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Man Has The Freedom To Rise Or Fall

It is the presence within him of this idea of perfection that makes man a spiritual being.

But the awareness of it does not necessarily mean that he will consistently work for its realization. In other words, the capacity for self-criticism is not the same as the capacity for self determination.

The reason for his failure to respond to this inner call is that he is also a natural being, in that he is urged by the lower impulses which he has inherited from the past. That is, he is not only inspired by a consciousness of what he ought to be; he is also what he is, which tends to keep him bound to the pursuit of inferior ends. He has ‘a footing in nature as well as a winging in the sky’.

This double character usually results in an internal conflict between the flesh and the spirit or, as they are otherwise termed, the lower and the higher selves. There seems to be a lesion, as it were, between the two selves so that the promptings of the higher self have no practical influence on the lower, if man does not seriously and wholeheartedly will to ‘erect himself above himself’.

This is what the Gita means when it describes that man is his own friend or his own foe, according as he chooses to live.

In other words, man is the master of his fate, and he has the freedom to rise or to fall. One fortunate circumstance, however, is that man’s higher nature does not allow itself to be either ignored or suppressed, unless he has once for all sunk back into the life of the mere animal, destroying his proper humanity. The imperative to the higher life is always there within him, and he cannot be at peace with himself, until he finally makes up his mind to obey it, overcoming all adverse influences.

Source M Hiriyanna, Indian Conception of Values, 7–8