Fanaticism is caused not by excessive devotion, but by inadequate devotion
When some religious people try to convert everyone to their faith, others get put off. They feel, “These guys are fanatical – their devotion is excessive.”
However, Gita wisdom explains that the cause of fanaticism is inadequate devotion, not excessive devotion. When we are deeply devoted, we relish the joy of devotion and naturally want to share it with others. But we also understand that we can’t force others – they are individuals, parts of Krishna, endowed with God-given free will. They all are at different stages in their spiritual evolution and have their own personal relationships with Krishna. The Gita (18.61) states that he, as the indwelling Supersoul, guides everyone’s wanderings.
The superficially devoted think that they are the doers, that they have the mandate and the power to convert others to their faith by persuasion or even coercion. They see others instrumentally, as things to be converted to demonstrate the glory of their devotion. Or if others refuse to convert, then they demonize such people as “infidels.” And if their fanaticism moves from verbal aggression to physical aggression, they may even destroy the demoniac infidels. Their inability to see God at work in everyone’s hearts reflects their devotion’s inadequacy.
In contrast, when we cultivate deep devotion, we know that we can’t do anything without God’s grace. All that we can do to help others in their spiritual evolution is inform, inspire and facilitate them. They alone can take the decision to evolve. And how and when they do so is between them and the Lord. With this deep philosophical understanding, when we share bhakti wisdom, we don’t objectify or coerce others. Instead, we strive to connect deeper with our indwelling Lord, beseeching him to do from within their hearts that which is beyond our power to do from without.
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