A very protective mother forbade her son from bathing in the river lest he drown. One day a neighbor said to the woman, “Did you ever stop to think that by your policy of preventing this boy from going to the river you are also preventing him from ever learning that which would really save him if he fell into deep water–namely, the ability to swim?”
Then the boy, who was standing nearbye, said to mother: “I want to learn swimming so that I can save myself from drowning. Can you tell me if there is a method of learning to swim without getting into water?”
The mother, seeing her shortsightedness, permitted the boy to go to the river with a swimming instructor.
This story is used to illustrate the half-hearted commitment to God of a materially pious person. Such a person is fearful of falling into hell, thus will strictly follow all sorts of negative religious principles that forbid him to commit sin. But due to a dearth of real devotion, the materially “good” person avoids positive spiritual acts of service to Krsna. Indeed, because service to Krsna requires one to engage his senses in various ways, the materially pious person may decline on the grounds that such engagement may be the cause of falldown (for instance, when asked to help raise funds for a Krsna conscious purpose, he may decline arguing that “Money is the root of all evil”). Thus he is like the mother who in fear of her son’s life forbade him from the very activity that would make him able to save his own life.