn't broad enough. After all, as a cultivator, my heart should always remain unmoved no matter what I encounter. As long as I do my work well in an open and righteous manner, there is no need to fear anything. I told myself not to allow interference by others, and always to smile calmly at others no matter how they treated me.

One day, Lucy and I were doing experiments in another of the company's labs. The lab has to be kept locked at all times, so the staff is used to always locking the door behind them when they leave. That day, Lucy and I shared a key to the lab. She went out to have lunch first around noon. After finishing my part of the experiment, I also left for lunch. Before I left, I debated whether I should lock the door or not because Lucy didn't tell me whether or not she was coming back to work in the lab after lunch. Then I thought, "Even if she is coming back, she wouldn't have to wait long because I am a fast eater." So I decided to lock the door. To my surprise, Lucy was already busy working in the lab by the time I came back from lunch, and she looked furious. She approached me angrily, "Helen, you mustn't take the key with you when you go to lunch. It has taken me three weeks to get to this point in my experiment. If I were not able to continue my experiment this afternoon, I would have wasted three weeks in vain!" I smiled and apologized, "I am sorry." Seeing my smile, she became even angrier. "Helen, you have to be serious about this! Did you know I had to ask a security guard to let me in?" I remained composed and replied, "It was my fault. I should have called you before I left." She didn't say anything else, and we went on to do our own experiments. After a while, her voice softened. "I am sorry, Helen. I lost my temper a while ago. I'm really anxious" I smiled peacefully again and said, "That's all right. I understand." Inside, I was very happy for Lucy because this was the first time she'd ever apologized to me. It meant that she had realized that she was being unreasonable.

As time went on I became more and more optimistic and I was happy all day long, every day at work. I would even hum my favorite songs while doing experiments. Lucy and my other boss became cheerful as well. I no longer felt nervous when they came ask me something. Instead, I would talk with them happily. If there was a problem with my work, I would explain it to them immediately. If they gave me too much work to do, I would explain to them candidly, "I can't handle that much work. Otherwise, I'm likely to make mistakes."

I have always believed there must be a reason why someone treats you badly. It must be because of something that you have done to him in this life or a past one.

I once had a dream, which hinted to me that I had done something awful to Lucy in a past life. It was a very clear dream, in which I seemed to be a princess, and was surrounded by a lot of attendants. As I was entering a magnificent palace, I saw several people in old rags standing next to the entrance, who appeared to be begging. Among them stood poor old Lucy, she stuttered as she spoke to me in Chinese. I arrogantly taunted her, "Lucy, can't you even speak Chinese?" The dream ended there, but the scene of the highly privileged princess and the poor woman had been deeply imprinted in my mind. I couldn't help but think how similar the events in the dream were being reflected in the present situation. Now I am the one who was being taunted for not speaking English well enough.

Buddhism teaches reincarnation and believes that if one does something bad to another person in a past life, one will have to pay it back later on, sometimes in another life Perhaps this is the predestined reason why I came to work with Lucy. I have to clear the unpaid karmic debts from my past wrongdoing in other lives. After all, how can one live without suffering any hardships to repay the karmic debt? Now I understand the principle even more that one must be tolerant when being treated badly.

"Helen! Helen!" Lucy's voice from the other side of the lab broke my train of thought. I thought something had gone wrong. It turned out that she wanted to show me a sheet of paper with several badly written Chinese characters. "These were written by my youngest daughter. Would you check to see if she has done them correctly?" Lucy's youngest daughter is only nine years old. She is born to two Caucasian parents and brought up in the western world, but she is very interested in Chinese culture. There were notes in English next to every Chinese character. For example, she has written "wood" next to the Chinese character "Mu" (wood). But there were also characters that she did not understand the meanings of. For example, she wrote down the Chinese character "Tian" (rice paddy) But she wasn't able to write down the English meaning next to the Chinese character. Lucy asked me to explain the meaning of those characters that her daughter didn't know, and asked for my opinion of her daughter's Chinese handwriting. I was touched by the obvious effort behind these Chinese characters. For a little western girl, this is a tremendous accomplishment to be able to write these Chinese characters. I answered happily, "These were all very well done!" Lucy insisted that I put my praise on the same paper in Chinese, and told me in a satisfied look, "I'll show this to my daughter when I go home. She will surely be very happy to see it." Lucy told me that she had been to China before and that she loved Chinese culture. But she wondered why her youngest daughter loved China so much. The scene from the dream came to my mind, and I immediately knew the answer to her question.

The predestined relationships between human beings are determined by the interwoven favors, conflicts, and friendly or fiendish interactions with others from our present or previous lives. If we treat everything, including tribulation, with a tolerant heart, we can settle even "malevolent predestined relationships with benevolent solutions." Through tolerance, I finally settled the malevolent relationship with my bosses. Although the result may not have appeared to be earth-shaking, deep in my heart I felt the infinite strength of tolerance.

Before this trial, tolerance had meant just plain suffering to me; however, as I began to undergo the fundamental changes in my understanding of tolerance, the feeling of joy arose and replaced the feeling of pain. As I watch people around me become joyful because of my overwhelming joy, I started to experience a more vivid sense of happiness. My mind has been enveloped with joy and has become increasingly compassionate and tolerant. When I truly embrace compassion and tolerance in my mind and with my actions, I feel I have gained true freedom of mind and spirit!

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