Do not make a virtue out of alienating people
When we adopt spiritual practices seriously, we soon gain a bit of self-mastery. This self-mastery may create within us a sense of moral superiority that impels us to flaunt how different we are from others: “I don’t indulge in any of the materialistic so-called pleasures that they do.”People rarely like anyone who looks down at them. When people see such a condescending attitude in a devotee of God, it turns them away from not just that person but also God. When people thus become alienated, we may be tempted to make a virtue out of their alienation: “This only proves how degraded they are.”
To protect us from all such temptations, Gita wisdom stands ever-ready. The Bhagavad-gita (3.26) urges us to not agitate the minds of people (na buddhi-bhedam janayed) who are spiritually uninformed (ajnanam) and materially attached (karma-sanginam).
Let’s understand the profound rationale behind this pacifist-seeming recommendation:
1. Most people in this world will be materialistic because this is, after all, the material world.
2. Nonetheless, no one is essentially a materialist; everyone is actually a soul, a precious part of Krishna.
3. And everyone is ultimately looking for Krishna, because everyone is looking for happiness and Krishna is the supreme source of all happiness.
4. So, if people are not yet ready to connect with Krishna directly, we can at the very least by our conduct and counsel convey a positive impression about krishna-bhakti. That positive impression (ajnata-sukriti) will slowly but surely prod them towards Krishna.
Thus, this recommendation brings realism and idealism together in an endearing balance, a balance that is the hallmark of Gita wisdom. Learning to achieve this balance in our own lives is what makes living the Gita a lifelong adventure.
“So as not to disrupt the minds of ignorant men attached to the fruitive results of prescribed duties, a learned person should not induce them to stop work. Rather, by working in the spirit of devotion, he should engage them in all sorts of activities [for the gradual development of Krishna consciousness].”