A story that many spiritual teachers use to illustrate the art/science of giving and also to illustrate how our ego works has once again been brought to my notice after many decades by a fellow spiritual traveler Geetha. This being the season for giving and receiving, I reproduce it below.

Once Krishna and Arjuna were walking towards a village. Arjuna was pestering Krishna, asking him why Karna should be considered a role model for all Danas (donations) and not himself. Krishna, wanting to teach him a lesson snapped his fingers. The mountains beside the path they were walking on turned into gold. Krishna said “Arjuna, distribute these two mountains of gold among the villagers, but you must donate every last bit of gold”. Arjuna went into the village, and proclaimed he was going to donate gold to every villager, and asked them to gather near the mountain. The villagers sang his praises and Arjuna walked towards the mountain with a huffed up chest. For two days and two continuous nights Arjuna shovelled gold from the mountain and donated to each villager. The mountains did not diminish in their slightest.

Most villagers came back and stood in queue within minutes. After a while, Arjuna, started feeling exhausted, but not ready to let go of his ego just yet, told Krishna he couldn’t go on any longer without rest. Krishna called Karna. “You must donate every last bit of this mountain, Karna” he told him. Karna called two villagers. “You see those two mountains?” Karna asked, “those two mountains of gold are yours to do with as you please” he said, and walked away.

Arjuna sat dumbfounded. Why hadn’t this thought occurred to him? Krishna smiled mischievously and told him “Arjuna, subconsciously, you yourself were attracted to the gold, you regretfully gave it away to each villager, giving them what you thought was a generous amount. Thus the size of your donation to each villager depended only on your imagination. Karna holds no such reservations. Look at him walking away after giving away a fortune, he doesn’t expect people to sing his praises, he doesn’t even care if people talk good or bad about him behind his back. That is the sign of a man already on the path of enlightenment”.

Nature Vs Nurture.

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I love this topic. And I will deliberately take one specific definition of the word Nature and one of Nurture to write about a favourite topic for me.


a : the inherent character or basic constitution of a person or thing : essence
b : disposition, temperament


1. training, upbringing

~ Merriam – Webster.

I learnt many moons ago as part of improving my communication skills, that when a child is born it just has Instinctual Drives (which became id in psychology text books). It subsequently is taught other things and this process is what makes for the ego and it eventually grows into an adult and learns to think for itself and this becomes the super ego. Instead of making a big song and dance about it, one very smart physician Thomas A Harris MD, came up with a simple to understand book called “I Am Ok You Are Ok. Who called the three stages as Child, Parent and Adult.


Child is our ‘Felt’ concept of life

Parent is our ‘Taught’ concept of life
Adult is our ‘Thought’ concept of life

Now that the background to my understanding has been established, I can start pontificating.

If our ‘felt’ concept of life that is the instinctual drives are a given, that concept gets buttressed by what is ‘taught’ to us, our grown up state must be one that is totally conditioned by factors beyond our control. It is at this point that our ‘thought’ process should take over and modify the concept of life to one which will enable us to live harmoniously with ourselves and others.

So, going back to our definitions, our ‘nature’ is formed by instinctual drives and buttressed by ‘nurture’.

So, why Versus? Why not And?

In the Indian philosophical system ‘nature’ is called swadharma. Let me not reinvent the wheel and use Raghu Apte’s commentary on the Bhagwat Geeta.

“The concept of ‘Swadharma’ mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita has two elements. ‘Swa’ represents attitude, aptitude, natural inclination and inborn qualities in an individual. An individual portrays a unique, incomparable and a bit rigid disposition almost throughout the life span. Individuality (‘Swa’) as such is an intricate blend of nature and nurture. In this context, nature means innate qualities and preordained fate. Nurture (external impacts like environmental, social, political and so on) keeps shaping an individual throughout the life span. An individual responds to the external factors in a specific way according to the individual nature (‘Dharma’).

‘Dharma’ also refers to a framework which sustains the world. Establishment of dharma means provision of a social framework which facilitates a meaningful interaction between an individual and the external reality. It provides an opportunity to each member of the society to utilise the natural talents and to act according to the natural inclination. Establishment of Dharma ensures that an individual gets truly satisfied by living a meaningful and creative life. The society too gets benefited from his talents. Swadharma – Dharma is a bridge which connects an individual’s well being with the social well being. The philosophy suggests that life is neither accidental nor meaningless. Each individual takes birth at a specific moment, in a specific situation, with a preordained life mission.

“I would distinguish what is commonly called choice among men, and which is a partial act, the choice of the hands, of the eyes, of the appetites, and not a whole act of the man. But that which I call right or goodness, is the choice of my constitution.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson.”

In modern times, what we see as conflict within individual personalities is due to the going against this Nature and Nurture combination due to a different kind of conditioning, primarily rooted in aspiring to be something different from what one is due to Swadharma. The Vs instead of the And.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post on the weekly Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where eleven of us write on the same topic. Today’s topic has been chosen by Shackman. The ten other bloggers who write regularly are, in alphabetical order, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Maxi, Maria SF, Padmum, Paul, Shackman, The Old Fossil and Will. Do drop in on their blogs and see what their take is on this week’s topic. Since some of them may post late, do give some allowance for that too!