They say a little knowledge is dangerous. We can learn a philosophy, but if we haven’t understood it in a mature, balanced and well-rounded way, we can actually cause more harm to ourselves and others. Recently I was speaking to someone about friendship. They frankly told me that they found more integrity, sensitivity and kindness in their previous relationships with family and friends. They hoped that their camaraderie in spiritual circles would be deeper, warmer and more loving. Regrettably, they never really experienced that. Why would ‘material’ relationships seem more intimate and close than friendships amongst spiritualists? Surely spiritualists should be the best at connecting with others in a deep way.
A major part of the Bhagavad-gita highlights the temporary nature of the world, the futility of material acts, and the transitory nature of relationships. The ancient traditions outline how real satisfaction is found in the ‘other world.’ As we learn of the spiritual reality it’s easy to fall into the trap of neglecting what we may see as temporary, mundane and inconsequential day-to-day dealings. We may begin to see the things and people around us as unimportant in relation to the ‘bigger picture.’ However, should our spiritual outlook reduce our attention to the human experience? Maybe the human experience is the bridge to reaching the spiritual reality. Maybe we prepare ourselves for the ‘other world’ by becoming attentive to and conscious of our dealings in this world.
Great teachers have shown how to be rooted in eternal truths, while being simultaneously sensitive to the world around us. When a young disciple asked Swami Prabhupada how he could identify an advanced spiritualist, he was taken aback by the reply. Prabhupada told him “a spiritualist is a perfect gentleman”. The spiritual world is not an impersonal place – it’s a place of wonderful exchanges, deep friendships and loving interactions. How can we enter that place if we haven’t learnt to be like that here? It’s an art to be detached without being irresponsible, to embody spiritual gravity without being cold and impersonal, to have a philosophical outlook without losing sight of human emotion. It’s an art to transcend the world and simultaneously remain completely ‘down to earth.’