Fanatics don’t see how God is present everywhere; they see how God is absent everywhere

Religious fanatics often attack those whom they deem heretics. They usually justify their actions by claiming that they are fervently devoted to God. 

However, their focus is often opposite to the focus of true devotees. Whereas devotees see how God is present everywhere, fanatics see how God is absent everywhere. Let’s understand this difference. 

How fanatics obsess on God’s absence: Fanatics operate based on their own narrow conceptions of the correct way to approach God. They consider rigid adherence to their ways as the only way to access God. If anyone deviates even slightly, they deem such deviation as evidence of God’s absence. And they condemn those ‘deviants’ and often consider it their sacred duty to issue such condemnations. 

Obsession with one small thing, equating it with everything, characterizes perception in the mode of ignorance (Bhagavad-gita 18.22). Fanatics exhibit such ignorant perception by obsessing on how certain details are missing, not on whether God is manifesting.

How devotees focus on God’s presence: The devoted understand that God is present in everyone’s hearts and is acting to further everyone’s spiritual evolution (18.61). No matter how different someone’s ways may be from ours, those differences don’t debar God from acting in their lives. God, being omnipresent, can manifest wherever and however he chooses. Devotees are open to all of God’s manifestations, not just those that conform to their expectations. They know that God’s ways are bigger than their conceptions. 

Does such openness license religious laissez-faire? No, it’s not that anything anyone does is religious. If God is manifesting in someone’s life, that should tangibly increase their commitment to life’s higher values, to inner cultivation, to God. 

In conclusion, devotion is seen in receptivity to God’s expansive ways, not in reducing God to conformity with one’s own ways. 


Think it over:

  • How do fanatics obsess on God’s absence?
  • How do devotees focus on God’s presence?
  • How does openness to God’s ways not license religious laissez-faire? 



18.22 And that knowledge by which one is attached to one kind of work as the all in all, without knowledge of the truth, and which is very meager, is said to be in the mode of darkness.

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