Strictness vs. Sympathy


My question is on strictness vs. sympathy. I know that as spiritual seekers, we are to be sympathetic/compassionate to others if we are to truly expand our awareness of all Life into the all-encompassing Christ Consciousness. Yet I also know that as yogis, we should also be strictly disciplined, non-lenient, and empowering to ourselves (Sri Yukteswarji was extremely strict, for example). So is it like a balancing act, we are to be strict on ourselves yet lenient and understanding to others?

—Rush, USA


Rush, you are quite right: it is a balancing act all the way. Sri Yukteswar was strict but only with those who accepted his training. “The gate is always open,” he would tell those who shrank from his strictness.

And yes, it is with ourselves that we should apply the fire of self-honesty and self-control and the discipline of sadhana. But these without devotion and joy will only increase ego’s hold over us. So there are limits here, too.

With others we should as you indicate be accepting and compassionate, especially, when their shortcomings impact or are aimed at us (lest we become ego-defensive). But here, too, we need not be doormat. So it is a balancing act, always.

A parent or a supervisor may have to take action and apply corrections out of duty, but even a soldier or policeman who may have to physically restrain or even kill someone, need not hate them. Thus even discipline, applied to another, can be dispensed, like the surgeon’s knife, out of a desire to help, though the medicine itself may taste bitter to the “patient.” Some children need a strong “hand” in order to receive the message, especially when their life or well-being is at stake.

In the Autobiography of a Yogi I recall a quote that was used to describe Sri Yukteswar: “‘Softer than the flower where kindness is concerned’ stronger than thunder, where principles are at stake.”

There is no substitute for one’s own intuition, goodwill, and wisdom born of true teachings and life experience, and, importantly, God’s grace through attunement with the guru.

In the history of saints you will find those who were strict and those from whom “no censure passed.” There is, therefore, no rule beyond the heart’s knowing. That is a tall order, for sure, but it gets back to being “even-minded and cheerful under all circumstances;” acting, but not re-acting; asking inwardly for guidance if not before, if not in the moment, at least with introspection after the day is done.

Blessings to you,

Nayaswami Hriman