Don’t try to be someone better, try to be an example of something better
When we strive to lead a principle-centered life by adopting spiritual practices, we start becoming more disciplined and self-controlled. As we become more virtuous than others, we may start becoming proud. Soon, we may focus more on feeding that pride, than seeking inner growth. And as we increasingly delight in pride, we will proportionately alienate others.
How can we avoid such pitfalls?
By shifting our focus from ourselves to the process that has transformed us.
Suppose we were sick because of an epidemic but had finally found a medicine that worked. We would be relieved, even delighted. And we would naturally want to discuss and demonstrate our improved health to others who were still sick – not to parade how we are healthier than them, but to inspire them to take the medicine.
Similarly, we are all spiritually sick: we are eternal beings who are presently attached to temporary things. How can we heal ourselves? By following the time-honored family of paths, known as dharma. The Bhagavad-gita (03.21) urges Arjuna to follow dharma, thereby setting the right example for others. Dharma culminates in bhakti, the path of spiritual love for the divine (18.66).
When we practice bhakti-yoga with proper philosophical understanding of our purpose, we stay conscious that our purity doesn’t prove our greatness; it proves the greatness of bhakti in purifying even someone as fallen as us. Additionally, when people see that someone’s greatness is not just because of that person, but also because of the process that person is following, they feel inspired to follow that process.
If we adopt this attitude of exemplifying something better – not being someone better – we can manifest greatness without losing humbleness. And instead of impressing others with our virtues, we will inspire them to manifest their virtues too.
Think it over:
- How can we shift our focus from ourselves to the process transforming us?
- What are the fruits of adopting the attitude of exemplifying something better?
- While interacting with others, how can you focus on inspiring them, not impressing them?
03.21 Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.
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