Based on Bhagavad Gita Chapter 02, Text 46
By Chaitanya Charan Das
Most people dread fanaticism, for our world is scarred by many religious conflicts.
What makes religious practitioners fanatical?
Obsession with the externals of their path without understanding its internals.
The externals of a spiritual path are often customized to best attract its potential practitioners, so the externals are normally context-specific. Beyond such contextual externals is the universal essence: the principle of progressively elevating people from whatever level they are presently at to the zenith of spiritual perfection.
Seekers who focus on this principle of progressive elevation steer clear of the pitfall of fanaticism. The Bhagavad-gita (02.46) commends such focus using a rural metaphor: in a society where different wells are earmarked for different purposes, the flowing river can serve the purpose of all. Similarly, in a spiritual supermarket where different paths are customized for seekers of different natures, those who know the essential principle underlying these paths can harmonize their seeming contradictions. As an example of those who miss the essence, the Gita (02.43) reproaches as non-discerning religious materialists who insist that there is nothing to scripture beyond their understanding of it.