The Supreme Lord said: ” This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature (goodness, passion and ignorance) is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.  “Bhagavad-gita (7.14) 

In this article we’ll talk about the inner freedom of choice, which everyone has, and which consists of self-awareness, conscience, independent will and imagination, and we will consider the criteria by which you can understand to what degree one is really proactive or free to make choices, and how to expand this freedom.

Sometimes we feel the inability to change the environment or a situation. This internal weakness and inner feeling of a victim of circumstances shows one’s lack of understanding of the connection between one’s actions in the past and reactions in the present and the future.

Irresponsibility for one’s life or fate, if you wish, is expressed in a tendency to blame others. This approach is particularly dangerous for the leaders because their uncertainty and nervousness are transmitted to others.

This internal weakness, lack of understanding, and consequent irresponsibility are detectable even in one’s speech. Listen to how and what people are saying and you will easily understand what concept is behind their speech. Agree that it is more likely to hear the words of a helpless victim –a hostage of circumstance.

We can also determine whether a person is reactive or proactive by the way one behaves in a traffic jam, or how one deals with a dissatisfied customer or a child’s whinging, etc. Thus, a reactive, i.e. over dependent on externals approach demonstrates a lack of inner freedom of choice or, more precisely, a lack of understanding of one’s internal greater powers.

So, why are our inner potentials so limited?

Firstly – a conditioning by karma of the past, and secondly – plain ignorance. Luckily, karma is subject to corrections based on knowledge. The Vedas say that in this body, along with the soul, hampered by karma, there is also an independent Supreme Lord, who manages all the complex processes in our body.

It is He who keeps us in chains of karma for our past activity through His material energy, and it is He who sets us free from karma, when we turn to Him (read epigraph to the article). It means that our freedom can be expanded by our internal potential, in other words by raising the bar of our spirituality.

Most people being unaware of this inner potential are “trying hard to open the closed but yet unlocked door”.  And all that is needed is just understanding that “the door effortlessly opens the other way”. People prefer to fight the material nature, considering it to be a blind force.

But in the Bhagavad Gita (9.8-10) Sri Krishna says: “The whole cosmic order is in my power … This material nature, being one of My energies, is working under my supervision …”. Therefore the basis of one’s freedom and inner potential is in contact with God, and not in ignoring Him.

What is the use of spoiling the relations with the all-powerful person? In old times, seeing someone working hard, people would say, “God speed” or “Help you God”, knowing that the ultimate success depends on the blessings from above.

Although we live in an era of “conquering the nature”, now more than ever we’re dependent on it. This is because people are unhealthy over self-confident and tend to forget the powers of God.

In the Vedas there’s a story of confrontation between the two personalities – the great demon king Hiranyakashipu and his young son Prahlada, who was a great devotee of Krishna. Hiranyakasipu was the epitome of materialism and he hated everything that somehow reminded him of God.


(Artwork copyright Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International – www.krishna.com. Used with permission)

Most of all he was irritated by his own son, who from the very birth showed the qualities of a saint. After unsuccessful attempts to direct his son onto the “right path”, Hiranyakashipu decided to kill him.

However, to his amazement, neither venomous snake bites or poisoned food or attempts to throw him off a cliff, affected the little boy. Prahlada himself was entirely a proactive person, he did not take any offences of his father, realising that he was just in ignorance but on the contrary treated him with compassion, as a patient.

The reason for Prahlada’s invulnerability was a protection of God. This was his unfathomable strength. The spiritual energy protected him and therefore material nature could not hurt him, just as the shadow can not penetrate into the light.

He did not fight with his hostile father but rather strengthened his relationship with God, and thus he defeated the externally superior strength. Because of our spiritual immaturity we might not be able to obtain such a divine favour, but the principle could be considered.

In our time, these truths may be presented in other words, but the essence remains unchanged: we do possess unclaimed spiritual potentials that when activated, can broaden the horizons of our fate.

Steven Covey in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” says that in order to determine to what degree a person is free (proactive) or deterministic (reactive), one needs to see what a person dedicates most of his time to. He ( Covey ) divides all activities into two circles – the circle of concerns and the circle of influence.


The circle of concerns include: health, children, work, ecology, economics, politics, international terrorism, global problems etc. The circle of influence includes: self-improvement, the development of relations, self-awareness, prevention, planning, finding new ways, etc.

It is clear from this division that the circle of concerns is not under our direct influence, but depends on many external factors. Which means, the problem of this outer circle of concerns can not be solved as quickly and simply as desired. If, despite this fact, we spend most of our time in a circle of concerns, without having a direct influence on it, we tend to become reactive, nervous, exhausted and frustrated.

It fills us with negative energies and narrows the range of our influence. We are trying to change the world and others, losing time and effort in vain. If we pay enough time to the inner circle of influence – we live proactively, our inner potential of freedom expands considerably, and we are able to influence the circle of concerns to the greater extent. Trying to change the world without changing oneself is a hopeless task in the circle worries.

It is quite clear from these schemes above that if a person doesn’t shift one’s focus from the outer circle of concerns to the inner circle of influence, then the hard circumstances of life may simply break the internally weak man who has no spiritual strength. This is how our circle of influence narrows down.  And such is the fate of people who are waiting for “the mercy“ from the external world.

On the other hand, if we grow internally, our circle of influence is expanding, and we are able to influence the world around us . This is our spiritual strength that conquers the conditionings of matter just as light dissipates darkness.

So, a typical reactive approach – “Let everything change first, then I’ll change”. How long do we have to wait for external changes, if we are motivated by this philosophy? An attempt to change oneself is a more realistic challenge in the circle of our influence. That is what will give us the experience and powers to change if not the entire world, then at least our immediate surroundings.

This is a proactive approach – “I am changing internally and able to positively influence the circle of concerns”. A person who spends more time in the circle of influence, becomes a more internally stable and consistent individual. He thinks of possibilities unlike a reactive person who thinks of problems and lives in perpetual crisis mode and stress.

The outer circle of concerns is associated with the concept of TO HAVE, and the inner circle of influence is associated with the concept of TO BE. Most reactive people think: “If I HAD more money, I would BE happy”.  Again, there is a strong dependence on the externals, which stem from internal weakness and emptiness.

But a proactive person thinks differently: “If I was a pious person in the past, I would have more opportunities” or “If I had been more patient, wise and loving, I would have HAD a greater impact on people.”

Having accepted one’s current situation as a natural consequence of one’s own past, such a person concentrates on a circle of influence, and starts to change the situation from inside out. The Vedic paradigm argues that firstly a person has to develop certain pious qualities through various activities (charity, austerity, and various forms of worshipping God), and as a reward the Lord gives some opportunities as a parent encourages an obedient child. The point is, before you HAVE something you must BE a person of certain inner qualities.


In the Old Testament there is a story of Joseph who in his youth was sold into slavery in Egypt by his own brothers. He could have plunged into depression, could have started accusing his brothers for betrayal. But Joseph was a proactive man. He tried to BE. And pretty soon he became a manager of his master’s house, who trusted and respected Joseph for his personal qualities. Then the day came when Joseph was in a difficult situation, but he didn’t compromise his honour. As a result, he was unjustly sentenced to 13 years in prison. But again he acted proactively, in the circle of influence. He worked his way up and soon he became a prison’s supervisor, and then the second figure in Egypt after the pharaoh. This is a vivid example of how the “inside – out” concept works or who you have to BE in order to HAVE.

A reactive leader, preoccupied by daily problems, often has to reinforce his “authority” with administrative and economic repressive measures. But these so-called measures are actually his inner weakness.

The Vedas say that a leader with spiritual qualities, manages with his fingertips so to say because being in harmony with God he becomes a conductor of the spiritual energy. Of course, administrative and economic instruments can not be excluded completely.

In our times it’s becoming quite obvious that it is not enough for a leader to be just a good manager or an administrator.

While one part of our society is hopelessly degrading and only understands the language of punishment, there is also a positive trend: more and more people are taking up the old, but not obsolete principles of spirituality and morality. More and more people are starting to follow the various spiritual practices of purification. These tendencies of a spiritual renaissance require the leaders to develop their better personal qualities.

Of course, there are Dale Carnegie’s manipulative techniques, that teach us to smile and be friendly, but people are not stupid and can sense the falsehood and all relations turn into a solid diplomacy.

But the Vedas insist on the need of developing one’s real spiritual qualities. Before you lead or manage others, you need to learn how to be in charge of yourself, how to control your senses. And that is impossible without spiritual strength.

So where do you get it? Well usually people turn for support to the higher authorities. We do not hesitate to approach a bank for a loan or get some assistance from the government. But a truly wise person who knows the bigger picture of life, turns to God. Then the external sources like banks, government, etc. simply become the conductors and not the sources of this support.

Comments are closed.