It’s a general rule that if you decide to offer advice to anyone you should measure that person’s level of understanding and say things just within their grasp. Advice is of no use if it goes over their heads, and it won’t be accepted if it states trivial things, too. It has to be just right, just what the person has been looking for but couldn’t figure out himself.
For ordinary people we can safely talk about the existence of the soul, the difference between the soul and the body, reincarnation, and that is even before we mention God. For those who proclaim their faith in God we might better concentrate on the need to serve Him rather than pray for Him to serve us and maintain our lifestyle.
We can also get bogged down in arguments over the nature of the soul and “proof” of reincarnation. Christians will never accept our views, it’s against their scripture, there’s no point in convincing them otherwise – they already try to serve God, and they already try to finish their job within this lifetime, just like us. What’s the point of talking about things that don’t really matter anymore?
I mean they already have dedicated themselves to carrying out God’s orders, whatever they are, why should we distract them with different interpretation of spiritual ABC? Yes, giving up on meat eating and intoxication might help them but not because *our* scriptures say so but because they should feel REAL improvement in their service. It’s not about the rules, it’s about trying to please the Lord to the best of our ability.
Instead of scaring them with potential results of killing animals we should probably talk about potential improvement in their service if they stop doing so. No one likes to be criticized, it’s not a great motivator, especially if it goes against one’s interpretation of the scriptures. They won’t accept our claim that we might know their scriptures better than them either.
There are Christians and Muslims who DO know the value of selfless service, they would probably appreciate our sincere help in that regard, but if we waste the opportunity by arguing about trivial things they would consider us as petty debaters with no clear purpose in life. They would rightfully see that their service takes priority over our arguments.
When talking to Hindus we don’t need to mention soul, karma, or reincarnation. They would probably feel offended if we decide to lecture them on axiomatic things they have known since birth. Their understanding of these concepts is probably wrong, being colored by hundreds of years of impersonalism dominating the public discussion, but that is not an excuse for to start correcting them right away.
We’d better talk about bhakti, or Kṛṣṇa’s unique position, or Lord Caitanya, or saṅkīrtana. These are the areas where we can establish the supremacy of pure, unalloyed devotion to the Lord and compare it to cheap imitations peddled to them by all kinds of māyāvādīs. They would appreciate exposing selfishness where they couldn’t see it themselves.
I don’t know what our devotees tell Indians nowadays, I’m afraid they just pander to whatever ideas they already have, we simply want to be liked and get our donations. Maybe things have already improved since I saw how it was done there before but I won’t be surprised if Kṛṣṇa consciousness does not even come up there anymore, it’s just accepted as a fact and people are asked to pay up accordingly. Or they are asked to pay up for using our temples to their own ends, like for weddings.
Where was I? Ah, yes. Some people appreciate having children more than anything else. I think they get lucky and approach it with sincerity and dedication, and, because it’s one of the prescribed duties of men, it pleases the Lord. They naturally feel this appreciation and therefore they feel their sacrifice is worth the effort even though it might look irrational by modern standards. Kids are too much trouble, raising them is expensive, and if you can’t do it right you better not try at all.
They come to see their pre-parenting days as something they grew out of and they stop valuing freedom and all the other things people associate with care-free single life. They know it must feel good but, having tasted a drop of following human dharma, they are not attracted to such life anymore.
Consequently, when we approach these kind of people we need to find something that they could consider as a revelation. Telling them that their children are not really theirs won’t go down very well, and if we start talking about family life being the dark well they’d think we are lunatics. Family life is their way of serving God, why should we discourage them? We should help them to see it that way instead, they might not always realize why it feels so good.
They should also remember that child raring stage doesn’t last forever, and so we should be ready to offer them the next step towards God, if they are ready for it.
Yesterday I advocated the same approach towards followers of Ayn Rand – they get their spiritual pleasure from serving their “self”. They see the difference between their bodies and their immediate bodily concerns, they are not fixated on sense-gratification either. They want to fulfill the purpose of their birth in the material world.
Here we say that the purpose is to become Kṛṣṇa conscious but that is not exactly true – it’s not what the universe has been created for, maybe one of the reasons, maybe one main underlying reason, but we should also consider the universe as a gift to the rebellious souls who want to fulfill desires impossible in the spiritual world.
Those desires are spiritual in nature, for some reason we want to spend time away from the Lord, and Kṛṣṇa gives us this opportunity. We should respect that. My point is that these people feel attraction of the soul itself, not their bodies and not their minds. They irrationally try to serve interests of their souls no matter what. It feels good, it feels right, and no amount of arguments can convince them otherwise.
Self always takes priority, this kind of “self-realization” always trumps money, family, fame, comfort etc. People do what they feel they are meant to do despite all opposition and are often eventually praised for it. We should respect that, too.
What should be our “next step” offer here, however? Should we talk to them how vegetarianism can make them healthier, for example? They won’t even let us finish, they’ll just turn around and run away. Should we tell them about ancient wisdom contained in Vedic texts? They won’t wait for us to finish our sentence either.
We should offer them serving something that is better than serving the self. In the material world there’s nothing, it’s as high as they can possibly go, the only thing better than serving one’s self is serving the Supreme Self, Kṛṣṇa. Fulfilling our destiny is great but fulfilling Kṛṣṇa’s destiny is greater. That’s what we should probably offer.
It’s not easy, however, we should speak with some kind of realization. It should come either from our own experience or be visible in the words of our ācāryas as we present them. I don’t think I could do it, for example, and so preaching is not for everyone but only for the best of the best.
Not to worry, the world is big, even neophytes can find someone to tell something useful to, we shouldn’t imagine ourselves as all-powerful preachers or expect Kṛṣṇa to back us up with His powers every time we open our mouths. These Ayn Rand fans, die hard Republicans, or Tea Party enthusiasts are tough nuts to crack for anyone on any issue, not just for us.
So, my today’s point was that their apparent irrationality might not be totally irrational but that they have much deeper sources of their convictions than conventional “wisdom”. We need to see that and offer them one better – service to the better self than they’ve been trying to please so far – the Supreme Self.