Don’t equate what is in scripture with what scripture teaches
Some people think that everything in scripture is the teaching of scripture.
But scripture gives the thoughts, words and actions of not just God and his devotees, but also demons. Thus for example in the Srimad Bhagavatam when a demon like Hiranyakashipu propitiates a god like Brahma and praises him as if he were supreme, those statements expose the demon’s sycophancy. Such statements, though present in scripture, don’t express the teaching of scripture.
Similarly, in the Bhagavad-gita’s sixteenth chapter, when the demoniac declare, “I am the controller; I am the enjoyer; there’s no one like me,” that statement is not a scriptural teaching – the Gita doesn’t want us to cultivate that mentality.
By recognizing subtle differences between scriptural statements and scriptural teachings, we can avoid confusing the contextual with the eternal.
That statements by demons are not scriptural teaching is easy enough to understand. What may be tougher to grasp is that scriptural statements about prevailing social conventions may also not be scriptural teaching. For example, the Gita (09.32) refers to some groups of people as being of sinful birth. Yet, the verse’s emphasis is on the potency of bhakti-yoga to elevate everyone, even those conventionally considered lowborn. Therefore perpetuating the social convention is not the scriptural teaching – transcending it through bhakti-yoga is.
By recognizing such subtle differences between scriptural statements and scriptural teachings, we can avoid confusing the contextual with the eternal. The contextual may or may not be feasible or desirable or even intelligible in a different context, but the eternal remains relevant in all contexts.
The Gita itself offers a most dramatic example of this emphasis on the eternal – its conclusion (18.66) asks us to transcend not just social conventions but even religious practices for the ultimate spiritual practice of devotional surrender to Krishna. The universality of devotion is the supreme scriptural teaching before which all other scriptural statements and teachings need to be subordinated.
Explanation of article: