A famous comedian now passed on was famous for his routine that “I Don’t get no respect”. Not getting respect means receiving disrespect. Respect is an important word, and a word with many meanings. Here is something to start on from the dictionary which I think would be useful to consider in beginning our brief discussion:
RESPECT: esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability: I have great respect for her judgment. / deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment: respect for a suspect’s right to counsel; to show respect for the flag; respect for the elderly./ the condition of being esteemed or honored: to be held in respect.
I think respect is really a way of life—a consciousness of the sacredness of all life and in fact everything that exists as it relates to God. In how I see the word, it is what Krishna consciousness is all about. We are learning to respect and honor God—Radha Krishna, Gaura-Nityananda and all their expansions and devotees—great teachers or gurus, devotees in general, but in fact all living beings and everything that exists. Although honor is not given as a synonym for respect, to me it could be. Given synonyms are deference and reverence.
Thus, there is a gradation of applications depending on context for the various inferred meanings of respect as in higher expressions of honor, reverence, or worship. We respect according to the person and our realization of who they truly are, though everyone should be respected to a degree. If we can accept this, we still might ask, “How much?” Some devotees have a problem with the use of honor when it is applied ordinary people, such as between a husband and wife who are encouraged by some marriage educators to honor one another. I think this is because some think it is meant only for saintly persons and God. I believe this is a cultural bias of Westerners, which doesn’t exist as much in the Eastern cultures especially of olden times.
I just took my wife to the airport and am sitting in a book store writing this and people watching—something I love to do. People are complex and fascinating. Being souls having human experiences, they are being subjected to so much less then their normal condition through the limitations of matter. Every person we meet or relationship we have in our life is important and educational if seen in the right way which gives us clues about the meaning of life. If only we could understand who we truly are and who we are part of, nothing else would matter save reviving our love and relationship with him/them, Shri Shir Radha Krishna [God]. If they do something to reveal themselves as less then their spiritual identity, like trying to steal from the store, I take appropriate action, praying to apply the idea to hate the sin, not the sinner.
Whenever I am with people, here or in the store where I work, or shopping etc, I feel respect and honor for everyone–well most everyone, I am not perfect, yet this is my general attitude. The tendency of the false ego is to create separation between me and others. I am the subject, they my object. We automatically categorize people, as if a label made them a known entity or less then I. We all have mental stereotypes in which we often put people—that seems to be the way our brain is wired, yet it is so much less that people are.
We also make such distinctions and categorizations with devotees, yet we have to be very careful in assuming we know someone, especially on-line where so much projection can go on and we rely on written communication which is so prone to be misunderstood. Of course misunderstanding happens face to face as well.
I would like to suggest that we assume the best about others—in a word, RESPECT and do unto others as we would have them to us, and practice EMPATHY or trying to understand why a person is asking or stating something. If we have some negative reaction to what someone says we have to stop and ask our self why. Could there be another way to understand them? Is it what they said, or did it bring up some doubt in our self or in Krishna consciousness [our spiritual life]? If a person expresses a doubt does it call in to question our own doubt?
Remember that people are like mirrors who we tend to see as we are. For example we usually think what something said would mean if we had said it, rather than what it might mean differently to the person. Another truth to consider is that a person may have faith in Krishna or certain aspects of the philosophy but have doubts in others. I would say that could be true for many, though it is not always admitted. To be able to express ones’ doubts is courageous and is the only way to get them retired, though one must find the right person to talk with. If devotees can’t share their doubts or reservations with other devotees, where are they to go?
One of the definitions of a guru—either instructing or initiating— is one who destroys our doubts. Having doubts is the nature of living in the material world which is the plane of doubts and limitations. We shouldn’t be surprised. The spiritual world is really the land of all possibilities, the land of true faith and love, and to get there we must find those who can end all our doubts and convince us to take up Krishna consciousness (or revive it) with full determination by their example and realized words compassionately shared. At least we would expect our friends to support us, believe in us, and respect us.
Let us all consider how much we are on a path of respect and honor for everyone and everything as we endeavor to see them with spiritual eyes, rather than seeing material friends or enemies. All things and souls are Krishna’s property and energy. That vision is Krishna consciousness. Respect! Don’t disrespect!