We can help the unable, but not the unwilling

If a car is not starting, helpful passers-by may push it. With the driver and the pushers working together, the car may start moving. But if the person inside goes to sleep or presses the brakes, the people outside need to use their common sense and stop pushing.

We too need a similar commonsensical approach when inviting people to explore life’s spiritual side. Some people may be unable to come because of other engagements. If we help them make time, they come for a spiritual program and find it enriching. And soon their spiritual car takes off.

But some people are not unable – they are unwilling. Even if we offer to help them make time, they come up with some or other excuse. Seeing their repeated reluctance, we can direct our helpfulness to the only available channel: praying for their spiritual growth.

Unfortunately, we sometimes take their refusal personally and call them insincere, attached, sluggards or such uncharitable names. Feeling offended, they see our actions as self-righteous and our self-righteousness as resulting from our brand of spirituality. Deciding that they don’t want to ever become similarly self-righteous, they slam shut the door to their spiritual growth.

To avoid such mishaps, we can learn from Krishna’s example in the Bhagavad-gita. After inviting Arjuna to rise to spiritual consciousness, Krishna concludes by respecting Arjuna’s free will: “Deliberate and do as you desire.” (18.63) When God, despite being omnipotent, gives people room to exercise their free will, why shouldn’t we?

Once we realize that someone is spiritually unwilling, we can end the interaction on a cordial note. In due course, when life’s vicissitudes compel them to rethink their priorities, they will be prompted by their indwelling Lord to start their spiritual car. And appreciating our past cordiality, they will then gratefully accept our invitation.

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  1. It is the mind that perceives anything

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