Are we using our intelligence intelligently?

When we see someone with intelligence far greater than ours (as measured by some parameter such as IQ), we may feel inferior or insecure. We can improve our intelligence by practice and training, but we can’t usually raise it radically. Nonetheless, we can substantially improve how intelligently we use whatever intelligence we have. 

To understand the difference between an asset and its proper use, consider an example. Suppose a precocious boy finds a gun owned by his father, but misfires it to injure himself. An asset meant for self-defense ends up causing self-harm. 

Possessing an asset doesn’t equate with using it well — this principle applies not just to external assets such as guns, but also to internal assets such as our intelligence. The word ‘intelligence’ can be used in two distinct senses: first, the faculty to analyze precisely and choose judiciously; second, the way we use whatever resources we have, including the just-mentioned faculty. Here’s a stark example of unintelligent use of intelligence: a super-high IQ chemistry student comes up with a new chemical to end others’ or their own life. 

Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita (18.30-32) describes intelligence in the three modes. Consider intelligence in the mode of ignorance (18.32) — therein, we arrive at conclusions that are opposite to the reality of who we are and what we are meant to do. When we use our intelligence unintelligently, we hurt ourselves, sometimes more than what life hurts us through its adversities. 

How can we use our intelligence better? One powerful way is by linking devotionally with the all-wise Divine. Through such a devotional connection, we can get the inner insight to use our intelligence more constructively (10.10). 

One-sentence summary:

How much intelligence we have may not be in our control; how intelligently we use the intelligence we have is. 

Think it over:

  • What are the two senses of the word ‘intelligence’?
  • Does anyone in your social circles use their intelligence unintelligently? 
  • Think of a way you can use your intelligence more intelligently? 


18.22: That understanding which considers irreligion to be religion and religion to be irreligion, under the spell of illusion and darkness, and strives always in the wrong direction, O Partha, is in the mode of ignorance.

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Author: Chaitanya Charan

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  1. Common sense is not so common

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