Don’t blunt the intelligence with indulgence; sharpen it with abstinence

Our intelligence is like a knife. It can cut through the surface appearance of things and see their deeper nature.

Just as a knife with rust becomes blunt, so does the intelligence covered by the rust of materialism. Such rust accumulates on the intelligence of those who engage in unrestricted material enjoyment. As they are enamored by the promises of material enjoyment, their intelligence can’t see beyond the material, as the Bhagavad-gita (02.44) indicates.

Abstinence is not the dry abnegation that saps all joy from life – it is the dynamic renunciation that increases focus on Krishna by rejecting distractors in devotion.

If materialists’ intelligence is blunted, then why do some seem to be intelligent, as in, say, making brilliant technological devices? That’s because a blunt knife has its use too – not as a cutter, though, but maybe as a hammer. So even materialists with blunted intelligence may control matter limitedly and temporarily, but they can’t transcend it. The Gita (18.3032) classifies intelligence into the three modes, indicating thereby that intelligence can be present in the lower modes. But it also stresses that only intelligence in goodness, with its characteristic self-regulation, can know the way to liberation and the eternal happiness thereof. Such intelligence is sharp, being able to see beyond matter.

We can sharpen our intelligence by abstinence. This abstinence is not the dry abnegation that saps all joy from life – it is the dynamic renunciation that increases focus on Krishna by rejecting distractors in devotion. Without abstinence, our blunt intelligence will stay allured by worldly pleasures and won’t be able to connect with Krishna. So our experience of devotional fulfillment will remain occasional and insubstantial, as will be our spiritual growth. With abstinence, our sharp intelligence will perceive the futility of anti-devotional pleasures and the glory of devotion. By our consequent focused devotional service, what we know theoretically, we will realize experientially, thereby progressing towards increasing and lasting fulfillment.

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