Be mindful of people’s perceptions, but don’t make your mind full of their perceptions
When we practice spiritual life, we go against the overall materialistic current of the world. The road less traveled is the road we choose to travel. Consequently, we need to stand apart from the world, to stay detached from the ways of worldly people (Bhagavad-gita 13.11).
Simultaneously, the Gita recommends a world-embracing spirituality, not a world-rejecting spirituality. It doesn’t approve of our withdrawing into our own cocoon for our spiritual growth without any concern for others’ spiritual growth. It endorses an inclusive spirituality that makes us agents for spiritualizing those around us.
With this compassionate thrust, the Gita stresses that we shouldn’t agitate people’s minds (03.26). How can we avoid disturbing people’s minds if we are not even aware of their minds? We need to understand how they are perceiving our words, our actions, our spirituality. Only then can we present spiritual principles and practices in ways that are appealing, not alienating. That’s why we need to be mindful of people’s perceptions.
While being thus mindful, two caveats are in order. First, we can’t change central spiritual truths just because people find them agitating. Nonetheless, spirituality often comes with contextual accretions and accessories that are suitable for some people, but not for others. We need to carefully consider what is suitable for whom.
Second, we can’t let our mind become full of people’s perceptions. Our mind needs to be full of our Lord, Krishna. And because everyone is a part of Krishna, we need to be conscious of their perceptions. Why? So that we can best serve them by presenting our Lord according to their level of spiritual receptivity.
By thus being aware of people’s perceptions while not becoming obsessed with those perceptions, we can be both committed and compassionate.
Think it over:
- Why do spiritualists need to stand apart from the world?
- Why do we need to be mindful of people’s perceptions?
- While being mindful of people’s perceptions, what caveats are in order?
13.11 …Constant and unalloyed devotion to Me; aspiring to live in a solitary place; detachment from the general mass of people; … [ – all these I declare to be knowledge].
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