Surrender is not rejection of the intelligence, but its perfection

Some people perceive surrender to God as anti-intellectual, as an abandonment of the intelligence for an abject capitulation to God.

However, that’s not the kind of surrender the Bhagavad-gita espouses. At the Gita’s start (02.07), Arjuna surrenders to Krishna, yet Krishna doesn’t treat this surrender as a license for neglecting Arjuna’s intellectual concerns. Far from it, Krishna throughout the Gita strives to elevate Arjuna’s intelligence. He patiently and cogently answers his many questions, even when they border on the challenging (04.04-05). And towards the Gita’s end (18.72), he specifically asks Arjuna whether his illusion and ignorance have been dispelled. The Gita commentator Vishvanath Chakravarti Thakura explains the subtext of Krishna’s enquiry: being concerned that Arjuna understand things properly, Krishna is willing to repeat his message partially or even fully. Such proactive concern clearly demonstrates that the supreme teacher considers his student’s intelligence important, not redundant.

Krishna’s proactive concern clearly demonstrates that the supreme teacher considers his student’s intelligence important, not redundant.

Philosophically speaking, surrendering doesn’t mean rejecting the intelligence, but integrating it. Such integration is evident in Arjuna’s response (18.73), wherein he states that his doubts have been resolved and his composure restored. Being thus intellectually convinced, he is ready to do Krishna’s will.

A question may arise, “Doesn’t the Gita teach that Krishna is inconceivable? And doesn’t accepting Krishna’s inconceivability imply rejecting our intelligence?” No, accepting Krishna’s inconceivability doesn’t require rejecting the intelligence; it requires intelligently recognizing that Krishna is greater than our intelligence, which, like us, is finite. So it is only intelligent for us to admit that Krishna will have features that our intelligence won’t be able to figure out. Such an admission is not anti-intellectual, but is trans-intellectual.

Ultimately, devotional surrender catapults us to beyond intelligence’s reach to the summit of transcendence: eternal spiritual love for Krishna. And harmonizing our intelligence so that we can achieve life’s perfection is the intelligence’s perfection.

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