In Honor of the International Day of Tolerance

Today is the International Day of Tolerance. Here are some inspiring words from the Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh on how we can grow our capacity to love:

"How can we help our hearts to grow every day, to be able to embrace everything? The Buddha gave a very beautiful example. Suppose you have a bowl of water and someone put a handful of salt in the bowl of water; it would be too salty for you to drink. But suppose someone threw a handful of salt into a clean mountain river. The river is deep and wide enough that you can still drink the water without tasting the salt.

"When your heart is small, you suffer a lot. But when your heart becomes bigger, very big, then the same thing does not make you suffer anymore. So the secret is how to help your heart to grow. If your heart is small, you can't accept that person, you can't tolerate him or her with his or her shortcomings. But when your heart is big, you have a lot of understanding and compassion, and then there is no problem, you don't suffer, and you embrace him or her because your heart is so big.

"We suffer because our heart is small. And we demand that the other person should change in order to be accepted by us. But when our heart is large, we don't put forth any conditions, we accept them as they are, and they have a chance to transform. The secret is how to grow our hearts. The practice of understanding helps the energy of compassion to arise. When compassion is there, we don't suffer anymore. We suffer because we don't have enough compassion. The moment when we have a lot of compassion, there is no suffering anymore. We encounter the same types of people, we encounter the same situations, but we don't suffer anymore because our love is so large.

"Helping our heart to grow big, kshanti paramita, is the capacity of embracing everyone, everything, you don't exclude anyone. In true love, you don't discriminate anymore. Whatever a person's color, religion, or political beliefs, you accept them all with no discrimination whatsoever. Inclusiveness here means nondiscrimination."