Monday Morning Greetings #19 – Do you have spiritual prejudice?

May 9th, 2016

Do you have spiritual prejudice?

“Spiritual prejudice” is a phrase I coined myself, so I guess I also get to define it:

Spiritual prejudice: Prejudging the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa based on misapplying our previous experience to them and thus seeing the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa as mundane.

An explanation about the foundation of prejudice may help us understand how we can also avoid spiritual prejudice.

Prejudice means judging something not on actual experience, but on a preconceived opinion formed by either generalizing a past experience or worse, by categorizing an individual or group based on misinformation or propaganda.

To illustrate this concept of prejudice let’s use the example of two young boys in terms of their perception of their teacher, one from a normal family (Boy A) and one from a dysfunctional family (Boy B).

Boy A gets corrected by his teacher and laments that he has done something wrong. The teacher is genuinely dedicated to his student’s welfare and Boy A sees that and respects him. Boy B, however, gets corrected for the same thing and sees his teacher as mean or oppressive. His teacher is not mean or oppressive, but because Boy B’s parents were abusive or neglectful he distrusts all authorities and projects his bad experience with authority on his teacher. Prejudice thus clouds perception because it prevents us from understanding something as it is.

Perhaps I am not using the word prejudice in the more common way in its application to race, gender, or ethnicity, but my point here is just to illustrate the foundation of prejudice: preconceived notions that give negative or harmful impressions and prevent us from experiencing things as they are.

What does this have to do with spiritual prejudice?

In a similar prejudicial way, we tend to misjudge the transcendental pastimes of Kṛṣṇa as mundane by projecting on them our own experience in comparable relationships.

In reality, the forms of Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa are not in the least mundane, but rather are the essence of God’s internal or spiritual potency. Even their most amorous exchanges are exclusively imbued with selflessness and pure devotion. Rādhā embraces Kṛṣṇa, but her thoughts remain singularly “How can Kṛṣṇa be pleased?” To see them in any other way has little value and at worst can harm our spiritual life by intensifying mundane lust.

Understanding the benefit of hearing the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa and the ill effect of being covered from them by prejudice, we are left with one last question:

How does one overcome spiritual prejudice?

The best way to know Śrī Kṛṣṇa in truth is by regularly hearing the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, a brilliant text in 12 cantos. It is brilliant in that the first nine cantos are carefully composed to step-by-step educate one on the science of Kṛṣṇa and gradually purify one of attachment. By doing so one can eventually come to the platform of properly hearing the pastimes of Śrī Kṛṣṇa in the Tenth Canto faithfully without prejudice.

And the great teachers who have undergone this Bhāgavata process can also speak and present the beautiful pastimes of Kṛṣṇa in an appropriate way even to most neophytes, which is what Śrīla Prabhupāda did in his summary presentation of the Tenth Canto called Kṛṣṇa Book. By carefully couching the pastimes of Kṛṣṇa within carefully worded explanations of the science of Kṛṣṇa to inoculate one against misconceptions, he could recommend even at the very beginning of his mission to his inexperienced disciples:

“If you read Kṛṣṇa Book every day you will be happy.”

Oh, the joy of being freed from spiritual prejudice!

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