We can’t foresee every consequence of our actions, but we can foresee their probable consequences — and we should
Suppose we are driving a huge truck and a drunk person suddenly comes in the middle of the road. If an accident occurs, the law won’t hold us responsible; we can’t be expected to foresee that kind of unpredictable behavior.
But suppose we are driving through a school area. We need to slow down, foreseeing the possibility that children might unpredictably run across the road. If we don’t slow down and an accident occurs, the law will hold us responsible.
During our life-journey, if we worry about every improbable thing going wrong, we will paralyze ourselves. But if we go to the other extreme and live with a devil-may-care attitude, we will create unnecessary trouble for ourselves and others. For example, during a pandemic, we can’t know all the ways in which a virus may get transmitted. If we start imagining every way the virus might sneak in, we will become germaphobes who will dread even getting out of our beds. But if we know how a virus gets transmitted and still don’t take the necessary precautions, we will be considered culpable.
As a model for responsible decision-making, the Bhagavad-gita’s first chapter demonstrates Arjuna soberly contemplating the consequences of war. To help him choose well, the Gita offers him various tools. One such tool is an understanding of the three modes of material nature.
Gita wisdom indicates that over-controlling things characterizes the mode of passion, whereas under-controlling things characterizes the mode of ignorance. Between these two extremes is the mode of goodness wherein our senses are illumined by knowledge (14.11). When we purify ourselves by spiritual practices and situate ourselves in goodness, we can use our God-given intelligence and choose wisely.
By using the tools provided by the Gita, we all can foresee realistically and act responsibly.
Think it over:
- When making decisions, what are the two extremes we need to avoid?
- How do the three modes shape our attitude toward our actions?
- Are you facing any difficult decisions? How can you make those decisions more responsibly?
14.11: The manifestation of the mode of goodness can be experienced when all the gates of the body are illuminated by knowledge.
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