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  • Writer's pictureJitendra Savanur

From Rejection to Reconciliation (Introduction and Part 1)


When faced with apparently contradicting thoughts, most of us try to accept one and reject the others as being false. And we may have a great deal of reasoning to justify our conclusions. While that works in the day-to-day, functional aspect of things, from the purview of what we hold sacred in life, the accept-one-and-reject-others approach might not be the correct stance to take, especially when the source of the apparently contradicting ideas is the same body of knowledge. For example, it is logically difficult to accept one part of a book and reject the others, especially when both parts have been stated to be true in the book. In this series of articles, we will look at some examples of how the path of bhakti does not reject extremes but reconciles them, resulting in a complete and sublime understanding of many spiritual concepts.

Part 1: Liberals v/s Conservatives

On the path of religion or spirituality, there is always a tussle between two groups. The liberals and the conservatives. The liberals, as the term suggests, are those who demand flexibility in the ritualistic practices of religion or spirituality. Some liberals even outrightly reject the practices of religion, the reason being that they conclude that these ritualistic practices are impractical and whimsical and not meant to be followed in the postmodern era. They opine that deep philosophical introspection is the essence of spiritual thought and hence has to be embraced without the encumbrances of any thoughtless rituals. The conservatives, on the other hand, are rigid about these practices and accept no compromise whatsoever, even if that means inconvenience to people around them. These two thought processes are like two ends of a pendulum, with the conservatives rejecting liberal thoughts and vice-versa.

Spirituality, however, is not about holding on to either of the above ideologies. Real spirituality centers on knowing the purpose behind the rituals (the philosophical reasoning), and at the same time, offering an amount of flexibility that does not compromise the spirit of these rituals. Srila Prabhupada used to say, “Religion without philosophy is just sentiment and philosophy without religion is just mental speculation.” Thus, the reconciliation for these extremes is a balance between philosophical thought and ritualistic practices with sufficient background and reasoning for both, along with concerns of the postmodern era. The spirit or the act alone is not the thrust, but a harmonious balance of the two is what Srila Prabhupada is urging us to achieve.

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