(The following article was posted in the "Inner Voice" column of the Hindustan Times, one of India's largest English language daily newspapers, on 8 July 2004.)
HOW DO we define the inner voice? Is it conscience, our higher self, the 'lower self' or something entirely different? What force dictates action and decides crucial issues of the day? Is it intuition, common sense, our heart, intelligence or something else?
Gandhi was well known for listening to his inner voice and for extracting ideas from the Gita, where we're reminded that our very mind can be our best friend or our worst enemy (6.6).
Certainly there's a part of us dictating harm: in a split second we obey a voice telling us to do something that leads to sudden death in a car crash. Conversely, an inner voice prompts us to make a driving decision that saves our life.
Sometimes we have to decide between living a short, brave and heroic life or long safe one. Hamlet said, "conscience makes cowards of us all".
The inner voice is both misleading and life saving. It can be conscience; it can be selfishness; it can be selflessness; it can be foolishness. It can be the prompting of the senses to eat this, smell that, hear this, look at that, feel this. And it can be the voice of restraint. I must do my duty, practice some discipline, forgo this pleasure for my long-term purpose, live more simply.
Thinking things over often means consultation with many inner voices. In life we have many tough decisions to make. So who will guide us? What principles, if any, constitute my foundations?
God is our witness within our heart, sometimes dictating "Don't do it", or "Do it."
This inner voice becomes clear if we accept Him as param-atma, and take the Gita as our collective working guide for work, rest and play.
(The writer is emeritus member of the ISKCON governing body commission)