Godliness is both a decision and a disposition

When we strive to lead a godly life, we soon realize that some of us are innately inclined towards God, while others aren’t. We may notice such differences from early childhood – some children gravitate towards God faster than others. Why this difference?

It’s because of our inborn nature. The Bhagavad-gita (16.01-03) lists several virtues, concluding that the godly are born with these qualities (16.03). Next, it lists several vices that the ungodly are born with (16.04).

Why are we born with certain qualities? Because we cultivated those qualities in our previous lives. Gita wisdom explains that we are souls on a multi-life journey of spiritual evolution. Souls who were godly in their previous lives have godliness as their inherent disposition in this life. That disposition helps them march further and faster in their spiritual journey.

What if we don’t have a godly disposition? We can still cultivate godliness as a decision. We always have free will, and we can use that free will constructively by acting with our intelligence, specifically intelligence sharpened through scriptural study. The same Gita chapter that describes inborn dispositions concludes by urging us to mold our actions according to scripture (16.24). This recommendation implies that our dispositions don’t predetermine our decisions. Undoubtedly, our dispositions will push us towards certain actions. But we can certainly counter-push. And studying scripture provides us the intellectual conviction to counter-push.

Another powerful influencer of our actions is our association. By bad association, the innately godly can become ungodly. Conversely, by good association, the innately ungodly can become godly.

Ultimately, we can transform ourselves most efficaciously by associating with the omnipotent supreme, Krishna. The process that connects us with him, bhakti-yoga, can elevate and liberate even the low-born (09.33).

Therefore, irrespective of our past, if we resolve to cultivate godliness, our future will be auspicious.

Think it over:

  1. What determines our inborn nature?
  2. What is the relationship between our dispositions and our decisions?
  3. If our disposition happens to be ungodly, what all things can help us counter-push against it?

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you, Prabhu, for starting a “Think over it” section. It really helps us to contemplate more on the topic and hence increases our comprehension.

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    • Thanks for the comment. Yes, the “Think it over” section helps me too to make sure that I have written clearly what I wanted to write. Several devotees have also started using it for interactive discussions in their Gita study groups.

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