Be terrified about how terrible you can be, to never become that terrible
Suppose we read about some people doing terrible things, such as terrorists murdering innocent people. We may feel revolted, “What kind of human being would do such a thing? I would never do anything like that. That person must be an animal, a beast.”
To feel revolted with revolting actions is desirable – it shows that our conscience is functioning. Still, we need to resist the temptation to otherify the perpetrators of such actions: to treat them like someone who has nothing in common with us, someone who is not even a human being.
Why shouldn’t we otherify them? Because we all have two sides: divine and demonic. The same demonic side that impelled them to barbaric actions is also present within us, even if in a much smaller degree. For example, we may have some greed, because of which we may take minor ethical shortcuts to make some quick money. Or we may have some anger, because of which we may physically abuse someone weaker than us. Initially, we may regret such lapses; eventually however, we may become nonchalant about them. Thereafter, when we are sufficiently provoked, our greed or anger might drag us to deeds that we presently find revolting. Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita (16.14) outlines how the demonic, impelled by greed, plot to eliminate their rivals – and even get a devilish delight in cold-bloodedly eliminating them.
If we unflinchingly contemplate how a combination of outer provocation and inner nonchalance can bring out the beast within us, we will be terrified at the prospect of being thus degenerated. Then, we will diligently nourish our divine side by connecting devotionally with the supreme divinity, Krishna. When we are steadily absorbed in Krishna, in a mood of service, we can best protect our consciousness from take-over by our demonic side.
Think it over:
- How may we otherify terrible people?
- How may we end up doing the same terrible things that we now find appalling?
- How can we protect ourselves from acting terribly?
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