Sri Chinmoy: This world of ours is full of imperfection. Each person's imperfection causes suffering in somebody else. People may tolerate each other's imperfections, be indifferent to them, or punish those who have them.
Let us first of all try to understand what tolerance is. There are two kinds of human tolerance. The first type is the tolerance of the weak person for someone who is stronger. I have to tolerate someone because he can strike me or hurt me; I am at his mercy. This kind of tolerance is really helplessness. This is what often happens in our day-to-day life. The superior lords it over the inferior and the inferior has no choice but to tolerate this.
The second kind of tolerance is the tolerance of the strong person for someone who is weaker-the mother's tolerance for the child. Constantly the child is doing something wrong or something foolish, but the mother tolerates it. Why? Because the mother knows that the child is limited and has not yet developed wisdom. But also, his limitations are part of her very existence and she tolerates them happily.
Beyond these two kinds of human tolerance, when we go deeper we see the divine tolerance. The divine tolerance cannot be explained in words. It is infinitely stronger and more fulfilling than the human mother's tolerance for her child, because the divine tolerance houses the whole world of imperfection. Divine tolerance is based on oneness. In the case of divine tolerance, when somebody does something wrong to me, I do not actually forgive that person. What happens is that my inner divinity becomes totally one with the person who has made a mistake and is creating a disturbance in my life. If my soul's oneness with the other person comes to the fore, then where is forgiveness? So divine tolerance is deeper even than forgiveness. It is all oneness. It is nothing but the conscious feeling or awareness of our oneness with others. I do not tolerate you because I feel that I am superior or because I feel that I have capacity while you have none. With a spiritual person, it is not ego that comes to the fore when he tolerates someone. It is his identification with the other person's limitations.
This does not mean that if you constantly do things wrong, I will continually identify myself with your wrong actions and imperfections. No! Then you will remain in ignorance constantly. When you do something wrong, I will identify myself and tolerate your ignorance, but I will not ignore it or inspire you to continue in this way. By doing that I would merely be embracing ignorance. In God's case, He may try to show you the right path by giving you an experience which the human vital may take as punishment, but which is not actually punishment but divine Compassion.
Now to come back to your question, is human tolerance an act of ego or pride? If you are tolerating someone with a feeling of your own superiority, it means you are not identifying yourself with that person's present achievement in the process of evolution. This is certainly an act of ego. Again, even if your tolerance is an act of real identification, you have to be careful. If your friend is in ignorance and you identify with him, then immediately you have to raise your consciousness from there. Otherwise, you will be caught by the ignorance of your friend. You normally bring down your consciousness somewhat in order to maintain harmony in your ordinary life. But every day without fail you have to go back to your higher consciousness. Otherwise, you will be caught by the low consciousness of the everyday world. So after you have identified with others, please go back to your own higher consciousness in order to maintain the inner peace, light and joy that you have received from your spiritual life. From that level you can inwardly inspire your friends to accept the higher life and enter into the deeper existence. This is what spiritual tolerance means.