Temptation induces the pretender’s mask to fall and the seeker’s guard to rise
As spiritual seekers, we aspire to follow the principles of moral and spiritual integrity given in the scriptures. But due to our past conditionings we sometimes find ourselves mentally entertaining immoral or anti-devotional temptations.
The Bhagavad-gita decries as pretenders those who put on an external show of renunciation while dwelling on sense objects internally. Most of us, even if we are not in the renounced order, give up externally many tempting objects that we still desire internally. Does this make us pretenders?
Not necessarily, for a later verse (05.23) commends those seekers who battle lifelong against temptations. If they battle temptation – and battle it lifelong – that means they are subjected to temptations lifelong. If they are subjected to temptation, then why are they not considered pretenders?
Because they want to become free from temptation.
When temptation arrives, seekers summon their intellectual and devotional resources by remembering scripture and praying to Krishna.
When temptation arrives, seekers raise their guard. They summon their intellectual and devotional resources by remembering scripture and praying to Krishna. By the resulting inner strength, they reject the temptation.
In contrast, the arrival of temptation induces the pretenders’ mask to fall, especially when the temptation offer the chance for indulgence in secret. Instead of fighting temptation, they welcome it. Even after indulgence, they fear not so much the harm to their character resulting from the lapse as the harm to their reputation that may result if their lapse became known.
Thus pretenders are characterized by preoccupation with reputation while privately compromising character for pleasure. The Gita declares that such pretenders delude themselves – being obsessed with externals, they can’t connect meaningfully with Krishna, thereby depriving themselves of real devotional happiness.
As long as we strive sincerely to lead a principle-centered life and purify ourselves, our lapses notwithstanding, we are well situated as seekers and will eventually relish pure love for Krishna.