Part I: Find the Part I HERE.




Decision making is based on two faculties. The mind and the intellect.

The mind, in this context is defined as the faculty in us that takes decisions based on our likes and dislikes. And the intellect is the one that decides based on what is right and wrong.

We must listen to the intellect when it comes to making decisions and not based on the temptations of our mind and on the wise judgement of the intellect.

Based on the combinations possible, we come across 4 distinct scenarios in our life usually. They are:

  • 1. Something is right, and you like doing it.
  • 2. Something is wrong, and you don’t like doing it anyway.
  • 3. Something is right but you dislike doing it.
  • 4. Something is wrong but you like doing it.

Scenarios 3 and 4 are the ones that create conflict and confusion in our lives. But with the help of the intellect, we can clearly decide on what is right for us and proceed.

But, it is not that simple, is it? What happens when we don’t listen to the intellect over and over again. What faculty becomes stronger? The mind ofcourse with its whims and fancies. And the intellect gets weaker as we are not paying attention to it.

And that is the same intellect which is supposed to be guiding our decision making process in the first place. That intellect that is supposed to guide us with its light of discrimination, that light gets dimmer and we cannot see clearly in front of us and walking forward in the right path gets difficult.

Eventually, our mind becomes a monstrous master, because its being fed our likes and dislikes. Think of how criminals, drug addicts and alcoholics live their lives – what are they listening to? To their intellect or their mind? Because of their behaviors, who suffers? They themselves and those around them.

Gita Chapter 6, Verse 5:

uddhared ātmanātmānaṁ nātmānam avasādayet
ātmaiva hyātmano bandhur ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ

Let a man be lifted up by his own self; let him not lower himself; for his mind is his best friend and his worst enemy too.

And in the other way, what happens if we listen to our intellect at all times? Whatever is right, we do it and whatever is wrong, we avoid it.

There will be a struggle too to be always on the right path, because sometimes it is difficult, especially if that’s something we don’t like to do. And that’s exactly called sadhana – practice.

When the struggle is happening from within where mind and the intellect are fighting with each other, mind wants do something it loves, but intellect is saying its wrong. When we support the intellect in this, our intellect keeps getting stronger and stronger. Of course, the price we pay is the internal struggle.

Tapas is heat, the struggle that happens due to friction. But, here’s something about tapas, it is difficult in the beginning and sweet at the end.

Gita Chapter 18, Verse 37:

yat tad agre visham iva pariname ‘mritopamam
tat sukham sattvikam proktam atma-buddhi-prasada-jam

That which seems like poison at first, but tastes like nectar in the end, is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness. It is generated by the pure intellect that is situated in self-knowledge.

Thus, when the intellect is stronger, the light in front of us brighter and there’s no confusion in the path forward. That always means our mind starts to become obedient and follows the guidance of the intellect. “It is right, therefore I will do this.”

Such a person is called an integrated person. That person is now one in mind and intellect. There’s no more internal struggle. The Kurukshetra war has ended. There’s no fight between the good and evil anymore. The righteousness wins.

Now that the intellect is stronger, we automatically get attracted to the truth, good and the noble. And to God like qualities like anthahkarana, bhakti, viveka, vairagyam, mumukshatvam that come automatically.

Such a person will not have any problem reaching the destination – liberation. How smooth will be the ride will be determined by the vehicle.

As it is said in the Kathopanishad:

‘आत्मानं रथिनं विद्धि शरीरं रथमेव तु। बुद्धिं तु सारथिं विद्धि मनः प्रगहमेव च॥ इन्द्रियाणि हयानाहुíवषयांस्तेषु गोचरान्‌। आत्मेन्द्रियमनोयुक्तं भोक्तेत्याहुर्मनीषिणः॥’ – Ãtmãnam rathinam vidhi shariram rathameva tu Buddhim tu sarathim viddhi maraha pragahameva cha॥ Indriyãni hayãnãhurvishayãnsteshu gocharãn Ãtmendriyamanoyuktam bhoktetyãhurmaneeshinaha॥

‘O Nachiketa! This body is the chariot and this atma is its owner, the charioteer. The buddhi is its driver. The mind is its reins. The indriyas are the horses pulling the chariot. The objects of taste, touch, etc. are its path. Thus, the atma uses the indriyas and anthkaran as a means to enjoy worldly pleasures. Understand in this way’ (Katha Upanishad 3/3-4).

SOURCE: https://www.baps.org/Article/2011/The-Kathopanishad-(pt-3)-2056.aspx

In the chariot, there’s a traveler (a jeevatma). The most credible entity that must ensure that the chariot reaches its destination is this jeevatma, the charioteer.

The strength of the charioteer is the knowledge he needs to have to navigate through the way. The route, the horses and the chariot etc. The knowledge comes from how well we strengthen our intellect by choosing the right from the wrong.

Gita Chatper 4, Verse 38:

na hi jnanena sadrisham pavitramiha vidyate
tatsvayam yogasansiddhah kalenatmani vindati

In this world, there is nothing as purifying as divine knowledge. One who has attained purity of mind through prolonged practice of Yog, receives such knowledge within the heart, in due course of time. In essence, there is no sadhana like the highest gyanam.

What is the highest knowledge?

Gita Chapter 3, Verse 42:

indriyani paranyahur indriyebhyah param manah
manasas tu para buddhir yo buddheh paratas tu sah

The senses are superior to the gross body, and superior to the senses is the mind. Beyond the mind is the intellect, and even beyond the intellect is the soul.

Compared to the sense objects, sense organs are higher. Compared to sense objects, the mind is higher. Compared to the mind, the intellect is higher. And compared to the intellect, the saha (the supreme self) is highest.

The lower comes under the disciple of the higher. And that is called mangalam.

A. One of the first things that determines great decisions is the intellect. And the intellect acquires knowledge based on many different sources. One way it gather knowledge is through sravana janita gyanam – through listening.

And through manana janitha gyanam – you have convinced yourself after reflection on a few ideas you have gathered. That becomes your conviction. Well digested knowledge is called wisdom.

B. The role we play in the society.

Sometimes the rules conflict with one another and we don’t know which one to pick. For example, in Arjuna‘s case as a family man he supposed to love he’s near and dear ones, but as a Kshatriya, he supposed to kill the bad guys, so what should I do? It’s a classic conflict.

So when you are in such a dilemma, you always choose with what your higher goal is. The decision must be taken based on what the higher goal is and not what the lower one is too large Nets case which one is the bigger role the role of the Kshatriya or the role of the family Man. Of course his role to the nation is bigger.

What if he’s the only child and he’s being called onto war to protect the nation in those cases what should one do? Even in that case, he must honor the country’s protection. When a father is the judge, and the son is in court, but the father must uphold his judge’s duty. That’s the righteous thing to do.

That is our tapas; to make our decisions based on the roles we play in the society. Always make decisions that benefit the samisthi (totality). When you do your duty for the greater good even if it means personal sacrifice, that is called yagna bhava (the attitude of sacrifice).

Gita Chapter 3, Verse 15:

tasmat sarva-gatam brahma nityam yajne pratishthitam

That all-pervading Lord is eternally present in yagna – the acts of sacrifice. If this is our attitude, spirituality becomes a cake walk. What is spirituality, dropping of one’s ego. As Ramana Maharshi says in Upadesa Sara,

अहमपेतकं निजविभानकम् |
महदिदं तपो रमणवागियम् || ३० ||

ahamapetakaṁ nijavibhānakam |
mahadidaṁ tapo ramaṇavāgiyam || 30 ||

The mahadidaṁ tapah – greatest tapas is destruction of the ego and allowing the Lord to shine from within us. Be free from the “I”, he says.

C. Think of benefits for the greater good.

Gita Chapter 3, Verse 10:

saha-yajnah prajah srishtva purovacha prajapatih
anena prasavishyadhvam esha vo ’stvishta-kama-dhuk

In the beginning of creation, Brahma created humankind along with duties, and said, “Prosper in the performance of these yajñas (sacrifices), for they shall bestow upon you all you wish to achieve.”

Think of how seva bhava, how to make others happy? Think of this always while performing duties.

D. Decision making based on swa dharma:

We must know our strengths and our passions while choosing our professions.

Gita Chapter 3, Verse 35:

shreyan swa-dharmo vigunah para-dharmat sv-anushthitat
swa-dharme nidhanam shreyah para-dharmo bhayavahah

It is far better to perform one’s natural prescribed duty, though tinged with faults, than to perform another’s prescribed duty, though perfectly. In fact, it is preferable to die in the discharge of one’s duty, than to follow the path of another, which is fraught with danger.

What is the job of the ears? What is the job of the eyes, they all do what they are supposed to do. Pick up that job where you see problems as not problems, but as opportunities to learn. Where it is not a job, but it is something you would like to do even if there was no money involved.

E. Decision making based on the voice of conscious.

The voice of the conscious is the voice of the pure mind, it is very close to the Divine. If there’s anything that’s giving you guilt, such a job should not be taken up. If anything gives you sleepless nights, it’s not worth taking up. After all, dharma is walking the path of righteousness.

F. Decision making based on moods

The mind is satvik, tamasic or rajasic. Important decisions have to be taken when the mind is satvik. At the heat of the moment, you become agitated and do something that you will regret later. Act in haste and repent in later – that is what we do often. So allow your emotions to calm down before you make any decision.

G. Decisions based on the wisdom of prior generations.

Learn from our scriptures and by reading stories in the Puranas. Ask God for answers. See this shloka about surrender.

prichchhami tvam dharma-sammudha-chetah
yach-chhreyah syannishchitam bruhi tanme
shishyaste ’ham shadhi mam tvam prapannam

I am confused about my duty, and am besieged with anxiety and faintheartedness. I am Your disciple, and am surrendered to You. Please instruct me for certain what is best for me.

CITED WORKS: Most of the Gita shloka translations mentioned in these essays have been sourced from this amazing resource: https://www.holy-bhagavad-gita.org/




Part III: Find the Part III HERE.




ESSAY SOURCE: This essay has been adapted from the teachings of Swami Aparajitananda in a spiritual discourse workshop in Atlanta in Nov, 2023.

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