--> Skip to main content

Titiksha Or Fortitude In Hinduism

Vedanta extols titiksha, or fortitude, as one of the six treasures of a spiritual aspirant. Sri Ramakrishna taught his disciples – ‘Those who forbear, live; those who don’t, perish.’ Fortitude means putting up with all difficulties, miseries and problems, without trying for their removal and at the same time not fretting or complaining about them,’ says Sri Shankaracharya. A bit of an idealistic definition indeed, but Vedanta advocates striving to live up to the ideal, rather than lowering the ideal to the actual.

Says Swami Vivekananda, ‘One of the most insinuating things comes to us in the shape of persons who apologise for our mistakes and teach us how to make special excuses for all our foolish wants and foolish desires; and we think that their ideal is the only ideal we need have. But it is not so. The Vedanta teaches no such thing. The actual should be reconciled to the ideal, the present life should be made to coincide with life eternal.’

One of the main challenges to fortitude is physical discomforts. Heat and cold, and pleasure and pain arise from the contact of sense organs. They come and go, being impermanent. Bear with them patiently.’ (Bhagavad Gita).

Mental discomforts arise from the dualities of life like pleasure and pain, praise and blame, and gain and loss. Though we tend to seek the pleasant and detest the painful, we need to face both, since life offers a package deal: you seek the one, and the other comes uninvited.

Braving the forces of lust and anger is the greatest challenge. Under their grip man forgets what he is and acts in spite of himself in a way he himself might not approve of in his saner moments. Says Sri Krishna, ‘He who is able to withstand even while alive the agitation caused by lust and anger — he is the self controlled one and he is the happy man.’

Commenting on the verse, Shridhara Svamin forcefully describes the immensity of the task: ‘Just as a dead man is able to withstand the urge of passion or anger though his body is embraced by a wailing young woman or burnt by his sons and others, even so he who is able to withstand that urge even while alive — he alone is a poised and happy man.’

Another challenge is to put up with difficult people. We are of different temperaments, each with his own quota of foolishness, worldliness, selfishness and unreasonableness. When we cannot do without interacting with unreasonable people, establishing some sort of working relationship with them becomes a demanding task.