When the tendency to doubt helps

In today’s educated circles, doubt is celebrated as an intellectual strength. Whenever thoughtful people encounter any claim, especially any claim connected with religion or spirituality, their skeptical antennas frequently go up; they don’t want to accept hocus-pocus. They are often concerned about gullible believers who accept received truths unquestioningly.  

Such people may be surprised to know that ancient wisdom-texts from the Vedic tradition share their concerns. The Bhagavad-gita (18.63) unhesitatingly invites intellectual scrutiny when it calls upon us to deliberate its message and then act according to our desire. Taking the same theme further, Srimad-Bhagavatam (03.26.30) states that doubt is the first among the characteristics of intelligence. It requires intelligence to doubt whether the appearance of things matches with their substance; bereft of the intellectual faculty to doubt, we naively accept things at face value. In fact, the Gita wisdom tradition, like many other time-honored traditions, has come up with rational parameters to equip seekers for differentiating between authentic spiritual paths and their diluted or distorted versions. Put another way, the very traditions that skeptics deride as designed to exploit the gullible have designed resources to protect people from becoming gullible and being exploited.  

Additionally and significantly, Gita wisdom provides skeptical antennas that rise on hearing grandiose claims not just in the spiritual domain but also in the material domain. It urges us to not uncritically buy into the promises of immense and immediate pleasure made by tempting worldly objects. Such caveats foreshadow, by millennia, rising contemporary concerns about ads that play games with the truth to empty the pockets of potential customers. They also presage today’s increasing disquiet about fake news and false narratives that are being spread through both social media and mainstream media.

One-sentence summary:

Our tendency to doubt helps when it prompts us to evaluate claims in all areas of life: spiritual and material. 

Think it over:

  • How do today’s educated circles see doubt? Why?
  • How does Gita wisdom share the concerns of such educated circles?
  • How does Gita wisdom foreshadow contemporary concerns?


18.63: Thus I have explained to you knowledge still more confidential. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.


Author: Chaitanya Charan

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1 Comment

  1. doubt measures your intelligence

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