With Whom Should We Share Spiritual Teachings?


According to Christ: "do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces", but how to determine who the pigs are?

—Kyle, US


Dear Kyle,

I’ve often thought of that quote as proving Jesus did have a sense of humor, however dry-witted and perhaps slightly sarcastic it might have been. Jesus himself preached to crowds and exhorted his disciples to preach the gospel. He also, however, encouraged them to develop discernment as to whom to share and to give spiritual teachings. And when they met an unresponsive audience, Jesus instructed his disciples to shake the dust of that city from their feet and move on.

Jesus is giving common-sense advice to not waste time sharing spiritual truths with those who mock them. This advice, too, is given in the Bhagavad Gita. It takes wisdom, discernment, and intuition to know to whom and to what extent to share spiritually. On the path of yoga, taking this a bit further, we are counseled not to describe to others our inner, spiritual experiences lest their grace and power be dissipated, and lest others reject our testimony (and lest our ego claim credit pridefully for such experiences).

In Autobiography of a Yogi, Lahiri Mahasaya is promised by his guru, Babaji, that whenever Lahiri calls upon him, he will appear. The very first thing Lahiri does on his return journey home is to call upon Babaji to appear in front of a group of friends (who are not necessarily devotees). Babaji appears but scolds Lahiri for “throwing pearls before swine” (not in those words, of course) and draws limits to his prior promise to circumstances of greater necessity and worthiness.

Preaching, teaching, or sharing spiritual truths randomly can be a source of pride and evidence of ignorance or lack of refinement. Jesus used language pertinent to his audience and in the strong terms evidently part and parcel with the customary dialogue of his times. Most of us have neither pearls nor swine and must understand Jesus’ words in our own context. How many of us have, in good faith, tried to convert another person who wasn’t even slightly interested. Their resistance and mocking sets up for them a potential block that might delay their openness in the future or in a future life.

In casual conversations, therefore, with strangers, co-workers or family, a devotee is advised to speak only lightly, if at all, of his spiritual aspirations, precepts or practices. Even when invited to say more, the devotee should attempt to discern whether the interest is merely feigned and a prelude to being mocked, or sincere.

Blessings to you, Kyle!

Nayaswami Hriman