Might we be sentencing to the jail those who need the hospital?
Falling from moral standards is an ever-present danger for all devotee-seekers in this world of temptation. When others don’t live up to our moral expectations, it’s natural to feel disappointed, even devastated.
Amidst such feelings, it’s easy to become judgmental and censure the fallen.
However, Gita wisdom recommends caution and compassion towards such fallen devotees. Even if they behavior is terribly wrong, the Bhagavad-gita (09.30) urges us to consider them saintly if their heart is in the right place in the firm determination to keep serving Krishna, no matter what.
To understand, let’s consider the disease metaphor. All of us are souls who are presently infected by deep-rooted material conditionings that impel us towards sensual, even immoral, pleasures. The process of bhakti-yoga can counter and cure this infection. But complete healing usually comes only after a lifetime of striving, of careful and consistent treatment.
If we somehow became lax in the treatment, the disease may relapse and impel us to act unbecomingly. All of us are vulnerable to such relapses, though of course the kind of misbehavior that we may relapse into can vary depending on what our past conditioning was.
Those afflicted by such relapses need the hospital, a facility for intensive spiritual healing – especially when they are determined to continue the treatment of bhakti-yoga and strive for moral uprightness. Sadly however, we may send them to a jail by condemning them as moral reprobates, as hypocrites, as betrayers and what not. Such value-judgments practically exile them into a spiritual Siberia. They go away from devotee association and into worldly association which only tightens the shackles of their conditionings.
To avoid such tragic fallout, the Gita urges us to focus on the sincerity of their intention and thereby help them return to moral and spiritual health.
“Even if one commits the most abominable action, if he is engaged in devotional service he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated in his determination.”