Education provides insight; experience provides taste

Spiritual growth results from a harmonious combination of education and experience.

Spiritual education helps us understand the higher reality existing beyond the visible. The reality normally visible to us is material. Material reality is filled with sense objects that captivate our sight. To see beyond these allurements, we need to guide our sight with insight. Such insight is provided by Gita wisdom, which points us towards spiritual reality: our essence as souls, and the supreme reality, Krishna. Such profound metaphysical insight is the king of knowledge, as the Bhagavad-gita (09.02) indicates.

Powerful as philosophical insight is, it alone can’t ensure sustained spiritual growth; we also need tangible experience of spiritual reality. Such experience comes most accessibly and relishably through bhakti-yoga, which is the essential theme of this Gita chapter and indeed of this Gita section (chapters seven to twelve).

The previous verse (09.01) indicates that the king of knowledge, the knowledge of bhakti-yoga, is not just theoretical (jnana), but also transformational (vijnana). The next verse (09.02) indicates how bhakti-yoga brings about such transformation: it grants experiential verification (pratyakshavagmam) of life’s higher realities, specifically the highest reality: Krishna.

As Krishna is the all-attractive, all-loving reservoir of all pleasure, connecting with him is life’s most fulfilling experience. When we taste the sweetness of remembering him, we become increasingly attracted by that taste. And we gradually realize that we can relish such sublime sweetness constantly if we train ourselves to become absorbed in Krishna. Once we appreciate bhakti-yoga’s unparalleled potential to fulfill forever our longing for happiness, we turn away from worldly indulgences, which offer short-lived pleasures at best.

Even if such spiritual absorption seems far away, we can progress towards it steadily and swiftly. How? By powering our devotional journey towards Krishna with the insight coming from spiritual education and the taste coming from spiritual experience.

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