I feel drawn to the spiritual teachings. I want to thank you for sharing them in your talks and classes.
My question involves some tension with my long-term boyfriend. He was raised Christian and he views other beliefs with a strong dose of skepticism.
Because these teachings are new to me, I have trouble explaining them rationally. So it is hard to tell him why I am so excited.
Although he doesn’t object outright and wants me to be happy, I can’t help feeling he thinks of it as a silliness that I will grow out of.
I want to deepen my spiritual life, but I love him and intend to spend my life with him. How can I strengthen both relationships without compromising either of them?
(Cartoon: “The smartest thing I ever did was fall in love with you.” Relationships can bring us closer to God by helping us expand our sympathies to another. But Swami Kriyananda said that if a partner fights against our spiritual efforts, we are fully justified in leaving them.)
You ask “How can I strengthen both relationships?” But perhaps the question you should ask is “Can I strengthen them both?”
You speak of him as your “long-term boyfriend”? How many difficult life events have you passed through together? Do you share core values? Apparently, spirituality isn’t one of them.
Has your interest revealed his narrow-mindedness about spiritual matters? Or have you known it, but it didn’t matter until now?
Whether it will matter in future will depend on how spiritually sincere you are, and how persistent he is in his skepticism.
Right now, your spiritual life happens only “away from home.” He knows about it, but it isn’t something he must face every day.
What will happen if you start meditating? If each morning and night, you want to sit before your altar and commune with God? How will your boyfriend feel? If he doesn’t like it, will you do it anyway? Will the atmosphere make you uncomfortable?
So much is unknown. And so much is at stake.
I suggest you follow a principle that has served us well at Ananda: Jato dharma, tato jaya. In English: “Where there is dharma, there is victory.”
Dharma means “right action” Or more exactly: “Those actions that lead to greater awareness and happiness.”
By divine law, your greatest fulfillment will come when you follow high principles.
The love you feel for your boyfriend is a high principle. After all, love is the nature of God. But if your personal love leads you to sacrifice the opportunity to find God, which is the surer path to inner fulfillment for you, and ultimately for him?
If in the name of loving your boyfriend you give up loving God, you are not likely to find the fulfillment you are seeking in a lesser kind of relationship. It is an eternal, law that when we follow our highest dharma, we gain everything we might have sought in lesser ways, and much more besides.
In other words, if your interest in a spiritual life isn’t merely “silliness,” as your boyfriend hopes – what then? You have a right to be concerned.
If you love your boyfriend, and he is a good man, give him a chance to expand his consciousness. Even if he doesn’t embrace your path, he may be so pleased by how happy it makes you that he will accept your interest. In the meantime, “Where there is dharma, there is victory.” The only way to bring about a positive future is do your dharma now. And insist on it.
As for explaining the spiritual path to him, I would suggest you not try too hard. Self-realization is subtle, and in the beginning it is about feeling as much as about concepts. In the face of his skepticism, the clarity of your devoted feeling may evaporate, as you struggle to find words to explain what you’re doing. Even for people who’ve been on the path a very long time, it can be difficult or impossible to explain it to skeptics. If the skeptics aren’t genuinely interested, God usually doesn’t give us words that would persuade them.
The best we can do is pray for them, and ask God for His guidance. In Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda tells how his sister begged him to pray to the Divine Mother to convert her husband, who was a skeptic and mocked her spiritual practices. After Yogananda prayed for hours at the Temple of Kali at Dakshineswar, She appeared to him and granted his request. His brother-in-law was changed. He became highly advanced in Self-realization.
Be lighthearted about your inability to explain. Be the first to say, “This doesn’t sound sensible, does it? I guess I don’t have that concept clear yet.”
If he makes objections, or points out obvious contradictions, don’t be defensive. Say, “I’ll keep it in mind.”
Don’t declare a commitment to the spiritual life beyond what you sincerely feel. Say, “It is interesting, and it is helping me now. I’ll take it a step at a time and see where it leads.”
In the meantime, let us pray that your concerns are baseless, and that you will be able to “strengthen both relationships” without compromising either one.