06.40 – On decreasing our emotional distance from the truth
Our normal actions as well as our major decisions are shaped not just by our rational contemplation but also by our emotional sensation.
That’s why expert spiritual mentors while presenting philosophical truths keenly note the emotional responses of their students and tailor their presentations accordingly. If truth is to transform, it needs to not just illuminate the head but also inspire the heart. If it ‘sounds right but doesn’t feel good’, then students will at best practice it halfheartedly. Once they are purified, their emotions will be aligned with reality. But unless that reality holds some emotional appeal initially, very few will strive to purify themselves.
Krishna demonstrates this emotional sensitivity throughout the Gita while addressing Arjuna’s expressed and unexpressed responses. One striking instance occurs towards the end of the sixth chapter. Arjuna after hearing about the onerous path of ashtanga-yoga feels apprehensive about its feasibility. In three verses ( 06. 37-39), he anxiously enquires about the fate of unsuccessful yogis: won’t they be all-round failures, both materially and spiritually?
Sensing Arjuna’s fear, Krishna first gives an inspiring reassurance and then an illuminating explanation. He assures (06.40) that those who seek spiritual wellbeing never meet with destruction but instead gain in this world as well as the next. Then he outlines how a magnificent multi-life arrangement accommodates their distracting material desires and accelerates their spiritual progress.
When we find a spiritual tenet challenging, the problem may not be a lack of willpower, as we often presume. The problem may be our emotional distance from it. If so, then we need to go deep into our heart and into that tenet, often with the assistance of an emotionally astute mentor. Once we discover how that tenet resonates with us emotionally, we will become freed and inspired to apply it wholeheartedly.