Can a person be both intellectual and emotional simultaneously?

by October 18, 2011

Question: Intellectual people tend to be unfeeling, whereas emotional people tend to be irrational. Can a person be both intellectual and emotional simultaneously?

Answer: A satisfying, effective life requires the harmony of both thought and emotion. When thought dominates emotion, one becomes unfeeling, hard-hearted, and life becomes listless and boring. When emotion dominates thought, one becomes moody – violent or depressed – and life goes out of control.

Ideally, thought should be enlivened by emotion and emotion should be directed and regulated by thought. This blend is taught by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita. At the start of the Gita, Arjuna’s emotions overpowered his thoughts, thus making him falter in his warrior dharma of protecting the citizens from atrocious rulers. Krishna’s words of wisdom, which taught the difference between the temporary body and the eternal soul, stimulated Arjuna’s rational faculty, thus helping him gain control over his emotions. But Krishna’s guidance didn’t stop there. His teaching of bhakti-yoga – the eternal loving relationship between the soul and God – ushered Arjuna into the world of divine emotions. There, Arjuna learnt, all activity is done not just as a duty, but as an expression of one’s devotion to help enact God’s will in this world for the good of all. That’s why Krishna repeatedly exhorts Arjuna to serve with both his mind and his intelligence, that is, both his emotion and his thought.

Today, our educational system teaches us practically nothing about the philosophical aspect of life. Consequently, most people know no ultimate purpose of life; their thoughts remain caught in satisfying stray emotional urges created by advertisements and media. Thus they lead hurried yet dissatisfied lives, driven by irrational impulses and unquenchable desires. When these emotions go out of control, they transmogrify into irrational violence against others as in vandalism and murder, or irrational violence against themselves as in suicide.

With the neglect of the religious aspect, the inbuilt self-restraint that religious morality teaches has also been done away with. No wonder we see so many people being hijacked by their emotions.

Just as Arjuna turned to Krishna to save himself from irrational emotions, so can we. Even if we feel that our emotions are not out of control at present, by learning from Krishna, we can equip ourselves to face the inevitable future emotional turbulences. All of us need to not only bring rational thought in control of irrational emotion, but also to let divine emotion enliven rational thought. Divine emotion is easily invoked by chanting the holy names of God like the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, for chanting reawakens our divine love for God.

With the anchors of philosophy and meditation, all of us can sail safely through the stormy ocean of irrational emotions to the shores of eternal devotion.

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