Fanaticism consists of redoubling your effort
when you have forgotten your aim…
Today we’ll talk about fanaticism, which is quite a common phenomenon in this world. It can be seen almost everywhere. We meet fanatics of football, hockey, TV series, celebrities, cars, computers, nationalities and countries. In fact, crazy fans can be found in any area touched upon by human consciousness. It’s a wholly internal phenomenon which refers to human perception and is indicative of one’s inner world. And it’s a prominent diagnostic symptom for someone who tries to help a person address their current problem.
It can be said that in 90% of cases human problems are somehow or other connected with fanatic attitude towards life. It’s also true that in the same 90% of cases one finds it hard to admit that their problem is rooted in fanaticism. So the first thing we must realize is that a fanatic is the most difficult person to help. Such people ardently believe that they are not fanatics at all. Thus, in order to help them we must be ‘fans of our own work’ so that our professionalism could exceed self-confidence of a suffering person.
So, how to recognize a fanatic? It’s quite simple. Crazy fan is a brilliant representative of black and white thinking, without any shades of gray. He/she accepts either black or white and can’t allow any combination to exist. For example, a Hare Krishna fanatic sincerely believes that the most imperfect Hare Krishna devotee is still much better than a good Christian. And conversely, a Christian fanatic is sure that the weakest Christian is much better than the best Hare Krishna devotee. To put it shortly, whoever is not with us can’t get into our category of white. Regardless of their deeds, they’ll always stay in the category of black.
It points to the fact that we don’t let representatives of other world-views into our mind. And there’s only one reason for that. We don’t know what to say if they ask why we see the world the way we see it. We simply don’t know the answer to the question of why we are doing what we are doing. We aren’t sure about our choice, and thus exclude any possibility of conversation on the subject. There are no questions raised among fanatics. By the way, this is one of the symptoms of fanaticism. How can a person who is afraid of questions come up with inquiry? So as you have probably noticed we insist that questions be asked before and after the lecture. This is extremely important both for the lecturer and the listener. A lecturer must be sure that he/she does not incite fanaticism. And listeners must make sure they aren’t becoming fanatics. Thus, any silent listener who doesn’t ask questions is a potential fanatic. By the way, this is precisely why our consultancy is based on question-and-answer platform. It initially cuts off fanatic individuals, as there’s nothing harder than to give advice to a crazy fan. What can you say to a person who considers you an enemy, at least to some degree? This is no longer a consultation, but fighting for dear life.
Another trait a fanatic has is that he/she wants everything to happen quickly. Fanatics want enlightenment to be attained quickly, temples to be built quickly. They want to get initiation and attain recognition as fast as possible. They don’t care about the quality – the main thing is that it all should happen fast. This is the main characteristic to make them easily recognizable. Fanatics are always in a hurry; they are dissatisfied with the fact that everything goes slowly. They speak to others: “Why are you so slow? Why is your progress so slow? Why haven’t you accepted a spiritual master yet? Why aren’t you with us? Why do you keep hesitating – you’ll run out of time.” But here’s something they can’t understand. No matter how hard you run around the train, you won’t be able to reach your destination faster. You’ll only make yourself tired and annoy all others. I’d like to tell a funny parable in this regard.
One morning a disciple and his master took a path across the fields. The disciple asked what kind of diet could help to achieve purity. Although his master spoke a lot about the sacred food, the disciple couldn’t believe it.
“There must be some special food that instantly brings us closer to God,” he said.
“Well, maybe you’re right,” said the master. “For example, that mushrooms over there.”
The disciple got all excited thinking that mushrooms can bring purity and enlightenment. But when he stopped to pick one, he cried out:
“Why, they are poisonous! If I eat a least one of them, I’ll die on the spot!”
“Well excuse me,” said the master, “I don’t know any other food that can bring you closer to God as soon as you want.”
As we already found out, fanaticism is the blind, irrevocable adherence to beliefs, especially in the religious, philosophical, political or national sphere. It is driven to extremes by commitment to ideas, views or beliefs and is usually combined with intolerance to views and beliefs of others. It seems quite understandable. We agree that fanaticism is something one should keep away from; that such people are in sore need of help. But in reality, fanaticism is advantageous for those who are selfish, cunning and are ready to sacrifice a couple of crazy fans for execution of their own projects. Fanatics are sometimes mistreated, and this is also fanaticism. Anti-fanaticism is just the other side of the story. Fanaticism is a natural stage of development, after all. It shouldn’t be rejected. It must be corrected and balanced out. Therefore, those who fight against fanaticism are also semi-fanatic.
What advantage can be sucked out of fanaticism? It’s as easy as ABC. As an emotional state, it’s characterized by excessive zeal and enthusiasm. If we have a project that is not so easy to implement, or we don’t want to spend money on it, we can simply find a couple of fanatics, and they’ll move mountains and rivers to achieve this goal. You just have to explain how important the thing is. Thus, one can easily recognize those who take advantage of fanatics as gratuitous workers. They find a fanatic and convince him/her of great significance of what they should do. Such exploiters make crazy fans leap into the breach on their behalf. And when they are no longer able to make headway, everyone simply forgets about their existence.
In fact, fanaticism is a psychological illness. It equals to blindness both towards oneself and things to be done. This indicates reluctance to see the world as a whole. It’s not a worldview, but a partial vision, philosophical cataract. Therefore, fanatics should in no way be exploited or selfishly used for one’s own ends. They must be cured of their fanaticism. Sooner or later a fanatic will understand that he/she was being exploited. Resentment will be the only feeling that will arise in heart. They’ll be resentful against the whole world. Therefore, the one who is truly merciful does not incite fanaticism. One tries to reduce it by talking to a person as if they already got rid of their disease.
Let’s have a look at some other aspects of fanaticism. It will help us recognize fanatic without fail or find signs of this disease in ourselves. What is fanatic way of thinking? What does ‘fanatic’s worldview’ imply? Let’s get this straightened out.
Fanatic sincerely believes that:
- the world was created by God but can’t understand how those who don’t share his/her religious views could come into being. Fanatic honestly thinks that those who disagree have no relation to the plans of God; that they are God’s enemies. He/she can’t even assume that God Himself has sent these people to destroy fanaticism which prevents spiritual advancement.
- a different philosophy or belief system needs to be taken with a whole shakerful of salt. At the same time those who are doubtful or skeptical about fanatic’s own philosophy are nothing but ignorant fools. Fanatic thinks that those ill-fated people are crazy because they don’t see the purity and sublimity of his/her ideas.
- They are always confident that their world outlook is much wider than any other’s. They are absolutely confident that in their scriptures much more information is given. It is far more detailed and clear. Fanatics consider people who disagree as unlucky creatures who suffer from being narrow-minded. Fanatic wants to open the eyes of the whole world thinking that everyone else is blind, and only he/she is able to see.
- Fanatic is genuinely surprised to hear that the sacred teachings of scriptures must be applied in real life and their application may significantly differ from the original teaching.
- Fanatic sincerely thinks that persons who hold a different belief system must have come under the influence of some cunning and crafty man. This cheat must be exposed. Then everyone will see that they were cheated. At this stage “we can help them all”.
- Fanatic sincerely believes that to think and have a personal opinion is no better than atheism.
- Fanatic is sure that any materialistic book is written for the sake of earning money or fame, while any spiritual book is written in all sincerity.
- By the way,
- an atheist fanatic really thinks that crimes committed by religious people completely discredit their religion; while crimes atheists commit don’t throw any suspicion on atheism and are not related thereto.
- Fanatic atheists assert that belief in God is a blind faith, but don’t notice that they themselves blindly believe in the absence of God.
- Fanatic atheist is sure that each person has their own definition of good and evil, but faith in God must be evil for everyone.
- Fanatic atheist is sure that any religious person is mentally ill by definition.
- Atheist fanatics think that people hold religious beliefs only not to go to hell. And when someone tells such an atheist about hell, he/she thinks this is done exclusively for the sake of getting money or gaining access to his/her apartment…
We’ll end the lecture with the parable.
Satan once went for a walk with his servant. They saw a man who bent down and picked something off the ground.
“What has this man found?” asked the servant.
“A piece of truth,” replied Satan.
“Doesn’t it bother you?”
“No,” said Satan. “He’ll make a new fanatical religion out of it.”
If a person renounces only because his duties are burdensome, such actions are based on nothing other than sense gratification. The one who leaves the family because it is hard to provide for, harmonize relationships with the relatives or maintain spiritual growth, doesn’t become renounced. He simply tries to find another family, and this is nothing but ugra-karma – a downright heavy karmic misdeed. If a person became a yogi and started to serve the Absolute Truth, it doesn’t mean he should quit the service to everyone else. If we try as hard as we can to share our spiritual happiness (WITH EVERYONE), but don’t endeavor to make our nearest ones happy – OR we even inflict suffering on them, this is quite weird. In fact, this is dangerous. A loving person is able to love even his enemies. Our kinfolks are definitely not our enemies, though if we constantly endeavor to get on the wrong side of them, this can also become a reality.
A husband and a wife usually have questions about what to do in their particular situation. They want to get hard-and-fast answers to their personal problems. But in the majority of cases these issues are too complicated to give some general advice. Dealing with family issues is never easy since they BASE upon a unique combination of several people’s characters. Even a single individual with a complex personality it’s hard to help. What to speak about the whole group of people who have long been engaged in very enmeshed, entangled relationships?
Only one thing is safe to say to everyone. Don’t be surprised if you face various challenges in your family life. It’s a perfectly normal event. Also, there’s no need to wonder if a husband and wife are not so much compatible. This is also hardly surprising. Spouses must try to get attuned to each other. They should continue to live in peace and never mind the fact that they are both imperfect. Any union between the imperfect ones is imperfect by definition. Hence, the fundamental rule of family life is: don’t get upset over trifles. If the spouses argued a hundred times, they should one hundred times make up with each other. That’s it. That’s the technology of happy family life.
However, it’s common for a family of yogis to face specific problems. A rather unusual situation occurs when one spouse engages in spiritual development, and the other does not. It often develops into a problem after a while, as their lifestyles become way too different. And again, there are no hard-and fast answers to the questions that arise. Each case must be considered individually. But to give the key to understanding, let me relate the story of Srila Prabhupada’s sister Pishima. She also took initiation from Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur. She EVEN looked very much like Srila Prabhupada.
What events took place in her life? She married a man who was not at all interested in spiritual growth. He wasn’t a yogi; neither did he study the scriptures. He was an average man, a Bengali, and like all Bengalis, he liked to eat fish. Pishima was committed to strict vegetarian principles and never ate fish in her life. But after she got married, she daily cooked for her husband the food he asked. She cooked for herself in a separate dish and sanctified her food. But the main thing was that she never complained, dramatized herself or thought about divorce. She submissively served her husband and never disturbed anyone.
Her husband could hardly be called a gift. They say he wasn’t too smart; he would easily lose his temper and pick up a fight. But Pishima continued to serve him humbly. She had CHILDREN by this man. All that time she continued her spiritual practice, her prayer practice. She calmly continued her spiritual path and didn’t try to change anything. Finally, after many-many years, towards the end of his life, the husband suddenly realized how much he underestimated his wife. Realization came upon him that his wife was actually a saintly woman. And he changed radically. After he had spent his entire life with a saintly woman by his side, he finally stepped on the spiritual path. Pishima achieved this through her patience — and it was indeed heroic of her.
Therefore, sages give a simple advice for all. Don’t rush into severing your relationships, if you feel disappointed. Do not think that leaving a husband or wife means that you are very much advanced in spiritual life, that you are a yogi who needs nothing from this world. This kind of renunciation is not recommended in the Bhagavat-Gita. If one gives up prescribed duties perceiving them as weighty or troublesome, this is renunciation in the mode of passion. The one who shirks/ABANDONS his duties in that spirit never gets the result obtained by those who are truly renounced.
A beginner on the path of spiritual growth is also scared of many things. If he becomes a vegetarian, he fears everything connected with meat. He thinks he can become contaminated even by the word “meat”. For him it’s as if he went on a hunt, strangled the first beast he came across and ate it raw. He’s afraid of the word “meat”, afraid to look at meat, talk about meat. He avoids meat-eaters, fridges where meat was kept, dishes it was cooked in, knives used for meat cutting. These four letters—“m-e-a-t”– he also fears, just in case. A person sincerely thinks that by getting in touch with all these, his consciousness becomes contaminated and he loses qualification and purity necessary for spiritual progress.
As a matter of fact, he is not afraid of meat – he is afraid of himself because attachment to old habits still stays in his heart and doesn’t want to leave. So far as the heart lacks due humility and sincerity, the fear of the past is transferred to external objects and causes additional problems. Life gets very complicated. It turns out that everything around is polluted by meat. It seems all people are meat-eaters and have only one thing on their mind: to add a few bones to the vegetable broth, sneakily. So, a beginner vegetarian doesn’t trust any kitchenware. He sees nothing but dangerous meat all around playing a dirty trick on him.
Meanwhile, we are not so much polluted by the things we reject as by our doubts about the decision to reject them. Second-guessing the choice to become a vegetarian – this is what is really contaminating, rather than the meat itself. And then there’s yet another point I’d like to highlight. I’d like to speak about family problems that arise on the basis of that same superstitions. For a family man, it’s not the opposite sex but his second thoughts about the life partner that contaminate him. Everybody fights against adultery, but no one wants to fight for the purity of consciousness. By the way, the whole problem is rooted in the lack of understanding of family life philosophy.
We fear for our partners and fear for ourselves because we CREATED a family WHILE being unaware of its purpose.
We live in an imperfect world; hence the family life is also imperfect. To pick a perfect partner and make a perfect family is simply impossible. For this, WE have to be perfect ourselves, but we are not. Either the circumstances, or personality traits, parents or personal finance is imperfect. This is hardly surprising. At the same time it’s quite enough to know what to aspire to. If a husband and wife know it, then it’s almost a perfect family.
Today we’re going to talk about superstitions that interfere with our life. Superstitions exist not only in the western countries, but in the eastern, as well. People of the West are afraid of having a black cat cross their path, or walking under a ladder. One is afraid of losing good luck because one made great efforts to get it. It was so difficult to be born into this world… One had a hard time adjusting to preschool, school and university. One tried really hard to find a job. One worked really hard at the job. Finally, the money on the new car was saved but – look at that! A mirror was broken and a black cat ran across the path…
People of the East are afraid of contamination, rather than losing their good luck. Fear of accidental contamination – that is the eastern superstition. Someone is even afraid of letting the shadow of a low-born man fall on him. There are so many caste superstitions and prejudices. Eastern superstitions also affect western seekers. Sometimes they don’t even know what these things mean and why others are afraid of them. It’s simply scary, and that’s it. Thus, we should straighten the matter out since all these superstitions have a big impact on our life causing additional problems, fears and doubts.
We’ll begin with a story about Nasrudin.
A ruler of the country was once in a bad mood. He was leaving the palace to go hunting, when all of a sudden he saw Nasrudin.
“To see Mulla on the way to hunting is a bad omen!” he shouted to his guards. “Don’t let him stare at me – move him out of the way and whip him!”
The guards did as they had been ordered.
It happened that the ruler enjoyed plentiful hunting. He sent for Nasrudin.
“I’m sorry, Mulla. I thought seeing you was a bad omen. It was not, it transpired.”
“You thought I was a bad omen!” said Nasrudin. “You look at me and get a full game bag. I look at you, and I get a whipping. Who is a bad omen for whom?”
We have to be the source of peace. If we take someone’s side, we become the source of conflict, thus enforce that side and employ additional resources into the battle.
Only those can make peace, who calm passions and break up fights, those who don’t accept war as a last method of conflict resolution. As everyone knows, bad peace is still better than the best of wars. Peace, even a bad one, enables to think calmly, and thus make sensible decisions. Calm thinking helps keep up an open mind. It enables us to act thoughtfully and responsibly. In a ‘state of war’ we are tense and consciousness is narrowed down to black-and-white thinking. We divide the world into friends and enemies, insiders and outsiders, “us” and “them”. Use-of-force decision-making is all that is left then. It certainly helps resolve situations, but at what price… The long and the short of it, learn to be peacemakers, not warmonger.