If an ideal inspires more regret than reform, an intermediate ideal is required
Suppose a hospital gym has weights so heavy that they can’t even be budged by those patients who need to exercise. Such weights will make patients so discouraged that they may give up trying to exercise. Even if those heavier weights need to be eventually lifted by those who wish to recover, the gym needs to provide them lighter weights that they 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.” An ideal is counterproductive when it 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 inclusiveness 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.
Think it over:
- When is an ideal productive?
- When does an ideal become counterproductive?
- If an ideal inspires more regret than reform, what needs to be done?
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