If conscience doesn’t create a barrier between impulse and indulgence, intelligence must

Suppose a river tends to overflow unpredictably, flooding the nearby areas. To protect those areas, a barrier would be constructed on the riverbank. 

Similarly, in the river of our consciousness, unhealthy impulses sometimes rise as floods, sweeping us toward degradation and self-destruction. To protect ourselves, we need barriers. 

Our conscience is meant to serve as a natural barrier. How? By emotionally pinching us when we start doing something wrong and emotionally patting us when we start doing something right. Whenever an unhealthy impulse rises, a functional conscience immediately deters us from indulgence. 

Sometimes however, our conscience becomes disoriented or dumbed. If we have grown up in a licentious culture, then our conscience, being culturally disoriented, may no longer flag wrong things as wrong. Or if we have repeatedly indulged in something unhealthy, such habitual indulgence can dumb our conscience. 

When our conscience doesn’t act as a barrier to impulse, we need to create an alternative barrier. How? With our intelligence. Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita (05.22) states that the intelligent desist from sensual indulgence, knowing that such pleasures are temporary and end in misery. 

How can we use our intelligence as a barrier against a particular impulse? With our intelligence, we can note down the dangers of pandering to that impulse and keep those notes readily, constantly accessible. Whenever that unhealthy impulse arises, we can train ourselves to look at those notes and thereby get the intellectual impetus to resist that impulse. 

By thus using our intelligence to resist impulse and simultaneously pursue transcendence – specifically, the all-attractive divine – we can gradually repair our conscience, weaken our impulses and relish devotional absorption. 


Think it over:

  • How does our conscience serve as a natural barrier against impulse?
  • How can we use our intelligence to build an inner barrier?
  • List any impulse for which your conscience no longer pinches you. For that impulse, how can you use your intelligence to act as a barrier?



05.22 An intelligent person does not take part in the sources of misery, which are due to contact with the material senses. O son of Kunti, such pleasures have a beginning and an end, and so the wise man does not delight in them.

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When the sensual deludes the eye, the spiritual eludes the I
Opening the mouth without opening the mind helps neither the mouth nor the mind
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  1. intelligence overcomes impulses and emotions

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