03.36: When our impulses hold our values hostage…
All of us have experience of times when our impulses overpower our values and goad us into actions that we regret later. How do our impulses become so brutally strong? This, in fact, is the question that Arjuna asks Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita (3.36).
Gita wisdom points to the root cause of this conflict between impulses and values that characterizes our human condition. We are spiritual beings presently living in material bodies. As spiritual beings, we are naturally motivated by sublime values, with the supreme value being selfless love – love for God and all his children. However, our material bodies, geared as they are for self-preservation, make us prone to self-centered impulses, with the prominent selfish impulse being lust followed closely on the heels by greed and anger.
Thus the conflict between values and impulses in our heart originates in a conflict between the two dimensions of our present existence: the selfless spiritual core and the selfish material shell. Our contemporary culture, by its incessant glamorization of selfish materialism, fuels and fans our material side, thereby making our impulses far stronger than our values.
That’s why, if we wish to prevent our values from being held hostage, or worse still, being slaughtered, by our impulses, we need to connect with a culture that arouses, nourishes and reinforces our values. The Krishna-centered devotional culture with its focus on spiritual sound serves precisely this purpose. Seen in this light, participating in this devotional culture no longer appears a burdensome religious obligation, but is recognized as a profound and powerful tool for our vital self-development.