The Gita calls not for blind obedience, but for visionary obedience
The idea of obeying someone often seems repellant to the contemporary mind: “I can think for myself; why should I obey anyone?” This repulsion to obedience seems all the more justified in the religious field where terrorists, in the name of obeying scripture, attack innocent people. But in fairness to religion, the secular field has also seen fanatics like Hitler’s Nazis or Stalin’s Communists who, in the name of obeying the ideology of their leaders, have killed innocent people in millions. So the actual problem is not religion or even obedience, but blind obedience – be it of religious or secular dogmas.
Why do some people become blind followers? One reason is that they want to avoid the responsibility of thinking about and choosing their own actions. Some such intellectually irresponsible people seek the easy way out by following faithful-seeming religious zealots who, though swearing by an ancient book, interpret it to suit their own purposes. Other intellectually responsible people obey secular leaders who promise that their godless ideologies will solve all problems.
The Bhagavad-gita doesn’t subscribe to such an ethos of intellectual irresponsibility. Its presentation of multiple options for spiritual advancement, its sober and sensitive response to intelligent questions, its carefully reasoned arguments to substantiate its concluding call for devotional activism as the best pathway to individual and global well-being – all these set the scene for obedience that is not blind but visionary.
The basis of this visionary obedience is Krishna’s extraordinary example. Despite being not just Arjuna’s guru but also God himself, he doesn’t demand obedience merely on the authority of his position; he quotes (13.05) scripture (shastra) and past saintly teachers (sadhu) to substantiate his message.
This tripartite foundation (guru-sadhu-shastra) for our thinking makes our obedience visionary: “I can think for myself; that’s why I choose to obey Krishna.”
“That knowledge of the ﬁeld of activities and of the knower of activities is described by various sages in various Vedic writings. It is especially presented in Vedanta-sutra with all reasoning as to cause and effect.”