How Intellectual Arrogance Stunts Our Growth

Last updated on Oct 18, 2010

Posted on Oct 18, 2010


Early on in my life, I came across some excellent motivational or personal development books by Dale Carnegie, Norman Vincent Peale and others, which helped me start to think about myself in order to straighten out the quirks in me.  These were then followed by even better and more indepth ones like Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey.  When I first got my hands on these books, I studied them very closely and religiously.  It was a great experience trying out things on me by deep introspection.  Sometimes, I may not follow the exact steps listed in the books, but I would surely look at myself more critically and find ways to improve myself.  Many weaknesses I had were taken out and many strengths were reinforced.

Over the years, however, I have found myself being less receptive to such wisdom.  I now read Spiritual books though, but I find I am less receptive to them as well as the time has gone by.  I discovered this very recently.  I was wondering why?  After enough thought, I had to admit that it was because I had gotten this feeling that “I knew it, so why waste my time on yet another thing?”.  Not that I really knew what was really said in the book – Motivational or Spiritual – but I got this vague feeling which came on.  The result is that I miss out on some excellent wisdom that I could use to improve my life by taking some simple steps.  For example, something as simple as being Organized.  Every step needn’t be “Enlightenment or Nothing” kind of a question.  One needs to live life the way it is.  Enlightenment cannot be a goal.  Spiritual growth always cannot be the only criteria to choose actions in life.  Living well is enough.  But how will one live well if one is not even receptive to ways to improve.

Ultimately, its not about accepting what is written in the book or not, but whether I can be receptive enough to ways to improve because I am burning to improve.  While it shows my lack of receptivity, it also shows a certain lack of burning inside to improve.  Sometimes, even though I may want to improve things, I still cannot because I may not bring myself to read or listen to someone.

Something similar was expressed today by a friend.  She said, that of all the people, its the Indians who are least receptive to spiritual efforts offered by profound Masters like Sadhguru Jaggi.  I have seen something similar.  This afflicts specially the ones who are educated and living in  the US.  This brand of people have this vague “confidence” that they “know”.  Although, what they “know” may be total nonsense or just vague concepts with little or no understanding.  But living in India has given them this un-founded confidence that they “know”.  That breeds a great lack of receptivity.  Nothing can be more damning than that!

As the friends said, actually Americans are more eager to “know” and “receive” because they don’t have any preconceived judgments about themselves or about what is being offered.  That is very true in my experience as well.  Just because we Indians know how to write the words like Karma or Dharma in Hindi, we think we even know the meaning or the entire science and philosophy behind it.  Little understanding with a lot of confidence is very dangerous combination. It can stunt your growth forever in life.

If one were to look at India of today, one is not even sure if those who are very religious understand the words and meaning of what they keep repeating.  Even for them it is of no use to keep reciting things that they don’t quite understand.

From where I am right now, I have a big fight on my hand to keep telling myself that “I Don’t Know” and handle my intellectual arrogance head on!!

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