If an ideal inspires more regret than reform, an intermediate ideal is required
Suppose a hospital gym features weights so heavy that most sick patients can’t even budge them. Those weights make patients so discouraged that they just give up trying to exercise. Even if those heavier weights can and should be lifted by those who wish to become healthy, recovery needs to begin from the present level, not the desired level. The gym needs to provide lighter weights that the patients can lift in their present conditions.
The same principle can apply to our spiritual recovery. We are all weak and sick because of our many impure desires. The practice of bhakti-yoga is the cure for our sickness. While practicing bhakti, we are expected to follow certain standards. However, such standards or ideals need to be presented in a way that is productive, not counterproductive.
An ideal is productive when it inspires reform: “I am meant to be up there, at that level. What am I doing languishing down here? I will take steps to start rising right away.”
Sometimes however, the ideal can become counterproductive when it instead inspires regret: “That ideal is so high up; I will never come to that level; maybe I should just give up and stay where I am.”
When an ideal inspires more regret than reform, an intermediate ideal becomes necessary. This doesn’t mean we bring down the ideal; it just means we create steps that make reaching the ideal easier. Such inclusion is demonstrated in the Bhagavad-gita (03.26) when it disapproves giving lofty instructions that simply agitate the minds of the attached; instead, it recommends that everyone be engaged appropriately for their gradual elevation.
When ideals are made attainable, more people seek self-transformation, thus creating a better life for themselves and a better world for everyone.
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