The intention to serve makes the reproachable controlling mentality respectable

The controlling mentality is often an expression of the desire to be God. The Bhagavad-gita declares as demoniac people who imagine themselves to be controllers and enjoyers (16.14: ishvaro aham aham bhogi).

Yet the same Gita later states that controlling mentality is one of the defining qualities of a kshatriya (18.43: ishvara-bhava). And it mentions this quality with other laudable qualities such as fearlessness, generosity and resourcefulness. As the Gita lists ishvara-bhava among them in the same vein without any caveat, it clearly doesn’t consider this quality an undesirable character trait.

How are these two Gita references to the controlling mentality – one negative and one positive – to be reconciled?

By contextualization.

The sixteenth chapter verse describes demoniac people defiant of God and scripture. With such an anti-dharmic disposition, their brazen controlling mentality (“I want to control and enjoy my way, no matter how sinful or harmful it may be”) aggravates their demoniac nature and sentences them to prolonged karmic bondage, as the Gita (16.19 – 16.20) indicates.

In contrast, the eighteenth chapter verse describes dharmic people who strive to harmonize with God by living according to the principles of varnashrama. The varnas refer not to restrictive castes but to inclusive human types. One such type is the natural leader – the individual with the charisma to command and guide. Srila Prabhupada insightfully translates ishavara-bhava as leadership.

When such natural leaders devote themselves to God, then their innate nature to lead others enables them to become competent spiritual leaders who guide society towards holistic well-being. Thus when kshatriyas train themselves to serve God and then use their controlling mentality to guide people to similarly serve God, then their reproachable controlling mentality becomes respectable. In fact, the Gita (18.47) assures that God-centered dovetailing of individual nature will lead eventually to spiritual perfection.

Bhagavad Gita Chapter 18 Text 43


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  1. Srila Prabhupada used his extraordinary leadership qualities in transforming the lives of millions of people by helping them to understand that to mitigate all the sufferings they should take shelter of Krishna.

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