“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.14)
Friend1: The summer and winter seasons.
Friend2: Don’t forget fall and spring.
Friend1: The scorching heat of the summer. Who wants to go into the kitchen and cook?
Friend2: Don’t forget exercising. Getting a sweat going. Playing sports outside in the middle of the day, with the sun beating down on you.
Friend1: Who wants to take a shower early in the morning on a cold day in January?
Friend2: Don’t forget going outside. Heating up the car before driving. Clearing off snow. One difficulty after another.
Friend1: I mentioned the seasons because they play an important role in a teaching presented by Shri Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita.
Friend2: I know the verse of which you speak.
Friend1: The lesson is about dealing with ups and downs. At least that’s what I get from it.
Friend2: Tolerating. This world is temporary and miserable. Nothing remains fixed. There are fluctuations in conditions. Sometimes a person is on the upswing. Married, children, expensive car, good job. Then suddenly things turn in the other direction. Divorce, disease, addiction.
Friend1: A downward spiral.
Friend2: The thing to remember is that there is not much we can do to change these situations. That’s why the comparison to summer and winter. We should tolerate based on this understanding.
Friend1: There is also the mention of sense perception. Is this something like saying, “Oh, you’re not really sick. It’s all in your head”? Mind over matter.
Friend2: A little bit, but not really. It’s not that the cold of winter is fake. Sunburn is a real thing.
Friend1: Then why mention sense perception?
Friend2: Because that is the cause of the discomfort. You have these senses that accompany a material body. The happiness and sadness relate to those senses only, not to who you really are. Just try to tolerate the changes. There will be a benefit in the long run.
Friend1: Okay, so I get that we shouldn’t over-endeavor for prosperity. We shouldn’t lament too much over loss. Change is going to occur. People get what they deserve. No more, no less. Here is a question to consider, though. At what point should we stop tolerating?
Friend2: What do you mean? What is the alternative?
Friend1: For instance, I hear this stupid car alarm blaring in the morning. Why it’s the same car every single day is beyond me. I tolerate it. I let the anger go. But at some point it becomes too much. I don’t want to live in a place where it is noisy all the time. You see what I am saying?
Friend2: You could make the argument in the Pandavas’ favor, too. Arjuna heard these words of wisdom from Krishna, relating to the upcoming battle.
Friend1: Which was to settle once and for all who got to rule over Hastinapura, the land in dispute.
Friend2: You could say the Pandavas tolerated injustice for so long. They were the rightful heirs to the kingdom, but it was stolen from them. The enemies wouldn’t leave it at that. They tried to kill the Pandavas so many times, to make sure the threat vanished.
Friend1: Okay, and we see that Arjuna and his brothers took everything in stride. They didn’t let circumstances change their character. Yet the war occurred anyway. Krishna even encouraged it. How is that tolerating?
Friend2: It was dharma. Doing the right thing. The mention of the summer and winter seasons is not meant to be an excuse to avoid action. Every person has to work. The idea is to do the right kind of work, with detachment. Don’t be afraid of duty. Don’t shirk responsibilities for fear of the consequences. The Pandavas tolerated, but when the time was right they stepped up and went through something they weren’t really interested in.
Friend1: Right, so how do we, as ordinary people, recognize the dividing line? How do we know when it is time to take matters into our own hands? Not that we can change destiny, but when do we know that it is our duty to take a stand and work to change circumstances?
Friend2: The general rule is to try to tolerate as much as possible, with everyday life. The duty of every person in this degraded age of Kali, marked by rampant quarrel and hypocrisy, is to become conscious of the Supreme Lord. Whatever is favorable for the development of that consciousness should be accepted and whatever is unfavorable should be rejected. In the process tolerate the distresses and joys that accompany a material existence, as the days within that experience are numbered for the person who is attached to the lotus feet of Shri Krishna.
Tolerating kingdom from them taken,
By enemies of good judgment forsaken.
But in the end Pandavas ready to fight,
Time finally to make things right.
In Gita of summer and winter accepting,
Joy and sorrow through senses expecting.
To work for Krishna plan the best,
Let high authority sort out the rest.