Examine our intention: Tolerance and Endurance

【Reported by Hsin-Li Zheng】Greek philosopher Socrates once said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” However, it is far from easy to examine our complex and ever-changing thoughts. The Philosopher Cafe, led by Professor Ku from the School of Life and Living at Dharma Drum University, aims to provide an environment where people feel comfortable, supported and accepted so that they can conduct rational debate, converse with their subconscious minds and examine their inner-selves.

The topic for this meeting was “Tolerance and Endurance.” A total of 37 participants began the session by examining their motives in joining the discussion. Then, the professor briefly introduced the origin of Philosopher Cafe and how the discussion should proceed.

Followed by the introduction, the participants shared their perception and understanding of tolerance and endurance. Since most of the participants were female, the experiences and reflections that they shared were mostly around their marriages and families. Then, the professor posed several questions, “Is there any concealed motives or purposes when we claim that we ‘tolerate and endure’? Is it possible that we try to control or manipulate through the so-called ‘toleration and endurance’?  Sometimes we endure to avoid confrontation and distress without realizing that endurance in the contrary makes us even more distressful. So, shall we examine our real motives through rational debate?”

When referring to motive, purpose or intention, people often respond to them negatively. However, the professor indicated, “It is not disgraceful to discover that we are not as simple as we thought or that we actually expect returns for our giving. By discovering and examining our intentions, we can better assess if our actions are worthwhile.  Also, we can clearly understand our situations, and further make a wise decision for the next step.”

Then, the professor brought forth another subject﹘examination of our mindset. What is our mindset when we are tolerating and enduring someone? Could it be possible that when we give in and endure, we in fact believe that we are superior so we can tolerate others?  The professor asked everybody to observe their experiences from this perspective.

Through discussion, the participants also shared their reflections: Sometimes only one party experiences tolerance and endurance.  Most of the time, their partners may not even aware that their counterparts are tolerating. Therefore, during interaction and communication if we experience suppression or grievance, should we adjust the way we express or communicate?  Some participants expressed that sometimes when we re-examine and further adjust the way we communicate, many problems and distress will be solved and vanished.

The professor later elaborated, “When we stretch, we need to stretch hard and hold for a few seconds. Then when we stretch again, we will find that we can go further, even beyond our predetermined limit.”The professor encouraged participants to contemplate further by quoting Ven. Chi Chern. Once when teaching meditation, Ven. Chi Chern raised the following questions: Is there a limit to tolerance? In what circumstances will there be no limit to tolerance? Or maybe there is only a limit to endurance but not tolerance? What is the limit?  How do we define limit? If we take a pause and revisit the situation, will we see the limit differently?  Very often if we see beyond the boundaries and re-examine the situation, we will discover more room and flexibility to handle difficult situations.”

Finally, the participants were invited to share what they had learned. The professor also encouraged participants to use the methods they learned to handle situations in their lives and to share these methods with others. “Some concepts may seem contradictory. However when we investigate further, we will find that dichotomy may not really exist,” said the professor as a conclusion to the event. Whether in our life journey or philosophical debate, we shall try to contemplate and examine our mindsets before providing answers to the problems or insisting our positions to the issues.