18.40 – Beyond Denial and Dismissal to Determination
“I fell from the scriptural standards yet again. What should I do now?” We often respond to such predicaments by either denial or dismissal. In denial, we hide our failures from others – and even ourselves. In dismissal, we reject the scriptural standards as impractical or irrelevant. Either way, we pretend as if nothing is wrong.
However, our concealed shortcoming is like a festering wound hidden under good-looking clothes. Somebody with a sharp nose smells the pus or somebody accidentally bumps against the wound and is alerted by our excessive reaction. Even if neither happens, over time as the wound worsens, the pain becomes intolerable and unconcealable.
We can save ourselves of much of this trouble if we just change our perception of our moral lapses. We tend to take them personally as deficiencies in our very self, so we don’t consult anyone as we fear the resulting disgrace. However, we wouldn’t be so fearful if we were re-educated to see our moral lapses as signs of an external infection, not as blemishes of our core self. The Bhagavad-gita offers this re-education when it asserts (18.40) that the behavior of everyone in material existence is impelled by material nature through its three modes. We act immorally when the infection of the modes becomes excessive; nonetheless, we always remain at our core untainted souls with the potential for purity.
This rational understanding of the problem ensures that we don’t waste time in denial or dismissal, or dissipate our emotional energy in concealment or embarrassment. Instead, we become determined to remove the infection by all necessary means – including consulting a mature spiritual guide. Our determination enables us to cultivate systematic, sustained, sober remembrance of Krishna. This gives us a higher happiness that makes immoral pleasures unappealing and distasteful, thereby uprooting the cause of our moral lapses.