Regulate emotion with reason, animate reason with emotion

Reason and emotion are two of our fundamental human faculties. By reason, we can be orderly, logical, consistent. By emotion, we can be creative, intuitive, spontaneous.

However, these two faculties are sometimes seen as opposites.

We need a balance of both reason and emotion, whereby both these faculties can be channeled for our all-round welfare. Such harmony has two broad features:

Regulate emotion with reason: When emotion becomes dominant, it drives us to bouts of sentimentality that can degenerate into stupidity or even perversity, especially when emotion is manipulated by self-interested people who whip mass hysteria to cause riots and even wars. To avoid such emotional extremes we need to subject emotion to the scrutiny of reason: does this make sense?

Animate reason with emotion: When reason becomes dominant, it makes us unfeeling, to the extent that we become depersonalized robots; we treat people as tools for getting things done, not as conscious beings. To avoid such depersonalized dealings, we need to permeate reason with emotion: how will this feel to others?

The Bhagavad-gita demonstrates this balance of reason and emotion. When Arjuna’s emotion disorients and disheartens him, Krishna speaks the philosophical message of the Gita to regulate that emotion and to return him to calm focus on his duty. Still, the Gita is not filled with rational arguments alone. Its reason is animated with emotion; Krishna expresses his deep affection and concern for Arjuna especially when he complements his call for deliberation on the metaphysical message (18.63) with an assurance that he will speak the most confidential knowledge because he dearly loves Arjuna and fervently desires his welfare (18.64).

When we share the Gita’s message with others, we too can strive to balance reason with emotion, thereby enabling people to turn with their head and their heart both toward Krishna.

Think it over:

  • Why does emotion need to be regulated by reason?
  • Why does reason need to be animated by emotion?
  • How does the Gita integrate reason and emotion?

 

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