It’s not too difficult to appreciate those who agree with us. It’s more difficult to appreciate those who disagree with us. It’s most difficult to appreciate those disagreers who we know are wrong. That may happen when we study the Gita and thereafter encounter someone whose opinion contradicts the Gita. We may feel we have divine sanction to condemn them. However, such feelings of religious righteousness are fertile breeding grounds for violent fanaticism.
Avoiding such intolerance, the Gita’s speaker, Krishna, demonstrates respect for those whose opinion differs from his. While discussing whether prescribed sacred duties should be continued or renounced (18.01), Krishna declares conclusively that such duties should be continued, for they can purify even great souls (18.05). Yet he doesn’t condemn those holding the opposite view; he respectfully calls them manishinah, learned people (18.03). Why does Krishna respect them? Because he sees beyond their incorrect philosophical conceptions to what is good in them: their serious spiritual aspirations. They are earnestly pursuing something beyond the material — and that earnestness deserves appreciation, for it is rare (07.03).
Krishna’s example underscores that we need to see people as multi-dimensional beings; their opinions are only one part of who they are. Instead of reducing them to their opinions, we can stretch our vision beyond our disagreement and seek whatever good is in them. They may be polite; philosophically minded; spiritually inclined; deeply committed to their path; or concerned about something bigger than themselves. What if we can’t find anything good in them? They still are precious parts of God — all living beings are (15.07). For that, they deserve our appreciation.
Don’t reduce people to their opinion, even if it is wrong — see their multi-dimensionality beyond their opinion and appreciate whatever is good in them.
Think it over:
- What’s the danger in believing that we are divinely sanctioned to condemn others?
- How does Krishna demonstrate respect for those whose opinion opposes his?
- List three good qualities in someone who strongly disagrees with you.
18.03: Some learned men declare that all kinds of fruitive activities should be given up as faulty, yet other sages maintain that acts of sacrifice, charity and penance should never be abandoned.