03.26 – Do not make a virtue out of alienating people

by August 13, 2012

When we adopt spiritual practices seriously, we soon gain a bit of self-mastery. This little self-mastery may make us feel morally superior to others: “I have renounced all those materialistic pleasures to which they are still addicted.” People rarely like anyone who looks down at them. When they see such a condescending attitude in a devotee of God, it turns them away not only from that person but also from God. When people thus become alienated, we may be tempted to make a virtue out of their alienation: “This only proves how degraded they are.”  Even if we are not condescending towards people, we may still alienate them by speaking advanced spiritual principles for which they are not yet ready.

To pre-empt such unnecessary alienation of people, the Bhagavad-gita (3.26) recommends that we not act or speak in ways that agitate the minds of people (na buddhi-bhedam janayed) who are spiritually uninformed (ajnanam) and materially attached (karma-sanginam).

To understand the rationale for this recommendation, let’s recap the Gita’s essential message:

  1. Most people in this world will be materialistic because this is, after all, the material world.
  2. Nonetheless, no one is essentially a materialist; everyone is actually a soul, a precious part of Krishna.
  3. Everyone is ultimately looking for Krishna, because everyone is looking for happiness and Krishna is the supreme source of all happiness.
  4. So, if people are not yet ready to connect with Krishna directly, we can at the very least by our conduct and counsel convey a positive impression about krishna-bhakti. That positive impression (ajnata-sukriti) will slowly but surely prod them towards Krishna.

Thus, this recommendation brings realism and idealism together in an endearing balance, a balance that is the hallmark of Gita wisdom. Learning to achieve this balance in our own lives is what makes living the Gita a lifelong adventure.


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