03.36 – The greatest threat to individual freedom is the individual

by August 30, 2013

Few things raise people’s guard as much as threats to their freedom from totalitarian governments.

Yet they often overlook the greatest threat to individual freedom – the individual. That is, they themselves. The Bhagavad-gita (03.36) points to this threat through Arjuna’s insightful question: what impels us to act self-destructively, as if against our will?

If we introspect, we can recollect times when we acted senselessly, and on returning to our senses wondered in dismay: what possessed me to do that?

The next Gita verse answers that it is lust, the shortsighted self-centered dark desire to enjoy matter. Such desires are lodged in our lower self. Our actual self, our higher self is the soul, but we also have an exploitative evil side comprised of impressions formed by exposures to ungodly indulgences. This lower self foists upon us blind desires for instant pleasure, no matter what the risks and costs. When we mistakenly identify such desires as our desires, we act self-destructively. Such actions when repeated become addictions that steal our capacity to think clearly and choose freely.

Today’s materialistic culture being filled with seductive images fuels such selfish desires. These desires masquerading as our desires comprise the greatest threat to our freedom.

To help us counter the totalitarian tyranny of such desires, Gita wisdom outlines the most empowering use of our freedom: devotional service to Krishna. When we choose to live in accordance with our true self, as souls capable of delighting in loving service to Krishna, the resulting inner satisfaction and illumination immunizes us to the outer seductions that steal our freedom. Devotional service not only preserves our freedom in this world but also propels us to the supreme freedom in the next world – the freedom of an eternal life of love and joy with Krishna.


03.36 – Arjuna said: O descendant of Vrishni, by what is one impelled to sinful acts, even unwillingly, as if engaged by force?

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