Thinking woman

Development of Intelligence and the Meaning of Humility

Question: I would like to know how intelligence evolves. Can you give an example of how this takes place? 

Answer: Intelligence is the faculty that makes decisions and comprehends situations. It is by intelligence that we determine whether things are good or bad, wrong or right, moral or immoral. Primarily, intelligence develops when we face a crisis or a difficult situation for which we have to find a solution or when we want to achieve a certain goal and there are obstacles. For instance, there is a child in the house who sees that on top of the fridge, there is chocolate candy. The parents have kept the chocolate there so that the child doesn’t reach it, but he likes to eat chocolate. So when he sees that the parents are not around, he will think how to get the chocolate. He will exercise his intelligence to find a solution. He may get the idea that he can move the chair next to the fridge, climb up on the chair, and reach the chocolate. This is how one’s intelligence develops.

On the other hand, suppose you led a very comfortable life. You went to school and your father supported you. You did not have to face any major problems in your life because your parents were very caring and supportive. After completing your education, you found a nice job and never had to worry about financial needs. Then suppose one day, the economy crashed and you lost your job. You would be in a big dilemma. Since you had lived a very comfortable life, you may feel stressed and depressed, because you had never faced such problems in your life. At this point, there are two possibilities—one is to go into depression and the other is to exercise your intelligence.

You might think, “What can I do now? Maybe I should grow food in my garden. Maybe I should start a business.” So you would begin to exercise your intelligence which until then had been practically unused because you were living a routine life, which did not require much intelligence. This is how your intelligence develops.

Question: So would you say that problems result in the development of intelligence?

Answer: No, not always. Problems might result in depression for some people. Some people take problems as a challenge and learn from them. They solve the problem and become stronger. Others see the same problem, start lamenting, and lose their intelligence. Even their limited intelligence may stop working. So every situation can help you to rise up or it can restrict you. It depends on how you take it. When you are living a comfortable life and have no financial problems, then you can use your time to learn something. You can be with people who are more intelligent and by their association, you may improve your own intelligence. But generally what happens is that unless human beings are forced, they don’t take action. As they say, people follow the path of least resistance. That is why when a problem comes, one may feel depressed because depression is the path of least resistance.

Similarly every situation can be used for improving our intelligence. I mentioned problems because they make you more alert and aware. They are an impetus for improvement. But some people are cowardly. They see a problem and just give up.




Question: One of your Bhakti Bytes writings had the following words:

True Humility comes in two ways:

  1. Knowing the welfare done by guru/Kṛṣṇa for us.
  2. Feeling the lack of bhakti in one’s heart.

I also heard in one of your lectures that Garuḍa’s mother’s name is Vinatā (“humility”) and that without vinayā, there is no possibility of understanding the Vedas. In that lecture you also said that true humility is not material. Could you explain what exactly humility is? How can one know if one truly has any humility and how can one acquire it?

Answer: Humility means not to have a sense of pride about one’s qualities, good or bad. People become proud not only of their good qualities but also of their bad ones. An expert terrorist, robber, thief, or gang leader can be proud of his criminal activities. Not to speak of being proud of qualities that one does not possess! People are sometimes proud even without having any such qualities. They only think they possess such qualities. That is why you see that in the material world, humility is a very rare quality. As it is said, even a pauper is proud of his penny.

Humility, however, does not mean that one should not have good qualities or that one should be scared to have them. One can be a scholar, rich, powerful, beautiful, and not be proud of these qualities, knowing well that they are temporary. They are all external to one’s true self. Whatever one has, one can lose at any time. And even if one has such qualities but loses one’s memory, then all these qualities lose meaning. If one could remember this fact, then one would remain humble. Since a devotee is always mindful of Kṛṣṇa, he remains humble. If we remember the welfare that the guru is doing for us, and if we remember how gracious Kṛṣṇa is, then we will remain humble. So, the humility of a devotee is not a material quality but an outcome of bhakti.