How to act wisely?

When we face perplexing situations, how can we act wisely? By the proper interaction between our intentions and our perceptions. Let’s understand. 

When intentions should redirect our perceptions: Suppose a specialized surgeon comes to a crowded medical ward. They may want to help many patients, but only they can operate on critically ill patients. Remembering this, they choose to focus on those patients.

When perceptions should reshape our intentions: Suppose we are furious with someone. We rush to confront them, but we see that they are injured — they were in a horrible accident that killed their family. We will decide to postpone or even cancel the confrontation. 

Let’s apply this dynamic to the battlefield setting of the Bhagavad-gita. Arjuna arrived there intending to fight against the Kauravas, but when he saw his venerable elders such as Bhishma and Drona on the opposite side, that perception changed his intention. Whereas earlier he was thinking of his opponents as accomplices of the evil-minded Duryodhana (01.23), he started seeing them as his own relatives (01.28), thereby losing his will to fight (01.46). Thus, he let his perceptions change his intentions. 

Gita wisdom expanded both his intentions and his perceptions. He was not fighting just to win a kingdom; he was fighting to assist the Divine in establishing the rule of virtue in the world. His opponents were eternal souls; he could best help them by stopping them from their evil actions and by freeing them from their bodily entanglements, thus letting their souls evolve to a better position. This expanded vision empowered him to act resolutely (18.73). 

If we let Gita wisdom guide our intentions and perceptions, we too can act more wisely. 

One-sentence summary: 

Wisdom means to know when our intentions should redirect our perceptions and when our perceptions should reshape our intentions.

Think it over:

  • Contemplate one situation each where you could have acted more wisely had you let your perceptions reshape your intentions and vice versa.
  • How did Gita wisdom help Arjuna to act more wisely? 
  • Are you facing any perplexing situation? How can Gita wisdom expand your intentions and perceptions?


01.23: Let me see those who have come here to fight, wishing to please the evil-minded son of Dhritarashṭra.


Author: Chaitanya Charan

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